The painterly gesture plays a crucial role in David Reed’s art, even in the rough-hewn landscapes the New York painter realized early in his now four-decade career. Whether thick and slathery, as in his works from the ’70s, or fluid and translucent, as in the more recent canvases, Reed’s broad brush strokes function as material and perceptual agitation, posited constantly within, upon and against areas precisely defined by bright monochrome fields and/or geometric contours. The effect is almost tectonic; the turbid flow of the brush strokes roils insistently and incessantly, compromised but never effaced by the crisp, tidy contours bounding them. Or is it the geometries whose definitions are undermined but never obscured by the graceful frenzy of the brush strokes? And what happens when the brush strokes are the sharp shapes, when the distinction between figure and ground dissolves — but the figure and the ground still maintain their mutual integrity?

Eli Langer’s paintings conflate shape and gesture rather than counterpose them as Reed does. But in investing long, nervous lines and slatelike fields with the immediacy of his brush stroke, Langer shares Reed’s appreciation of paint’s, and color’s, seductive, subversive power. Instead of Reed’s stark color contrasts, Langer’s muted palette, no less delicious, becomes a means of troubling our faith in our own perception. He effectively loses our eyesight in midocean, while the relative definition of the gestures themselves provide our eyes with life rafts.

David Reed at Luckman Gallery, Cal State L.A., 5151 State University Drive, L.A.; Mon.-Thurs. & Sat., noon-5 p.m. (323) 343-6604. Eli Langer at Daniel Hug, 510 Bernard St., L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 11 a.m.-6 p.m. (323) 221-0016. Both thru July 15.

—Peter Frank

LA Weekly