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Santa Monica

December 25, 1987|CATHY CURTIS

Groups of faceless female nudes in Jean Edelstein's "EarthWind" paintings dance or huddle or fend off unseen antagonists with the wispy kinetic energy of Abraham Walkowitz's sketches of dancer Isadora Duncan. Which isn't so coincidental, because Edelstein derives her images from performance work she stages.

Soft, random charcoal lines drift through the figures, whose Amazonian physicality is belied by the broken line that picks them out and the vagueness of arms and feet. The straightforward humanistic intensity of these groupings gives them an old-fashioned air not unwelcome in this era of callow irony.

The other paintings in the series are pairs and trios of bulky seated nudes with pale peach skin who turn broad backs and gravely indented posteriors to the viewer. These images aim too hard to please, with their polite murmurs of Renoir and boudoir. And the small works on paper are too fussy, derivative and dependent on the power of sure, firm outlines, which are not one of Edelstein's strengths. (Ruth Bachofner Gallery, 926 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, to Jan. 19.)

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