Step Into Liquid, Chris Martin

The painterly methods and resulting images constituting “Step Into Liquid” don’t just run in rivulets, they splash and clot and dribble and smear and get very, very messy in visually coherent ways. Don’t think rain, think mud — but when it comes to color, don’t think mud, think rainbow. James Hayward’s monochrome welters of bas-relief-thick brush strokes and David Reed’s geometric forms ensnared by undulating waves of goopy paint both exuberantly celebrate the viscous. Nostalgie de la boue also drives  Michael Reafsnyder’s expansive eruptions of dark paint inflected with so many errant strokes and drips and smooshes. Pia Fries forges thick webs and skeins of caked pigment against neutral white fields, while Jane Callister gets loosest, and comes closest to representation, with her blasted-landscape structures forged out of drippy, puddly acrylic.
New Yorker Chris Martin also trips out on color, and form, but not on flow. Rather, he relies on a playful, even cockeyed geometry — and gobs of pigment — to compose eccentric shapes doing, well, eccentric things. Think Alfred Jensen loosened up by Thomas Nozkowski; but Martin delivers his lines with a flair, and a palette, all his own.
“Step Into Liquid” at Otis College’s Ben Maltz Gallery, 9045 Lincoln Blvd., L.A.; Tues.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; thru Jan. 28. (310) 665-6905. Chris Martin at Daniel Weinberg, 6148 Wilshire Blvd.; Tues.-Sat., 10 a.m-5:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 4. (323) 954-8425. (Peter Frank)

Choreographer’s Ball

Does this sound odd to you: “Be prepared to experience all styles of dance covering everything from Modern Dance to Hip-Hop!” Isn’t that a pretty short leap? Aren’t there numerous other dance styles outside those two? Like, where’s the Lindy? Or the Para Para? In any case, Carnival: Choreographer’s Ball is where you’ll see the hottest collection of dance from the industry’s top choreographers. Pssst: Diana Ross “is expected” to attend. Key Club, 9041 Sunset Blvd., W. Hollywood; Wed., Jan. 25, 9 p.m.; $20. (310) 274-5800. (Libby Molyneaux)

2 Pianos 4 Hands

In their widely produced and presumably autobiographical story, playwrights Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt sometimes ruefully, always humorously, recount their childhood years chained to the piano, including all the sacrifices (sports and girls specifically) that they had to make. Its charm comes from its simplicity: Two actor-musicians (Richard Carsey and Tom Frey) playing beautifully on two grand pianos while rushing in and out of scores of characters. They parody eccentric music teachers who range from incompetent to insufferable. Large scrims surrounded by fancy picture frames offer grotesque shadows of angry parents, through Steve Lucas’ ingeniously understated set and lighting. Co-author Greenblatt directs with a slickness that initially robs us of some of the show’s gentle moments, but soon the actors settle into a sincerity that’s challenging when doing so many characters. Finally, this play is about the music, and the performers provide that with skill.  Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 5. (949) 497-2787. (Tom Provenzano)

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