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ART REVIEW : Exhibit of British Prints Laden With Tradition

February 19, 1988|CATHY CURTIS

Mild-mannered habits of tradition weigh down the work of 51 British printmakers whose work was juried by two senior members of the Printmakers Council of Great Britain for an American traveling show. Graced by well-schooled and painstaking technique, much of the imagery lacks the life-breath of strong and original themes as well as an engagement with the pulse of contemporary art.

Rising above numerous polite abstractions, Mary Webb's silkscreen, "Crete II" stands out for its Lundeberg-like distillation of the tang of a locale into a series of carefully tinted rectangles. Dilys Bryon's etching, "Aspidistra and Window," embodies the fits and starts of growth in a format somewhat reminiscent of Mondrian's pre-grid landscapes.

Among the more old-fashioned figurative works, Martin Rieser's etching, "Nesting"--two weightless birds perched in a fine crosshatching of branches nearly eaten by black gloom--suggests a hollow, postnuclear fragility. The repeated shapes of fruit on a fence in Neville Crowson's soft-ground etching, "Apple Tree," offer the dappled plenitude that delighted poet Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Viewers looking for something snappier and "younger" will have to be content with neo-Stuart Davis with a spritz of Basquiat (Peter Wood's screenprint, "And Bar") or an etching and aquatint registering a swift, impersonally photographic glimpse of a couple pierced by a harsh block of light (Eric Bates' "Platform 2"). (Angels Gate Cultural Center, 3601 S. Gaffey St., San Pedro, to March 6.)

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