David Lynch, the film maker of "Eraserhead" and "Blue Velvet" fame, is back with more pictures from the netherworld roiling just under the skin of everyday life--but on canvas and paper rather than celluloid. Phrases spelled with individual letters cut out of paper (like anonymous death notes) cluster on the black grounds of the paintings, thinly populated by gangly striding stick figures, the blocky outlines of buildings or windows, thin skitterings of light and smoke-ring clouds.
In "Can Billy Come Out and Play?" the words belong to a bawling dirty-white face near the bottom of the painting. An obsessive collage of Band-Aid strips clings to one edge of the canvas and a window-like area is sullied with rainy-day streams of built-up wax. Other paintings recall nocturnal urban journeys ("On a Windy Night A Figure Walked to Jumbo's Klown Room") or great open spaces ("Boise, Idaho").
Lynch's pastel drawings, in soft grays and luminous white, are somewhat reminiscent of Arthur Dove's organic abstractions. In "Introducing One Brand New Cloud," a patch of glowing whiteness--like a draped hank of silk--hangs on a soft gray field. Suffused by a gentle unearthliness, the simple image yields an unexpected sweetness.
Although Lynch's art flirts with cuteness, its authenticity and freshness win the viewer over. The surprising thing is how mild and plaintive the large but wispy paintings are, compared with the films. (James Corcoran Gallery, 1327 5th St., to Sept. 9.)