For years it's seemed that Kyoko Asano's expertly realistic paintings of beaches and washed up detritus were intended as symbols, but her masterful technique often preempted her message.
As if to not be misunderstood, new work makes a fairly literal affair of themes like collective consciousness, relativity of time, life and death.
A half dozen large, multipaneled paintings follow the same format. The first panel is typically a thin field of black pigment modulated to imply some dark depth, the next is one of Asano's breathtaking views of ocean and air, punctuated by a bird in weightless flight. Subsequent panels build encrusted mixed-media fields of bone beige. Painted to look like tiny specters buried deep in this fossilized dust, Asano offers her lexicon of sea debris plus tiny, tour de force views of the pyramids at Giza, primitive tools, a simian ancestor, a prostrate nun, floating mathematical equations. The sequence is topped off by panels that are tight fields of magenta and blue metallic flecks, described by Asano as representing the "time-space-event continuum."
Many will find this new work a little forced alongside the pristine and easy realism we've come to know. But Asano hasn't compromised technique, just shirked the stigma of conventionalism.
Upstairs, Russell Crotty presents small and large paintings that look like 3-D blue prints for rectilinear, abstract landscapes. Paintings begin with a central rectangle tilted into the picture plane. Emanating from this epicenter are heavy, black diagonal rays. Accented by color and a backdrop of thin grids incised in pigment, the paintings set up geometric matrices that move into and away from the picture plane, alluding to architecture, radar towers, radio waves and technology in general. What grabs us in the best works ("Forecaster") are pure plastic qualities that neatly mix intuition with Cartesian order. (Cirrus Gallery, 542 S. Alameda St., to Dec. 3.)