Joseph Goldyne trusted his own second opinion when, after earning an M.D. in 1968 at the University of California in San Francisco, he chose not to take the state med boards and never again to be on call. Instead, he went into Harvard's art history program and settled somewhere between painting and graphic arts, practicing the monotype with a specialty in puns.

The 50 monoprints and monotypes that go on view Friday at the Museum of American Art appeal with their wit as much as for their color and composition, many alluding to the masters: "Smog Alert Over the Santa Monica Freeway -- Turner's Ship Steaming Ahead" and "Goya's Bull Coming In Over Marin" tie art historical references to the artist's California geography. They are compelling even without the gag titles. "P.P. and B.L.T." comprises, naturally, a Pablo Picasso-like abstraction hovering over the sandwich in an integrated composition.

Goldyne made many variations on the same plates to study color and illumination -- "rather like relighting a stage without changing the props," he says. His "Bedroom Sweater Closet" series is the best example of the tints, washes, oils and pastels he experimented with to spark the colors out of mothballs. FAMILIAR BUT UNIQUE: MONOPRINTS OF JOSEPH GOLDYNE -- At the National Museum of American Art through December 5.