The Boston Herald

Galleries sum up season with group shows
Visual Arts/ by Mary Sherman
Sunday, June 30, 2002

The end of every season brings with it a moment of reflection. For gallery owners, that often translates into group shows of the galleries' artists, such as those under way at the Pepper Gallery, Alpha Gallery, Genovese/Sullivan Gallery and NAO Project Gallery.
The Nielsen Gallery winds up the season with its annual ``In the Spirit of the Landscape VII,'' accompanied by a show of Laurel Hughes' works. Hughes' paintings of chickens are virtuoso surfaces in which a slight turn of the wrist defines a beak or claw. The birds - usually one per painting - dominate the canvases. The area left typically is painted a single, rich jewel tone. In Hughes' hands, a flock of hens never looked so vibrant.
In the Nielsen's main show are, among others, John Lee's small but engaging dusty-hued, abstract canvases in which color is so muted that its presence almost has to be divined. Downstairs, seascapes distilled into stillness describe Pat de Groot's canvases, while Jake Berthot and Gregory Amenoff's rambunctiously painted pictures suggest the freshness of painting out-of-doors.
In Mel Pekousky's close-up views, the earth seems parched, faded and bleached out. Using alternately thin and translucent paint, he captures the Southwest's arid, almost otherworldly topography. Yet an oddly pixelated surface and slightly offbeat colors have a disconcerting effect.
Gallery NAGA sums up its season with ``Max. 24" Wide,'' subtitled ``Nearly Everyone (who works small).'' With work by each of the gallery's members, the exhibit runs the gamut from painting, sculpture and photography to furniture (in collaboration with the Clark Gallery in Lincoln) and holography.
There's Stephen Whittlesey's chest of found wood, Brenda Star's intriguing wax deer ears, Esther Solondz's memorable portraits painted on books, George Nick's impressionistic landscape and Peter Scott's realistically painted interior. Also included are Henry Schwartz's gothic imagery, romantic landscapes by Robert Ferrandini and Cheryl Warrick, and abstract canvases by Sam Earle, Masako Kamiya and Rob Moore.
The variety, while demanding, rewards the viewer's effort. The gems include Yizhak Elyashiv's stunning, sensitively toned and textured print, Alan Klein's dynamic glass piece, Scott Ober's luminous painting of furniture ``Red Is Power, Green Is Growth, Yellow Is Energy,'' and Morgan Cohen's deadpan photo ``Bathroom Wall.''
Neither the Miller Block Gallery nor the Howard Yezerski Gallery has put out work by all its artists, but the galleries' sensibilities are well represented in their current group shows. At Yezerski, minimalism's use of reductive geometric shapes holds sway. Brian Zink's dazzling patterns of decals on Plexiglas and Carter Potter's 70 mm film strips pulled over canvas stretchers create lively, repetitive rhythmic motifs.
Joining them are Matt McClune's monochromatic paintings on aluminum, the sparest works in the show. Like other artists in the gallery's stable - most notably Joseph Marioni - McClune offers a physical presence evidenced in paint ripples and rivulets along his pictures' edges. At the same time, the paintings' aluminum supports reinforce the two-dimensional quality of the work, while also creating a rich and subtle luminosity.
Miller Block also is showcasing abstract painting. Mimi Moncier's candy-colored oval slabs of paint and Jacqueline Ott's joyful, cartoonlike abstractions contrast with Greg Parker's handsome, extremely smooth geometric surfaces and Henry Samelson's equally austere but more intricately patterned canvases.
In the back gallery are Stephen Mishol's elegant, cool-toned paintings. Bands and rectangles of primarily whites and pale grays, beiges, greens and blues are expertly balanced to create a sense of classical calm with reference to contemporary design and architecture. The presence of the artist's hand, however, is not quite subsumed in these strict, interlocking rectilinear shapes. Hints of Mishol's layered painting process - the sense of a human touch - can be found in the small gaps between the impeccably smooth colored blocks.

``In the Spirit of the Landscape VII'' and ``Director's Choice: Laurel Hughes'' at the Nielsen Gallery through Aug. 3; ``Max. 24" Wide/Nearly Everyone (who works small)'' at Gallery NAGA, through July 12; ``Brian Zink,'' ``Carter Potter'' and ``Matt McClune'' at Howard Yezerski Gallery, through Saturday; and ``System/Symptom'' at Miller Block Gallery, through July 9.

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