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ART REVIEWS : Joseph Kosuth: He Spells Everything Out for Us

September 28, 1990|WILLIAM WILSON | TIMES ART CRITIC

From Boxes to Slabs: John McCracken is a survivor of Los Angeles' Finish Fetish era who has developed as calmly as a cowboy watching alfalfa grow. He started out making shiny, solid-color boxes and planks that leaned on the wall. Now he is up to five shiny, one color slabs hung horizontally like shelves. They are faceted, making long streamlined V-shapes and wedges. Such attenuation can be dangerous but McCracken keeps it sculptural despite the speedy Mercedes-Benz surface of a work like "Autobahn." His subtlety and control show best in the blue "Zircon." Viewed at an oblique angle it seems to cantilever off the wall, reversing its own perspective.

One look at Gerald Kamitaki's black-and-white striped compositions and you think of prisons. Rendered in wooly vertical paths of chalk and graphite, they suggest chain-gang uniforms, cell bars and corrugated siding. Nah, they must just be formal compositions. They reminisce about Frank Stella's early black paintings. Juxtaposed sections offset stripes, creating subdued optical and sculptural effects. Then you notice the artist's vitae sheet. He was born in 1943 in the Japanese-American detention camp at Manzanar.

Fred Hoffman Gallery, 912 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica to Oct. 13.

Large Figures and Pensive Palms: Anyone regretting the apparent demise of Photorealist painting can get a dose of it in the L.A. debut of Santa Fe practitioner, Diane Marsh. She paints individual portraits and figures about twice life-size suggesting some influence from Chuck Close. Works are mesmerizing at first go, as highly detailed work often is, but the experience begins to unravel almost immediately.

"Hope" is the unfortunate handle hung on a blond nude that looks more like an over-lighted medical photograph than an allegorical figure. What appears beautifully drawn and finished collapses into incoherence on closer approach. By concentrating equally on all parts the artist gives neither psychological nor optical emphasis so the expressive result feels like someone agonizing over nothing.

James Murray's small prints and drawings have budged little since he was last seen here but the work retains its virtues. Panoramic horizontal landscapes retain a dark, biblical kind of grandeur like 19th-Century illustrations by Gustave Dore. It's hard to recognize some of them as depicting Los Angeles even though they show palm trees and unfinished freeways. Despite frequent predictions of our destruction by a massive earthquake it's still hard to believe the end of the world will include good old Lotusland.

Tortue Gallery, 2917 Santa Monica Blvd. to Oct. 6.

A Feast for the Eyes: Biff Henrich lives in Buffalo, N.Y., and debuts here with four color photo blow-ups of a group of people eating. They appear to be a family, first lolling around a Christmas tree replenishing themselves after an orgy of present-opening, then scarfing some more around the traditional Yule dining table. Their style is strictly Babbitt kitsch. Even the ornate furniture seems to be made of plastic.

Henrich's work reflects his beginnings as a cartoonist adapted now to the shrill palette of chemi-color photography and vaguely echoing the Flemish exuberance of a robust painter like Jacob Jordaens.

Our worthies chow down everywhere, munching in the tiny family pool and at some sports event. Probably Little League. If they keep this up they will get as fat and grumpy and Henrich's consumerist satire is affectionate and thin.

Linda Cathcart Gallery, 824 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, to Dec. 3 .

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