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Balance in Bloom

Nature's symmetry and chaos are on display at Sherman Oaks gallery.

May 21, 1999|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Spring is in the air at the Orlando Gallery, where the current two-woman show explores the secret life of plants in distinctly different ways.

Patti Akesson delves directly into metaphor with her "Torso Trunks," drawing parallels between the forms of trees and human figures. In the other half of the gallery, Carol Steinberg buries her sensibilities in flowers to an almost dizzying degree.

Somewhere in the middle they meet.

Akesson's paintings play off the twining, linear forms of tree trunks, with their hints of rippling sinew inviting us to read them as portraits of dancers in motion.

The push-pull of organic and anatomical imagery gives this art its warmth and tension. In some of her works, the trunks are highlighted against backgrounds that suggest an organic process, some bubbling energy or decomposition, adding a layer of unreality.

Elsewhere, the reality is undeniable, even co-opted. Akesson extends into three dimensions in sculptures based around dried pieces of desert plants. She then adds shaped pieces of sheet metals, cut and bent to depict figures, and selectively rusted with wet leaves. The process and product are in accord.

Steinberg's "Blossoms in Bold" is just that: a series of unabashedly florid paintings of blossoms in full bloom. The colors are rich and the bouquets pleasantly chaotic.

The sense of balance comes through the controlled elements in the paintings. These are, after all, still-life settings in vases and in climate-controlled rooms, rather than earth-bound in the great outdoors.

But nature rears her head nonetheless.

BE THERE

"Torso Trunks" and "Blossoms in Bold" through May 29 at the Orlando Gallery, 14553 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. (818) 789-6012.

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