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2 Roads Worth Taking to Abstract New Worlds

November 03, 1995|CATHY CURTIS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LAGUNA BEACH — A recent afternoon swing through town turned up a couple of short-run shows worth a visit before they disappear.

Though recent paintings by sculptor Charles Arnoldi occupy the front room at the Peter Blake Gallery, there are much fresher sights in a tiny back-room sampler, "Six Roads to Abstraction" (through Sunday).

A last-minute addition raised the number of artists in the show to seven. Adam Ross' small untitled canvas exudes a blissfully cheesy yet complex beauty, an intense melding of different worlds of pattern, achieved by sanding down and reworking layers of paint. The striated, yellow-blue mottled effect of old plastic lawn chairs combines with red-centered black blobs that could have come from a lab technician's slide, and a graffiti-like spray of bright green.

Daniel Lloyd wittily rejiggers retro styles in "Untitled DL#172" with a stack of lumpy pastel forms loosely fitted into a shape vaguely suggestive of a gravestone. It looks like William Brice meets Philip Guston.

Sidestepping conventional notions of composition, Michelle Fierro plots an eccentric series of non-events on a white field: a jagged medallion of gray pasty material, a tiny piece of paint-daubed toweling and minuscule blips of white paint that cling shyly to one edge.

"Precious" is the title of Mario Cutajar's 20-inch-square canvas, a dense, bristling carpet of jewel-toned squirts of paint. Obsessive and object-like, it gains value from the sheer accumulation of paint--as if the artist were simply a facilitator.

Sensual textures and materials create a hedonistic appeal in a couple of works that seem innocent of conceptual agendas. Dennis Hollingsworth's "Sixth Skin" glows in waxy pale yellow with small flesh-colored curving shapes and white, vertebrae-like clusters. Eric Johnson combines wood grain, shiny saw-toothed stripes and a sparkling handful of tulle in "Madame X (Study II)."

Teetering on the spacey, cartoonish edge of figuration, "The Happy Couple" in Lisa Adams' painting are two identical Mr. Spock-eared eggheads poised above a skittering tangle of thin, nervous brush strokes that suggests short-circuited mental wiring.

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"Six Roads to Abstraction" continues through Sunday at the Peter Blake Gallery, 326 N. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Free. (714) 376-9994. *

Veteran artists Paul Darrow and Sueo Serisawa (his former teacher in graduate school) are showing at the Sandstone Gallery through Sunday alongside ceramics by Darrow's son Eric and Serisawa's stepson Steve Davis. With all respect to Serisawa, now in his mid-80s, his recent work, achieved with a blare of metallic paint or knobs of Sumi ink over washes of color, seems rather formulaic.

But Darrow's tiny collages--especially those inspired by the Japanese environment--remain tiny worlds unto themselves, rewarding the patient viewer with a subtle interplay of texture, imagery and color summoning up a blend of natural and spiritual references. This approach can look merely decorative in lesser hands, but Darrow has an acute sensitivity to the potential resonance of found materials eased into a close proximity.

In "Kyoto," for example, wrinkled brown paper suggests folded hills, an inky, blurred outline has a fungoid quality suggestive of nature replicating on a humble scale, and five tiny red upraised fingers recall Buddha's blessing gesture. "Koan" achieves a glancing mystical quality with a mossy green canvas as softly worn as an old leather-bound book, on which Darrow plots a paper-thin shard of rusted metal and a lone blue scrap, like a lost puzzle piece.

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Work by Paul Darrow and others continues through Sunday at the Sandstone Gallery, 384-A N. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Free. (714) 497-6775.

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