Benjamin Butler’s “New Trees” at Karyn Lovegrove Gallery

For his new body of work, a further meditation on trees, Benjamin Butler mixes techniques of modern abstract painting to convey a spiritual fascination with the natural world, veering toward the psychedelic through his use of color and heavy patterning. In many of these new works he paints a single tree that resembles a willow; his ruminations on a single form are quite compelling and start to resemble African textiles. In another work, Butler plays with scale: a large 6-foot-by-10-inch painting takes up one whole wall. Though he’s still a relatively young painter, the work is maturing quite nicely. His brushstrokes seem more loose and confident, and the quality of the paint is slightly more transparent, revealing colors underneath for a more textured surface than the work in his last show.

6150 Wilshire Blvd., L.A. | | (323) 525-1755 | Reception Sat., Sept. 8, 6-8 p.m. | Through October 6

Sharon Levy’s “The Wood” at Santa Monica Museum of Art

Employing theatrical techniques such as silhouettes and set painting, Sharon Levy creates a forestlike environment in this sculpture installation. A cluster of flat trees and tree trunks looks like a large-scale version of those wooden toy kits in which two flat pieces fit together to create a standing form. In Cookie, the main work in the show, Levy has stretched canvas over foam and then painted it to resemble a 9-foot cut from a tree trunk. The obsessive rendering of the tree’s rings has a hypnotic, meditative quality, and from a distance it looks quite realistic. A recent graduate of UC San Diego’s MFA program, Levy demonstrates both subtle humor and quiet confidence.

Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica | | (310) 586-6488 | Reception for museum members Fri., Sept. 7, 6 p.m.; open to the public after 7 p.m. | Through December 8

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