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March 31, 1991|SUSAN PATERNO

Robert Kushner has been among the leaders of the pattern and decoration movement since it emerged in the art world in the 1970s. Using two-dimensional patterns, classical references and fabrics, including silk, brocade and draped canvas, the New York-based artist evokes lush, rich images in his paintings.

Those images complement well the lush, rich sounds of composer Claude Debussy, whose only opera, "Pelleas et Melisande," is being staged by the Long Beach Opera in conjunction with the Kushner exhibit titled "Robert Kushner: The Pelleas and Melisande Suite," opening at the Long Beach Museum of Art on Thursday.

The seven Kushner dry-point prints on view explore the opera, based on Maurice Maeterlinck's turn-of-the-century fantasy play about first love and its ensuing tragedy. Debussy's impressionist music, with its unresolved discords, exotic scales and free forms, enhances the original story and inspires Kushner's prints.

By dulling the images from the opera with gray, hazy lines, Kushner reflects the Impressionism of the music, explains museum director Hal Nelson. The Kushner exhibit runs through June 2, along with three other concurrent shows:

"With the Media, Against the Media," a collection of 42 photographic works by four contemporary California-based artists exploring how the media defines reality; "Tele-Visions: Channels for Changing TV," a sampling of video art's critique of television; and "Terry Braunstein: Stations," collage works and books by this Long Beach-based artist. The Long Beach Museum of Art is at 2300 E. Ocean Blvd. Phone: 439-2119.

The Long Beach Opera production runs April 24, 26 and 28 at the Center Theater, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach. Tickets range from $22 to $55. Phone: 596-5556.

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