David Moen describes his work as "exploring the themes of birth and death" and he turns a blind eye to book learnin' in his inquiry, trusting instinct to guide him from cradle to grave. A series of small oil-on-paper paintings titled "Milky Way" suggests that a bit of magic is always a possibility too. Focusing on a central image--a hand, a female form--surrounded by an elaborately patterned border, the paintings put one in mind of Tarot cards. Eight pictures dealing with the theme of burial include Aztec pyramids and strange forms that hover like extraterrestrial spaceships. Moen employs Georgia O'Keeffe's skull shape in a trio of clay sculptures that look like fossilized driftwood and in a suite of 10 paintings titled "Skull."
Moen's work has a somber tone in comparison with Robert Tomlinson's, in an adjoining gallery. Tomlinson explains his work as "evolving around the themes of physical and spiritual transformation" and his mixed-media compositions look like a child's map of a journey of the soul. His work has a light, airborne quality. Though we may find the intrepid traveler assailed by ghostly apparitions in one drawing, he frequently goes on to achieve perfect harmony with the universe in the next image. Tomlinson acknowledges his debt to Symbolist Odilon Redon in a trio of drawings titled "Odilon," the most visually lush pieces in the show. Redon was a man of fertile and slightly lurid imagination and he seems a strange presence here; the bulk of Tomlinson's work is infused with the understated dignity typical of American Indian art while Redon was a bit of a raver. It seems that even issues of theology have fallen under the sway of anything goes Post-Modernism. (Art Space, 10550 Santa Monica Blvd., to May 24.)