* If in the '40s and '50s abstraction looked inward -- "I am nature," said Pollock, who disdained painting from nature -- painters in the '90s turned midcentury styles outward. Since 1998, German artist Susanne Kessler has applied the thick, blot-strewn line of Pollock's more calligraphic, small-scale paintings to the nearly 150 tar drawings that compose her "evolution room." Backed by fabric and netting cutouts and sometimes turned to the wall, the pictographs limn the lower orders of fauna without being too plain about it. Clarity does get the better of Kessler's "mussels" drawings, and we quickly tire of the shell game. But her "collages" -- a term that seems rather too dainty for large, rough-hewed wall pieces that draw on Rauschenberg and Motherwell -- are cloudy and complex enough to evoke the vital stew of filth and decay that nurtures life.

"Susanne Kessler: Patterns of Life" at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1200 New York Ave. NW, Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-5 p.m., 202-326-6672, to Oct. 29. (A wire installation by the artist opens 6-8 p.m. tonight at the Goethe-Institut, 812 Seventh St. NW, 202-289-1200.)

An untitled painting by Susanne Kessler.