Art: Inside Out

Hans Erni is one of Switzerland's most skillful and mysterious painters. Recently an Erni show in Geneva drew 3,000 people in two weeks, and raised a lot of questions. Why, the abstractionists wanted to know, did Erni sully the purity of his abstract compositions by introducing classical figures and anatomical charts? And why, asked the conservatives, did he scratch up his photographically accurate pictures with abstract shapes?

To get at the answers, a reporter visited Erni in his whitewashed Lucerne studio. He found the 40-year-old artist working under fluorescent light "because it's steady and constant." Black-browed Hans Erni, who looks like an...

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