Roy Dowell is a notable exception to current trends to artistic cynicism. His abstract paintings tap the inherent optimism of Modernism without resorting to its dated rhetoric. His pluralism is studied and unfettered, drawing upon Western and primitive vocabularies and mutating them into ever fresh, complex hierarchies.
Dowell combines high Modernism (De Stijl geometries, Klee-like calligraphies, biomorphic Surrealism), '50s coffee-shop Formica kitsch and African/Asian decorative motifs, packing them tightly together, dancing before the viewer's eye like some unfathomable private joke.
On closer examination, compositions open up like a painterly relief map, tracing the evolution of abstraction as a form suggesting archetypal shapes. Mandalas, atomic symbols, fragmented color fields and sprawling filaments interweave and coalesce. Originality for Dowell thus seems to be a matter of editing and rearranging what already exists. That he can do so without the slightest trace of self-consciousness is perhaps the real key to the work's credibility. (Rosamund Felsen Gallery, 669 N. La Cienega Blvd., to Oct. 10.)