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The Galleries

Wilshire Center

April 15, 1988|SUZANNE MUCHNIC

Raul Guerrero uses the cliched language of the School of Paris to paint oils ostensibly inspired by specific places. But his poster-pretty paintings--lounging around in languid black lines and bright swaths of decorator color--were actually triggered by the debased romanticism and exhausted visual representations that signify memory. Looking at this art feels rather like observing Dufy's worst work over a glass of wine, but the effect is deftly calculated. Guerrero has chosen the perfect style to address the flaky topic of cafe and travel art, as well as the more interesting subject of how the yen for romance pervades the most cynical psyche.

The very names of subway stops in Paris or London that fill one group of canvases bring a rush of wistful memories; we happily supply the pictures, knowing full well that Guerrero has pushed our sentimental buttons. Corny images composing a narrative series called "Reflections on the Life and Times of a Venetian Jewess" present a journey that begins and ends with gondolas and includes a masked ball. The final canvas--with a frame painted on it and fin scrawled across a distant view of the city--reminds us that this work is conceptually based on the nature of framed, or overprocessed experience.

In a sense, this show is the painted counterpart to tourist snapshots--the lovely-wife-by-the-monument pictures that allow us to prove we have been somewhere without actually experiencing a foreign culture. Guerrero sets travel memories on a shelf, where they gather the nostalgic aura of treasured artifice. (Saxon-Lee Gallery, 7525 Beverly Blvd., to May 7.

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