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Santa Monica

April 14, 1989|MARLENA DONOHUE

If you can imagine a cross between the monoliths of Stonehenge brought down to human scale and the most precious looking glass and gilt dresser-top ornaments tooled for the Russian aristocracy, you've got got an idea of the zany but elegant work of glass master Howard Ben Tre. The works are wrought though a laborious, costly process that involves planning every detail in elaborate, full-scale drawings and cardboard models, then designing 1,200-pound sand and concrete molds sturdy enough to hold and bake huge amounts of molten glass.

The resulting free-standing abstract forms of thick glass are embellished though hand polishing and the addition of copper and gold leaf that appears to be buried deep in the glass. Besides the sheer protean task of producing the transparent totems (the least satisfying takes the vague shape of a standing figure), Ben Tre strikes an eccentric, noteworthy tension between precious materials traditionally reserved for the Far East and lumbering, outdoor sculpture-sized works. (Dorothy Goldeen Gallery, 1547 9th St., to April 29.)

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