The “little sister” of Los Angeles hard-edge painting, June Harwood has evolved from hard to soft edges since the 1960s. Now she is fusing the two supposedly opposite tendencies, and making it work. The hard edges have effectively come loose from their moorings, acting less as borders for areas of color than as structural counterpoint to the colored planes. Harwood’s recent soft-edged, almost impressionist color fields maintain in those planes, serving to contrast with the linear geometries underscoring or interrupting them. It’s not an easy balancing act, especially as Harwood avoids what would be an easy balancing act, a merely tasteful arrangement of hard and soft, line and plane; instead, she seeks — and achieves — lively and unsettling relationships between the forms. Louis Stern, 9002 Melrose Ave., W. Hlywd., Tues.-Fri. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; thru April 5. (310) 276-0147.
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The crew assembled by Jeffrey Vallance over at Bergamot also makes some lively and unsettling decisions. Vallance himself commemorates the 30th anniversary of the discovery and burial of what may have been his best friend, Blinky the Friendly Hen. Back in 1978 Vallance provided the supermarket-bought fryer a proper christening and burial, and the bird now gets the patented Vallance treatment: enshrinement, museological notation, the whole nine lives. Vallance’s pals back him up in the don’t-know-what’s-gonna-hit-you-next department. Scotty Vera’s expansive, eclectic canvases take the kitchen-sink approach to images, while James Goodwin’s box-assemblages, fabricated with cabinet-level finesse, take the kitchen-sink approach to, well, the kitchen sink; both bodies of work propose narratives that fly apart before you can grasp them. The comic-book grotesques peopling Marjan Hormozi’s large drawings are involved in very definite narratives — so many in one frame that you need to dive into their hell as if into a Bosch to get their drift. Laurie Hassold’s ornate sculpture is less narrative than iconic, but a close examination of its virtuosic intricacies and gothic density reveals a whole lotta subtext going on. And speaking of subtext, Dave Shulman proves that when L.A. Weekly columns are discontinued they become art — and that when said columnist turns to making art, it looks real good on the wall amid those ironic columns. Track 16, 2525 Michigan Ave., Bldg. C-1, Santa Monica, Tues.-Sat. 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; thru April 5. (310) 264-4678.