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Art Review

September 19, 1997|SUSAN KANDEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Twisted Tradition: At Ruth Bachofner Gallery, Patrick Wilson's geometric abstractions could easily pass for bland rehashes of a venerated, even hoary tradition. Until you give them a moment or two, that is.

Let your eyes adjust. Where there seems to be nothing but a standard-issue maroon monochrome, there is something more: a tiny purple square, a thin golden outline of a rectangle.

And where there seems to be stoicism, there is in fact a twisted sense of humor, the kind that weds conceptual trickery to designer colors and easily comes out ahead.

Wilson literalizes what Hans Hofmann memorably referred to as abstraction's "push/pull" effect. He builds up his paintings from layers of pigment and acrylic that have been sanded so as to recede or project, depending upon the intended effect.

Rectangles appear to float in space, to hover in voids or to be buried within larger fields of burnished color. The paintings engage in an aestheticized game of hide and seek, and they are perfectly willing to cheat.

What might this mean? Simply that the work sneaks up on you. And the fact that it plays at shunning the spectacular with simple compositions and drab colors (beiges and pale grays; burnt oranges and rusts) only redoubles its estimable allure.

* Ruth Bachofner Gallery, 2046 Broadway, Santa Monica, (310) 829-3300, through Oct. 11. Closed Sunday and Monday.

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