Michel Alexis begins with impasto-deep oil pigment brushed on thick to make foamy abstract fields of mottled beige, slate gray or ebony. He paints these surfaces on stiffly gessoed, 16-inch square paper, letting the paper's frayed, starched edges show. While this surface is still wet, Alexis uses a sharp tool to incise tight, nervous calligraphy or graceful abstract marks.
Most pieces follow the scheme of a centrally placed square that is first incised and then highlighted with washy translucent daubs of rich blues or maroons. These colorful accents bleed into the underlaying thick paint like rust embedded in craggy granite and, along with all the hectic little markings, conjure up mysterious unearthed papyrus scrolls or arcane sacred tablets.
In a few competent large-scale abstractions like "Garbage Can," Alexis varies the theme just enough to give a lighthearted counterpoint to the serious smaller works. (Ivey Gallery, 154 N. La Brea Ave., to March 26.)