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ART | AROUND THE GALLERIES

Voulkos' ceramic stacks speak Pop

March 21, 2003|Christopher Knight | Times Staff Writer

Other works pair suspended yarn with shapes cut from vinyl or painted on the wall. The yarn projects the flat wall-bound shape into the volume of the room, sometimes at dynamic angles. The projections allow for a disconcerting illusion that a visitor has entered the space of a flat shape.

Three other, more recent pieces incorporate stainless steel rods. One tangles the outline of a bottle in yarn, blending Constructivism with Boccioni's Futurist sculpture "Development of a Bottle in Space." They make for compact, portable objects. But, like diagrams, they also lose the unassumingly ethereal quality of the breezy yarn.

Caldas is at his best when he's working with the least.

Christopher Grimes Gallery, 916 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 587-3373, through April 5. Closed Sunday and Monday.

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Into the void with Sam Francis

Ace Gallery has opened an annex in Beverly Hills, and given the gargantuan space of the mother ship in a former department store near the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, it was to be expected that the annex would also be huge. For its debut, the new space is showing paintings from the so-called "Edge Series" that were painted by Sam Francis (1923-1994) between about 1965 and 1970. (Works from the series had their L.A. debut in 1986 at Ace Gallery's old space in Venice; a huge post-"Edge" work begun that year is also here.) They're among his largest, most enveloping works.

As the name suggests, the big white canvases are painted only along the edges. Laying the canvas flat on the floor, Francis used saturated acrylic pigments -- crimson, emerald, vivid yellow, royal blue, etc. -- in a watery suspension that let the color puddle, bleed and pool. Acrylics, which are plastic-based paints, were new in the 1960s. Their capacity to be fluid, unlike oil paint, prodded experimentation by numerous artists.

Francis's "Edge Series" paintings are productively regarded as gigantic watercolors. In them, postwar American abstraction came full circle. The loose, lively, unconsciously emotive handling of paint in automatic drawing often began as small watercolors, while Abstract Expressionism brought automatist painting to monumental scale. Francis wed one with the other.

He started with works on paper, several of which are on view. (An upstairs gallery, not yet open, will offer 13 more.) Eventually, canvases grew to be 20 feet long and 12 feet high.

The big works revel in the meditative vastness of the white canvas, while the boundary strips of rapturous color act like prismatic eruptions from the central field. The attempt, erratically achieved, is to make emptiness feel voluminous and full -- to set a Western concept of the void against an Eastern one. Francis's white paintings from the 1950s and his lush "Blue Balls" paintings of the early 1960s remain the pinnacles of his career; but the "Edge Series" is not without important resonance.

Ace Gallery Beverly Hills, 9430 Wilshire Blvd., (323) 935-4411, indefinitely. Closed Sunday and Monday.

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Suspended amid different worlds

The new paintings by British artist Mark Francis at Michael Kohn Gallery speak of a journeyman sensibility. They wear their lineage on their sleeve: Gerhard Richter, Brice Marden, Terry Winters, Ross Bleckner -- even Jackson Pollock. So it's to Francis' credit that he manages to make the work his own.

Slipping into the well-trod realm between abstraction and representation, the six paintings and three works on paper are composed from long, looping lines.

They soon reveal themselves to be based on draped lengths of knotted wire or string.

Sometimes smudged, they float in front of and within hazy fields (think frosted glass), which are occasionally populated by gray spots and fuzzy orange lozenges. The images picture suspension, which also describes the microscopic pigment suspended in its oil medium and the physical canvas hanging on the wall.

The surfaces are similarly playful -- some oily and light reflective, others flat and absorbent. In one, scabby blotches of red, black and ochre resin colonize the flat plane. The result is an ambiguous set of mysterious, organic images. They seem poised between growth and decay, disconnection and coupling, membranes and impermeable walls.

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Michael Kohn Gallery, 8071 Beverly Blvd., (323) 658-8088, through March 29. Closed Sunday and Monday.

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