Julio Galan's new paintings belong to a world in which desire and regret form the poles between which an individual's emotions swing. Torn between longing and melancholy, the Monterrey, Mexico-based artist's dreamy pictures of lost loves and wistful fantasies suggest that a viewer's relationship to something is infinitely more important than the thing itself.
Galan's nine large paintings at Chac Mool Gallery seem to dissolve before your eyes, drifting off into intangibility the harder you try to pin them down. In lesser hands, this tendency to slip away would provide nothing but frustration. Galan, however, manages it like a maestro, pulling viewers into his pictures at the same rate that their meanings and messages elude one's grasp.
Most of the artist's mixed-media works in oil on canvas have the presence of two or three afterimages superimposed atop one another. For example, "Just Prepare" shifts between being a bucolic landscape and a racy figure painting, both of which are interrupted by elements of still life and an ambiguous warning--or promise--written in English.
Likewise, the layered images in the show's only horizontal work cannot be read simultaneously. Forcing viewers to alternate between separate views, this untitled work from 1999 invites us to divide our attention between five stags running through the woods and graffiti-like stick figures scrawled over the old-fashioned landscape.
A sense of restlessness animates all of Galan's willfully incomplete images. Many include a light dusting of glitter, and some recall lowbrow paintings on black velvet. One of the best hangs behind a colorful veil made of pipe cleaners that form a loosely linked mesh.
To scan the multiple realities that float across Galan's diaphanous pictures is to drift off into various reveries. Inviting all manner of free associations, these promiscuous paintings do not draw viewers into fully formed worlds so much as they inspire us to get lost between bittersweet memories and double-edged musings.
* Chac Mool Gallery, 8920 Melrose Ave., (310) 550-6792, through Oct. 13. Closed Sundays and Mondays.
Communication Tools: Transformations in the visual arts rarely come from where they're expected. Although many viewers assume that computer technology and digital imagery will change the way art looks, very little original work has sprung from these basic tools of the Information Age.
Instead, the supposedly old-fashioned art of painting is currently leaps and bounds ahead of other media in the race to keep up with modern life. As a generation of artists who have grown up with computers begin to create new forms, an increasing number are turning to paint and brushes to capture the complexities of contemporary reality.
Not a trace of sentimentality can be found on the sleek surfaces of Stephen Heer's 11 new paintings at L.A. Artcore's Brewery Annex. These square wood panels with rounded edges are as sensuous as any labor-intensive monochrome. Exquisitely finished--but clearly handcrafted--the lush surfaces of the young painter's abstractions combine the romance of the lone artist at work in his studio with the thrills of the Internet's long-distance connections.
A strange sense of perfectionism animates Heer's user-friendly fusions of Minimalism and Symbolism, which come in two sizes: 1 or 2 feet on a side. In a predominately silver palette, each piece contains various combinations of elongated ovals, partially overlapped circles and parallelograms with rounded corners.
Heer uses these shapes as frames for oddly shaped pictures-within-pictures, sometimes airbrushing atmospheric worlds-within-worlds within each work's smooth edges. Meandering lines, series of digits and coded symbols float across most of his images, whose shifting picture planes often seem to be intangible.
Like Kevin Appel, Philip Argent, Casey Cook and Pet Sourinthone, Heer treats computers and paint brushes as equally useful tools of communication. Forming a language in which logical maneuvers yield unexpected results, his modular panels are less concerned with where images come from than with where they might take you.
* L.A. Artcore's Brewery Annex, 650A S. Avenue 21, (213) 276-9320, through Sept. 30. Closed Sundays and Mondays.
World Views: Tito Sanpaolesi's black-and-white photographs of Argentine gauchos, Italian alleys and rudimentary tools filter age-old mysteries through a contemporary sensibility, transforming seemingly simple scenes into thoughtful meditations on the various ways the past lives in the present.
While plenty of mystery suffuses the young artist's 11 shadow-shrouded images at Craig Krull Gallery, they're neither sappy nor nostalgic. Equally indebted to the traditional lifestyles they depict and to TV shows such as "The X-Files," Sanpaolesi's pictures focus on quotidian moments that could be utterly incidental or loaded with import.