Of the work on the walls at Craig Krull Gallery, only Peter Alexander’s watercolors depict nature as such, but the natural world suffuses Sam Erenberg’s and Robin Mitchell’s paintings as well. Mitchell’s are on paper, hardly bigger than Alexander’s page-size studies of desert growths, and are densely striated almost to the point of TV snow, but blooms and florid bursts occasionally show through. More distinct are myriad little marks dancing on the surface of the optical noise like protozoa or larvae accruing on a pond. Erenberg’s large canvases also have an aqueous feel, their alternating bands of dark and light rippling and drifting like the late-afternoon tide. The hum in Mitchell’s work is higher pitched than in Erenberg’s, but both draw the eye out of the mind and into a contemplative zone. The singular cacti and palms in Alexander’s seem the result of such contemplation, as if he’s peeked into their souls.
By contrast, a restlessness pervades “Migration Study,” bringing together as it does work in many media by local artists who hail from elsewhere, go from place to place, or simply (if eloquently) concern themselves with the transitions that comprise human life. These artists, nearly all born abroad (with a plurality hailing from Iran), draw on their own dislocation; even if they came here as children, they have maintained a sense of rootlessness, a more-than-existential alienation that motivates their work. What we experience as news they experience as biography. Befitting such an unsettling show, none of the 22 artists works much like any of the others. Running (and perhaps exceeding) the gamut of contemporary artistic modes, this motley crew sails a ship of no return. Peter Alexander, Robin Mitchell, Sam Erenberg at Craig Krull, 2525 Michigan Ave., No. B-3, Santa Monica; Tues.-Fri., 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Sat., 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 9. (310) 828-6410. “Migration Study” at Phantom Galleries in the Santa Fe Lofts, 131 E. Sixth St., dwntwn.; Fri.-Sun., noon-5 p.m.; thru Aug. 25. www.phantomgalleriesla.com.