In its slippery exuberance and dependence on impossibilities, Tom Knechtel’s universe goes to great pains to complement rather than repeat ours. Knechtel’s creatures fuse man and beast, the mythic and the quotidian, and he sets them adrift in a space that torques, ripples and folds in on itself, the gentle monsters and fairy-tale hybrids encountering one another in a constantly shifting dimension. Many artists resort to such dense, Wonderland-on-steroids distortion, but few approach it with the same narrative thrust and masterful technique. Knechtel is a consummate draftsman, rendering his every line with a jeweler’s — no, a surgeon’s — exactitude.

Israeli photographer Yanai Toister is as much a craftsman as Knechtel, but that’s where the resemblance ends. While Knechtel cultivates voluptuous fantasy, Toister casts a stone-cold eye on a single, apparently banal subject: the housing development — in particular, the prefabs currently being planted in the Jordan Valley. Political contests aside, the Holy Land is evidently being made over with 21st-century yurts. The structures seem dropped onto the stony land, ready to fly off with nary a trace. Theirs is an incongruous presence in the arid vastness, but they seem familiar, thanks to their resemblance to similar houses in, say, Hemet or Brawley — or for that matter suburban Reykjavik or Ulan Bator.

French painter Guy Ferrer, also a consummate technician, is as com­mitted to a fantastical, humanocentric vision as Knechtel, and he shares Toister’s sense of grain and grit. And thereafter, again, the comparisons trail off. Ferrer refines the neo-expressionist impulse into an extended meditation on human alienation and, con­versely, spiritual equilibrium. His figures float, walk or sit in fields of active paint, often becoming part of their field without losing their distinctions. This kind of work demands an exquisite balance between painting and drawing, between texture, color and line, and Ferrer provides that balance with an unusual combination of grace and force. Tom Knechtel at Marc Selwyn, 6222 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 101, L.A.; Tues.-Sat. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. (323) 933-9911. Yanai Toister at Sandroni.Rey, 2762 S. La Cienega Blvd., L.A.; Tues.-Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. (310) 280-0111. Guy Ferrer at Ambrogi/Castanier, 300 N. Robertson Blvd., W. Hlywd., Mon.-Sat. 10:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m.; (310) 652-5511. All thru June 23.

LA Weekly