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The Valley

January 22, 1988|MARLENA DONOHUE

L.A. artist Olga Seem takes strides toward those interpretive renditions of nature that hover somewhere between realism and abstraction, translating observation into an eccentric reality full of mystery and life force. Thomas Hart Benton was a master at this; more recently, the goofy floating interiors of Elizabeth Murray hit the same target from another angle. Seem's current show is more compact and sure than the loose and almost chaotic work of the past. Where her rocks and nature views were applied with a fluid transparency that looked more indecisive than ethereal, Seem is now filling in shapes with rich, quick marks that have a life of their own and give physical and psychological density to her subjects.

Shrubs, bridges, cactuses, even benign hounds do double time as aggressive, independent shapes and vibrating entities. In "After Hours," trees look as if they'll explode with exuberance, small kinetic marks encircle vegetation and the earth literally throbs. Seem takes lots of license with what she sees: Skies are greenish or hot red, leaves and trees look like heraldic shields with primitive markings. This stuff could be corny as a worn Carlos Castaneda paperback, but most dodge the problem. (Orlando Gallery, 14552 Ventura Blvd., to Jan. 29.)

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