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Santa Monica

June 30, 1989|MARLENA DONOHUE

There's been a rash of so-called biomorphic abstraction that makes fine art of those cellular spores or slowly scooting tendrils we see under a microscope or in a molecular model. When this art is good it can, without stooping to sentimentality, refer to universal mysteries like entropy, regeneration, the mathematical order that dictates the minutest and grandest of natural systems. When it's bad it can look like first-year-of-graduate-school, what-am-I-going-to-paint.

Far from amateur and well exhibited in many states, Tom Savage shows large paintings that fall somewhere between those extremes. Savage builds amorphous, mostly pastel fields from coats of oil wash, then fills them with shapes that look like the DNA helix or organic pods beaded like pearls on a string and suspended in a chalky mist. In his strongest canvas, he sends spindly organisms floating in a reddish primordial goop and shapes snap to life from the bold use of color. More often than not, a decorative lilac palette and anemically drafted squiggles leave you feeling you can't quite hold on to any of it. (Shoshana Wayne Gallery, 1454 5th St., to July 15.)

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