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Unsettled Spirits

Artistic styles on display in an Encino office building lobby merge in 'Two Way Street.'


Office building art is usually polite, neither too attention-grabbing nor too bland. A theory of decor by association is in operation: Corporate art should be inoffensive yet contemporary, like a dress code.

So be forewarned that the current show in the lobby of the Encino Terrace Center on Ventura Boulevard does not quite fit that criteria. The two artists exhibiting here offer insights and creative vision worth stopping by to check out.

While fairly divergent in interests and imagery, Murray Schiff and m. Rheuban share a stylistic interest. The show's title, "Painting--The Two Way Street: The abstract and the figurative meet in Encino," sounds like a Quentin Tarantino short film. It looks like art with a probing, happily unsettled spirit.

In his statement, Schiff claims to be "a self-professed stockpiler of romantic dreams in a throwaway culture," a claim his art bears out well enough. His paintings quiver with a kind of nervous, warm energy, shamelessly on the dividing line between angst and glitz.

Abstract and figurative impulses meet in his paintings. Often, figurative shapes appear as containers for the abstract squiggles, glops and splashes of color, as in "Nurturance," "Out of Time" and "L.A. Retro."

In "Non-Fiction," the words of the title are seen drifting across a visual plane where raw displays of line and color and a hint of a face coexist.

In a separate series of paintings, Schiff depicts everyday street scenes that suggest the kind of stolen moments and aim-'n'-shoot voyeurism of photographer Garry Winogrand.

But then the painter treats the scenes, such as "Didn't We Meet at Mel's?" and "Wannabes," with a distorted palette and loose brushwork, in a style that suggests an amped-up poor relation of fauvism.

Something completely different occurs in the work of Rheuban, who also balances and plays off the contrast of abstraction and aspects of realism. Geometry and intimations of physical space play a critical role in her work, while her abstract instincts lean toward the subtle and ambient. Her work is less about individual gestures and the "act" of painting than it is about generating an impressionistic sense of space, little worlds unto themselves.

Layering is key to her work, to varied effects in "O" and "Moon Moves II:" the former is ambiguous, vaporous, the latter more hard-edged, almost recalling the shape-shifting of Joan Miro.

In "Compartments," rectilinear shapes float in a murky, mottled gray field. The "On the Verge" series of paintings is full of unfinished images and thoughts. Unfinished impressions and emotions veer right up toward the brink of nostalgia "2x2 Equals," with its fragments of imagery from school days, including a blackboard, half an apple, and other half-remembered hints of classroom lore. That is the closest Rheuban comes to the real world on her two-way street.

For the most part, these artists are lost to the world, in a nice, art-affirming way.


"Painting--The Two Way Street: The abstract and the figurative meet in Encino," through Nov. 5 in the lobby of the Encino Terrace Center, 15821 Ventura Blvd., Encino. Gallery hours: Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (818) 951-1402.

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