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Jose-Maria Cundin and Nicole Charbonnet

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  Jose Maria Cundin is elusive. He has exhibited here since the 1960s but is rarely seen in person. A resident of Folsom who once lived in Broadmoor, he disappeared to Miami in between. His work also is slippery. Twelve Anti-Portraits is an appropriate title, because his images are abstract, depicting no actual likenesses. But Cundin is a master of color and light, and here they are used to evoke the tone and tenor of his subjects' personalities. Chavez, Why Don't You Shut Up? is an agglomeration of red, tangerine and green blobs bathed in the unholy crimson glow that we might expect from Venezuela's loose cannon presidente. But in Carlos Gardel Singing "Muneca Brava," the blobs seem to gyrate harmoniously, as if to the music of the legendary Argentine tango singer/songwriter. In this show, Cundin presents his own unique approach to biographical history painting that relies solely on cellular forms and richly irradiated colors to convey his subject's inner essence. And once again, the canny Basque expatriate escapes any attempts to define him.

  Nicole Charbonnet is concerned with images more for what they symbolize than what they represent. Her paintings suggest how iconic forms can erode, either in fact or in people's perceptions of them. Here she focuses on flowers. Erased Picasso (pictured) is a play on Robert Rauschenberg's erasure of a Willem de Kooning drawing in 1953 as an artistic statement (with de Kooning's consent). While Picasso's image of a pair of hands holding flowers is the rare example of his work that reads as a universal gesture, it has for that reason been seen by millions of eyes over time. And if mass viewing does not actually erode such images, their very familiarity causes them to slowly fade in consciousness. Charbonnet monumentalizes this process with evanescent pigments on stuccolike surfaces. Here the abraded boundaries of her images allow space for interpretation, so familiar forms are unique and mysterious once again. — D. Eric Bookhardt

Flowers: Mixed-Media Paintings by Nicole Charbonnet

Through Dec. 24

Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia St., 522-1999; www.arthurrogergallery.com

Twelve Anti-Portraits: New Paintings by Jose-Maria Cundin

Through Jan. 29

Gallery Bienvenu, 518 Julia St., 525-0518; www.gallerybienvenu.com

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