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Wilshire Center

February 26, 1988|MARLENA DONOHUE

East coast artist Kay Walkingstick is best known for large abstract canvases in which a central snap of color streaks across a minimal field like lightning across a night sky. True to her name, Walkingstick travels a lot--to the woods of New Jersey, to the Southwest, to La Jolla. Recent sojourns to areas with differing atmospheres, qualities of light and natural color triggered a switch to representation.

In a current show she tries to have it both ways in diptychs that couple landscape with a wholly abstract version of the same subject. In "Rio Verde," a winding gentle river eases along brown banks punctuated by hazy trees and cotton candy skies. Its partner canvas knits the bucolic hues of the river scene into a soft gestural blanket across which amble two arcs echoing the rivers' choreography. In "Bruegel's Blue," the focus is sharp and the realism brittle with water rigidly careening over boulders under the orange glow of sunset. As expected, the adjacent abstraction floats a quick, crackling orange "S" amid animated blue, gray and brown flecks.

Walkingstick says her choice of format shows that realism captures a single moment in time while abstraction taps the timeless. In fact, there is a polite, Sunday-tea restraint in her representational style which pales next to the tactile exuberance transmitted by her abstract work. (Wenger Gallery, 828 N. La Brea Ave., to April 12.)

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