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New French art survives comparisons with past

``Angles of Vision: French Art Today,'' on view at the Guggenheim Museum here, presents an American art critic with a ticklish problem. Since it highlights ``the originality and invention characteristic of contemporary art in France'' and was sponsored by a major museum and organized by a sensitive and knowledgeable curator, it obviously must be taken seriously.

On the other hand, since it is clear from this and other sources that French art has fallen on evil days, might it not be wiser and kinder to pass it by in silence? After all, why belabor the point of French art's fall from grace since the glorious days of C'ezanne, Monet, Matisse, Braque, and Dubuffet?

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Why indeed -- except for the fact that credit must be given to the talent and imagination that does exist among the 10 young artists chosen for this exhibition.

Their contributions may be relatively modest and occasionally a bit precious, but what Judith Bartolani, Bernard Faucon, Philippe Favier, Georges Rousse, and Patrick Tosani have produced is welcome and valued nevertheless.

Faucon's photographs and Favier's miniature cutouts, etchings, and paintings on glass are particularly effective.

And Rousse's Cibachrome prints present strong evidence of an original and engaging creative sensibility.

This is the eighth in Exxon Corporation's important ongoing series of alternating national and international exhibitions. It is at the Guggenheim through Nov. 30.

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