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The Galleries

La Cienega Area

February 12, 1988|CATHY CURTIS

There are numerous ways to be a British painter these days, but certain literary qualities persist in a current four-artist show.

Most of Kevin Sinnott's monolithic figures are an unhappy lot: working-class men with great ham hands and slack jaws, downcast lovers, a young boy crouching clumsily in front of tenement flats. Painted form is hacked with stubby strokes, with neo-Fauve sparks of color. The operatic folk in the "Turandot Series" are dreamier, zanier: a man pines after a vision of a woman in green.

Ian McKeever photographs pristine far-north landscape in black-and-white, sticks the image on a canvas and paints over most of it. Sometimes, as in "Study for Fossils," too many goopy additions overcome the dim-looking photo. In "Hearing You Breathe I," however, meandering black and white brush strokes and cold spills of blue surround the sunlit tangle of tree branches in the photograph with the sureness of a skater making patterns on ice.

In mixed-media pieces, Michael Kenny organized a stark universe of signs that resemble goblets, anchors and monuments. Lines end with finicky little tics recording the stops and starts of ruler-aided drawing, in the fashion of architectural plans. Which is what these images are, in a way: simple diagrams for a universe in flux. Paintings on wood or board seem to be cryptic translations of romantic narratives. Paint is a sparing garnish for the drawn line and (curiously, in view of Kenny's reputation as a sculptor) the three-dimensional elements seem fussily irrelevant.

Ken Kiff, the eldest artist of the group, retreats into a fairy tale land of big suns, flowers with faces and sweet, soft animals. Working frequently on paper, he paints a stubby, impassive nude goddess disrobed by a fellow who looks like a Pre-Columbian deity; a perambulating, wobbly-bodied figure with a floating head who is surrounded by creatures Bruno Bettelheim no doubt could interpret. Picasso's ghost is here, gentled by a child's-eye view of Eros. (Koplin Gallery, 8225 1/2 Santa Monica Blvd., to March 12.)

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