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Art Review

April 24, 1998|DAVID PAGEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

At a Distance: The seven paintings by Merion Estes at Remba Gallery are perfectly likable. Unfortunately, most of the time you find yourself wanting to like them more than you actually do.

Estes' mixes of media combine swatches of polka-dot fabric, paper butterflies, painted birds, wallpaper patterns and a panoply of flowery swirls in conventional compositions that hug the picture-plane with the best of them. Collectively titled "Subversive Pleasures," these aggressively decorative works seem to be driven by the desire to fill up space simply because it's empty.

Decoration for its own sake is as good a reason as any to make a painting, but Estes' embrace of this style is clunky and indelicate. Although such heavy-handedness is offset by a rainbow of lovely colors and saccharine sweet subjects, the combination too often results in pleasant exercises that are easy to like but impossible to love. There is nothing subversive about such perfectly respectable pleasures.

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* Remba Gallery, 462 N. Robertson Blvd., (310) 657-1101, through Thursday. Closed Sunday and Monday.

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