The thinned acrylic pigments Suzan Woodruff has sent coursing across her surfaces with ever more voluptuous abandon have clearly followed their own natural course. They form rills, deltas, waves and eddies, as would any fluid leaving residue. But, however much we see and recognize this, our eyes insist on reading these effluxes as landscapes, cloudscapes, seascapes, dunescapes and all sorts of natural spaces — even bodyscapes, when Woodruff turns up the sensual temperature. Woodruff is working ever larger, well aware of how these flows and blooms surge to embrace the full range of our vision. But the small pieces have a power all their own — because they have a kind of space all their own.

Ernie Silva’s evocations are rather more prosaic, but their charm is just as irresistible. Practicing a gentle, vaguely cartoon-derived neo-expressionism, Silva populates his rudimentary landscapes (woods and seas, mostly) with very ordinary human beings doing ordinary human-being things, although occasionally they’re interrupted by toy figurines who have grown to human size. As you look closer, the figures turn out to be the stiff, awkwardly drawn ciphers who occupy the lesson books and cautionary filmstrips of American postwar grade schools, their Scout uniforms and jeepers gestures bespeaking a willed naiveté. In Silva’s cozy cosmology, only the animals, alert and alone, are genuinely wise.

Suzan Woodruff at Berman/Turner Projects; Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; thru Aug. (310) 453-0909. Ernest Silva at Patricia Correia; Tue.-Fri., 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; thru July 29. (310) 264-1760. Both at Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica.

—Peter Frank

LA Weekly