Trevor Southey, who turns out paintings, prints and sculptures, can render cloth and (to a lesser extent) figures very nicely in a Memories-of-the-Old-Masters style. Some of his etchings--the ones that don't seem to have a heavy-duty agenda--can be appreciated for the way they minutely scrutinize the breaking folds of a bedsheet or the creases in the back of a man's shirt.
But all of Southey's paintings are freighted with a spiritual message. Reaching for a contemporary way to convey a romantic religious vision, he settles for golden-boy images of Christ against cliched abstract backgrounds and a didactic approach that often involves scratching individual words and quotes into the paint surface.
In the painting "God Games," a small, folded translucent cloth alights on the torso of a handsome, blank-eyed Christ figure whose hands disappear into the misty, white background. A gold square floats over his head. Above, a meticulously rendered eye and a woman's mouth occupy either end of a horizontal crosspiece. These images call to mind a broad range of Biblical references--such as "Having eyes, see ye not?" (Mark 8:18) and "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me" (Matthew 15:8). But the net effect is awfully close to kitsch.
The sculptural tableaux are mostly populated by pseudo-classical armless nudes and ponderously symbolic objects--like a fractured rock pierced by a metal rod (rods and rocks, of course, figure in numerous Biblical quotes). If there was a compelling personal vision underlying this work, it has congealed in stultifying academicism. (Ivey Gallery, 154 N. La Brea Ave., to June 17.).