Gary Edward Blum and Barbara Kerwin concur on the hows and whys of laying down paint. In his canvases Oakland-based Blum accrues layers of pigment and what seem to be notations pertaining to color, determining a constant shifting in texture and tone, edge and hue, structure and thought. He constantly juxtaposes crisp and rough contours in a curious but sensuous pictorial strategy. Little brush strokes often align near the bottom as if Blum were sampling colors. Just as often, larger “chips” of paint are arranged at or near the locus of the composition — seemingly attached with tape, a slightly corny but entertaining conceit. A remarkably coherent, vibrant whole emerges from the sum of these clever parts. Local painter Kerwin employs many of the same techniques, and is even more committed to a formal language based in geometry, but she seems to develop her work in the opposite direction, from the inside out. Even though her rectilinear structures align themselves carefully with the edge of her panels, Kerwin composes them as if coaxing them out of the heart of the picture, rectangles spiraling out and fixing themselves, somewhat off-center, with a surprisingly elusive compositional logic. Ruth Bachofner Gallery, 2525 Michigan Ave., Bldg. G2, Santa Monica; Tues.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; thru May 31. (310) 829-3300.
For all their contemplative tidiness, Blum and Kerwin paint richly and sexily. So does Dennis Hollingsworth, but without the good manners. Hollingsworth has covered his huge canvases with a wealth of oil pigments, bubbling and cascading as if spilling from a volcano or geyser. Clots and rivulets of bright, contrasting color run up against one another, somehow never getting muddy. Hollingsworth’s lava comes from the rainbow. There is something else, however, that makes these effulgences seem so much more reasoned, so much more visually and intellectually substantive, than the faux-ab-ex vomitoria they might pretend to be: Every stream and globule maintains its discrete presence, holds its own in the painterly stew. Hollingsworth is not mucking about; he’s actually composing his eruptions, emulating the sense as well as the force of nature. Michael Kohn Gallery, 8071 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; thru May 31. (323) 658-8088.