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Preening and Posing

Lori Markman's evocative, eccentric portraits of women are anything but boring.

It's hard to get a sturdy grasp of Lori Markman's art, now nestled in the upstairs gallery of Natalie's Fine Threads. This is not to make a disparaging value judgment: her work, often eccentric studies of female figures goes both ways, and then some, suggesting a juncture of frothiness and angst. They 􀀢can be dismissed as casual flings or admired in the way they stretch figurative conventions and dabble in cubist and surrealist approaches. It's your choice.

Often, the women Markman portrays seem to be in states of ecstasy, preening or otherwise posing. The artist too tends to pose and pinch nerves of expectation. Certainly, that's the case in "Girl with Gun," a lanky female model with revolver in a holster, on a cocked-and cocky-hip. "The Baseball Game," placed on the wall of the stairwell as you go up to the second-floor gallery, finds a bikini-clad figure in the foreground, with a baseball game almost as an afterthought in the distance behind her.

The visually stressed-out figure in "Woman Having a Nervous Breakdown" is beyond the verge thereof, her lines and volumes in a contorted tangle. The scratchy intensity of the artist's rendering here nearly goes into the domain of Francis Bacon's psycho-sexual portraiture. Yet, still, an air of giddy delight keeps the desperation at bay.

Elsewhere, Markman explores more purely artistic ideas, as with "Spanish Dancer," its figure seen

through a prism of gentle-spirited abstraction .. And in two untitled paintings and "To D, Love L," the artist pieces together a surreal tableaux nodding to De Chirico's sense of imaginary space. In these dream-like vignettes, patches of geometry and female anatomy are mixed, matched, and tossed into an irrational salad of imagery.

With this work, Markman throws ideas against the wall. and many of them stick. Suffice to say, her art is anything but dry and academic.


Lori Markman: through February at The Upstairs Gallery, Natalie's Fine Threads.

596 E. Main St., in Ventura.

Gallery hours: 10:30 a.m-5:30 p.m., Tue.-Sat. Phone, 643-8854.

Joseph Woodard, Special to the Los Angeles Times

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