It hasn’t always been sexy to be a non-objective painter in Los Angeles, but L.A. has always had sexy non-objectivists, painters just as tough, smart and skilled as their New York and San Francisco counterparts but undersung at home. Don Sorenson was one such artist, compiling a stunning body of work before dying of AIDS at age 37 in 1985. It’s high time Sorenson’s electrically patterned abstractions again saw the light of day, their dense zigzagging webs, sweet with lusciously applied acrylic, vibrating off the wall and under your eyelids. This retrospective selection, although not hung chronologically, touches on several points in Sorenson’s arrested development, so that his changing approach to a simple but effective formula is richly exposed.
Multiple approaches to a theme, “the illusory life of the female subject,” assemble in the alternately haunting and bathetic “Queen of the Night: Women Under the Influence.” Sometimes it’s the artist’s own illusions, sometimes it’s those of the ladies in the pictures, but the dreams here are almost uniformly intense. “Queen” does not patronize women but critiques, and celebrates, their subjection to fantasy, their own and others’ — men’s not least. Male artists actually comprise a majority here — and, interestingly, a lot of their works date from the 1960s and ’70s. For that, “Queen” is a wildly, wonderfully mixed bag, proffering painting, photography, assemblage and even animation, the works sharing only the heritage of surrealism. Both at Berman/Turner Projects, 2525 Michigan Ave., Suites C2 (“Queen”) and E1 (Sorenson), Santa Monica; Tues.-Sat., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; thru May 13 (“Queen”) and 20 (Sorenson). (310) 453-0909.