New York geometric abstractionist Scott Davis paints large, handsome canvases teetering uncomfortably on the line separating modernist idealism from "post-modernist" simulation. Collectively titled "Thinking and Working," the works vacillate between the cool, reflexive colors and off-centered geometries of neo-plasticism and the retinally charged Day-Glo palette, grids and conduits we have come to associate with Peter Halley.
The results are an odd combination of formal sincerity and witty self-deprecation, as if Davis were creating generic international symbols for the genre as well as attempting to expand the vocabulary of abstraction itself. This creates an inherent tension between the universal and the particular that certainly warrants further investigation, but Davis needs to be careful he doesn't slip into trite irony and conceptual posturing.
Also on display are a series of paintings by local artist Michael Lawrence that use circus and theatrical themes to comment on the absurd side of the human condition. Combining a bright, gaudy palette with loose, sketchy brushwork, Lawrence renders crowded, symbolic scenarios, as if Seurat's "Le Cirque" had been repainted by an East Village Karel Appel. Lawrence's problem is that his symbolism is far too obvious (a "crucified" Christ balanced on a tightrope above a circus of worldly sins) and his painting style too buried in the cliches and excesses of Neo-Expressionism. (Wenger Gallery, 828 N. La Brea Ave., to Oct. 20.)