Supposedly, Clement Greenberg took lyrical abstraction, or “stain painting,” to the grave with him, but current painters with no previous allegiance to the Formalist Wars of the 1960s are re-examining the pleasures and challenges of letting thinned pigment dye the canvas. Bobbie Oliver’s formula is uncomplicated in this regard, but its results are nuanced, gently provocative and gorgeous. The most engaging action in these paintings is the transition that happens with each stain as the pigment radiates out from its impact point and forms luminous penumbrae. With various incidents happening like this in various colors, Oliver’s paintings shiver with an unexpected violence that ripples but finally does not disturb their silky exteriors.
The edgy shapes pervading Brandon Morse’s screened and projected digital videos promise a certain violence right away — and deliver instead graceful choreographies of rising, swirling, unfurling and billowing motion. A large room filled with projections serves as a virtual funhouse of odd, dreamy forms, but the more linear works on small screens in the back are, if anything, even more alluring; one evolving image of a never-ending army of transparent cubes rotating into a slow cyclone borders inexplicably and exquisitely on the ecstatic.
A 15-year survey of the collages of Maritta Tapanainen provides its own moments of ecstasy. Relying chiefly on snippets of photo-engravings, Tapanainen has long woven dense mats of disparate but similarly textured images, giving them just enough space to suggest galaxies or fossil beds or views into microscopic worlds. She has a knack for turning machine parts, mammal innards, architectural details and other images into so many diatoms, and setting them afloat in their own Sargasso Sea. You want to be there and you are there at the same time. Oliver at Jancar, 3875 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. and by appt.; thru May 26. (213) 384-8077. Morse at d.e.n. contemporary, 6023 Washington Blvd., Culver City; Tues.-Sat., 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; thru May 26. (310) 559-3023. Maritta Tapanainen at Couturier, 166 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Tues.-Sat., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; thru June 2. (323) 933-5557.