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ART | Gallery Review

Diverse Parts Live Agreeably in Von Heyl Show

May 18, 2000|DAVID PAGEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Charline von Heyl's first solo show in Los Angeles consists of eight large paintings on paper, no two of which look like one another. To see the German-born, New York-based artist's freely painted abstractions at Works on Paper Inc. is to survey an impressive variety of styles and means of applying brush strokes. Big, sweeping gestures, thin, translucent washes, sharply demarcated contours and swiftly scribbled lines are all given their due, without any element dominating any others.

Even so, none of Von Heyl's painterly experiments tempt you to describe what takes place across their lively surfaces as harmonious compositions. Crude lyricism goes a lot further in capturing the spirit of these promising works, whose feisty fragments do not cooperate with each other as much as they leave each other alone, free to do their own thing.

In general, modeling and shading fall by the wayside as speedy immediacy is emphasized. Bold colors, abrupt spatial shifts and little regard for building up the appearance of organic depth keep one's attention riveted to the restless surfaces of Von Heyl's paintings, giving them a sense of light-handed ease despite the solemnity that often accompanies forays into gestural abstraction. Decisiveness, one of this style's oldest virtues, yields to a tentative embrace of casual offhandedness.

One of the best things about these unusually fluid abstractions is that a single painting often has the presence of a dozen or more works that have somehow collided yet still seem to mark out an uncluttered space. Imagine tearing one of Von Heyl's images into page-size sections and then trying to find formal links between any two pieces. This will give you an idea of how deftly she holds together disparate elements, whose jigsaw-puzzle complexity is part and parcel of an anxious visual poetry with edgy pleasures all its own.

BE THERE

Works on Paper Inc., 6150 Wilshire Blvd., (323) 964-9675, through June 3. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

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