At first glance, the works of Tom Judd and Dennis Smith have nothing in common. But take a closer look: Many of their works are whimsical, energetic, enigmatic and unpredictable.

TOM JUDD'S exhibit of works completed during the 1980s is being featured in the Salt Lake Art Center's Main Gallery.And it's not easy to hang a one-man show in the Main Gallery, which easily gobbles up exhibits that don't make dynamic statements.

But Judd's works are definitely not lost here, even though some viewers might be; a walk through the show leaves a number of people with more questions than answers.

Just look at some of the written comments by viewers. "Great, awesome, imaginative." "I don't know. I think I like it." "I can't believe you call this art!"

Talk about a range of responses!

Judd, a former Utah resident, returned to Salt Lake City earlier this month to supervise the hanging of his one-person show and throw some light on his work by conducting a tour of the exhibit.

Apparently what many viewers need is to take such a tour. Several people commented that after hearing his remarks, the exhibit suddenly became meaningful.

For one thing, he pinpointed his philosophy about painting by saying, "Painting is a vehicle for the wanderings and obsessions of the mind." He added that he does not intend to tell stories but to "define perceptions and explore relationships."

And he confessed, "I've never completely understood a single painting I've ever done. They (the paintings) are all just glimpses of passing perceptions."

Those comments alone help viewers realize that if they don't understand the paintings, it's OK.

Since Judd is no longer in Salt Lake to answer questions, we can learn more about the artist's work from other perceptive individuals.

Frank H. Goodyear Jr., in his overview for the catalog printed for Judd's exhibit last year at the Philadelphia Art Alliance, said, "When I was first introduced to Judd's work, two qualities caught my immediate attention: the vigorous and zestful energy of his drawing and the works' often zany improvisational nature."

David W. Pursley, curator of education at the SLAC, shows insight for Judd's work when he says that the artist's common theme is whimsy. "It's a humor that is expressed through Judd's crude and odd use of materials."

Crude here does not mean "low" art. Pursley explains that the message may not be as simple as this primitive style suggests. There is an individual presence and power that becomes the viewer's playful pursuit as he enjoys this zany, whimsical event.

Judd divides the exhibit into six periods: "In the Modern Idiom," "Hymn for a Landscape," "Modern Day People," "The Trail Ahead," "Mexico" and "Landscapes."

Several large oil paintings comprise part of the first, earliest period. Interior and exterior objects coexist on a background of reality merging into nonobjective art.

"Modern Day People" is a fascinating period filled with figural cut-outs. Judd has taken found pieces of wood and glued, nailed and/or hinged them together.

Some are wall-hangings, while others are free standing. In "Face with Shoe," the unpredictability of the artist surfaces when he combines three panels - a landscape, a face and a foot.

His pastels "Comfort Street" and "Dinner Party" affirm Judd's ability to draw and model sensitively. However, he now opts to pursue more vigorous approaches.

If you think the artist doesn't have much of a following, you're wrong. Over half of the works in this show are not for sale. Why? Because they have already been purchased by collectors across the country.

If you're anxious to learn more about Judd's exhibit, stop by the center at noon on Wednesday, May 1, at which time Pursley will conduct a tour.

The exhibit will continue through May 24 at the SLAC, 20 S. West Temple (328-4201). Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1-5 p.m. on Sunday.DENNIS SMITH, like Judd, refuses to be typecast. He enjoys working in different mediums as well as diverse styles.

Walk into Gallery 56 and see for yourself. I'm sure you'll agree that the exhibit looks more like a group exhibit than a one-person show.

You'll find small and large figurative sculpture, whimsical assemblages - and paintings ranging from a representational style to more energetic, emotion-packed styles.

Smith is well aware that his versatility in painting styles appears inconsistent. He is anxious to point out that none of his paintings is intended to be either a landscape or a purely narrative statement.

His paintings contain images from personal experiences. And the memories of what he saw are enhanced by how he felt - and still feels - about his childhood in Alpine.

Color, symbolism and stylization play significant parts in these works. They are vehicles to help convey the experience to those viewers who are turned on by moods and feelings rather than careful representation.

I venture to guess that Smith receives greater fulfillment in producing these expressionistic works than with his other paintings and sculptures. They are indeed challenging - yet highly personal; they capture his thoughts and feelings better than any other style.

But whether you approach the exhibit intellectually, visually or emotionally, you'll find something that will suit your fancy.

Gallerygoers who enjoy harmony in color will be excited about the palette Smith uses in "Sandbox;" those who like representational work definitely approve of "Alpine Day Appearances" and "Treehouse Sunset;" and those who enjoy a mix of realism and stylization will be drawn to his oil "Painted on the Banks of Old Lake Bonneville."

Sculpture buffs will be thoroughly enthralled by Smith's fanciful contraptions constructed from metal and other found objects and manned by small, bronze figures. They'll also enjoy the life-size bronze figures on display both inside and outside the gallery.

Smith's exhibit will continue through May 16 at Gallery 56, 56 W. 400 South (533-8245). Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.