The art museum at LaSalle University has put together a small theme exhibition centered on five of the Duerer woodcuts and four more modern Apocalypse images by the French symbolist Odilon Redon (1840-1916). All nine prints were lent by the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The five Duerers (one print is a modern facsimile) show why his vision of world's end has been so durable, and has inspired so many other artists. His ability to visualize this mythical event in such terrifying detail established a benchmark.
Redon's version of Revelation is the antithesis of Duerer's - more mysterious, eerie and devoid of the German's sound and fury. The Redon lithographs come from an album of 12 published by French art dealer Ambroise Vollard. LaSalle had hoped to obtain eight prints for the exhibition, but only four were available.
The most startling image of the four, and the one that typifies Redon's fertile imagination, is St. John's vision of Christ with a sword emerging from his mouth. One of the Duerer prints also illustrates this portion of Chapter I.
The show also includes several small triptychs by German followers of Duerer, a variety of illustrated Bibles and a suite of contemporary Apocalypse images by the Czech artist Barbara Benish.
LaSalle University Art Museum, lower level of Olney Hall, 1900 W. Olney Avenue. Hours: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 2 to 4 p.m. Sundays. Admission: Free. Through May 11. Phone: 215-951-1221.
Michener Art Museum. Abstract art gives many people fits, though it's hard to understand why. Children intuitively understand it and make it. In fact, a new book describing the invention of kindergarten by a German pedagogue, Friedrich Froebel, indicates that encouraging young children in abstract art and design was central to his program. (Inventing Kindergarten by Norman Brosterman, Harry N. Abrams, $39.95).
Perhaps the demise of Froebel's kindergarten is responsible for antipathy toward abstraction. Whatever the reason, the James A. Michener Art Museum is trying to rectify the situation.
The museum has put together an exhibition designed to help its visitors understand abstraction, if not to like it. The show features four artists whose work refers to nature symbolically - Deborah Harris of Phoenix, Bill Scott of Philadelphia, Hisako Kobayashi of New York and Pamela Hoffman Taggart of Newtown Square.
They are four strong painters who work in different styles. Scott, whose work evokes flower gardens, composes with gesture. Harris and Kobayashi are figure-ground abstractionists, while Taggart is more of an expressionist.
The show is loaded with didactic aids, including statements by each of the artists, a guide designed to help visitors decode and respond to abstraction and a number of quotations on the subject from famous artists such as Pablo Picasso, Mark Rothko and Wassily Kandinsky.
Whether all this exposition helps at all is hard to say. As the guide indicates, abstract art demands to be observed thoughtfully, not scanned hurriedly. This is something that many museum visitors, especially those on group tours, fail to do.
In fact, this is a big subject (with big paintings) jammed into a relatively small gallery. The show might be more effective with smaller work, and with a selection that suggested the broader spectrum of abstract art. Abstraction is a world unto itself; ``Surface, Symbol, Psyche,'' as this show is titled, reveals only a portion of it.
James A. Michener Art Museum, 138 S. Pine St., Doylestown. Hours: 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Admission: $5 general, $4.50 senior citizens, $1.50 children and students with I.D. Through June 8. Phone: 215-340-9800.
Painted Bride. ``The Varieties of Religious Experience'' is misnamed. This exhibition at the Painted Bride Art Center has very little to do with actual religious practice. Rather, it's a gathering of artworks that mostly delve into the phenomenon of religious observance and its various political, social and material manifestations.
In other words, ``Varieties'' is an external, culturally oriented view of religion that includes alternatives to traditional beliefs. There may be many ``varieties'' of religious imagery on view here, but very little devotional spirit.
Not that we should expect such a thing. In contemporary art, postmodern manipulation and skepticism substitute for conviction. Artists borrow shamelessly from other cultures that still honor traditional beliefs and pass off the results as personal epiphanies.
Guest curator Sid Sachs has selected an intriguing mix of artists, 21 in all. They include several with international reputations. One of these, the notorious Andres Serrano, is represented by Heaven and Hell, his large color photograph of a Roman Catholic cardinal standing next to a nude, bloodied woman strung up by her wrists.
The exhibition tells us that many artists have religion on their minds in one form or another, but that few artists want to talk about divinity per se. Typical is a video by Cris Larson in which she reflects on her church experience as a child. In a similar vein, a stained-glass panel by Judith Schaechter uses a medieval devotional form to express personal angst.
Sachs' exhibition is less about ``religious experience'' than about whether art and religion still have anything to say to one another. Art natters at religion here, but religion doesn't seem to be listening.
Painted Bride Art Center, 230 Vine St. Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, noon to 6 p.m. Saturdays. Through June 8. Phone: 215-925-9914..