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Group Dynamics

Art Review


Published October 19, 2005 at 4:00 a.m.

EXHIBIT:"Fall Members' Exhibition," Chaffee Art Center, Rutland. Through November 6.

ARTWORK"City-Country Scape" by Rita Fuchsberg

Most large group shows have something for everyone, and the Chaffee Art Center's Fall Members' Exhibition is no exception. It includes a generous 200 paintings, sculptures, photographs, prints and mixed-media works produced by some 70 Vermont artists. While the Chaffee's annual exhibition has no particular theme, it favors conservative, representational works.

Not all these are strictly traditional, however. "Whispering Birches" by Bob Hooker is a nonrepresentational, acrylic-and-mixed-media construction affixed to a horizontal window casement. "Affixed" meaning Hooker painted vibrant red, surrounded by sky-blue and pale-green swaths, onto paper that was then collaged onto the window. The work is more sculptural than painterly, considering the found object it appears on.

Sloane Dawson's "Calling the Ball" is a wooden sculpture comprising found objects placed in a vertically oriented wooden box. The wood has a natural patina, and its composition of circles within circles seems large-scale compared to the small wooden man, just a few inches tall, that stands in the lower right corner of Dawson's box.

Samantha Talbot Kelly's two untitled mixed-media-on-panel paintings consist of a figure created with gold sequins on reddish leather. Oil-painted swirls and surreal cows also appear. Patches of gold leaf run along the left border of Kelly's vertical piece, while islands of gold leaf decorate her Miro-esque shapes in the horizontal work. The lone figure in each painting has childlike proportions, as if each is a toddler discovering new surroundings.

Like Kelly's, many of the show's other noteworthy works are modest in scale. Two horizontal triptychs by Deborah Frankel Reese are oil landscapes on which layers of tissue paper provide skin-like textures and deep strata of color. On "In Just Spring," three 9-by-9-inch squares are co-joined on the shore of a marshy pond, and create a scene in which buds are just beginning to appear. Dark greens are grouped in the foreground of the composition, while a sweeping yellow field defines a high horizon crossing all three canvasses of the triptych. "Morning Lights" presents a lavender and lilac predawn sky over snowy meadows. Behind the meadows are dark, hulking ridgelines and stands of trees.

Seasons are also the subjects of a black-and-white photographic diptych by Victor Salvo. The compositions are strong, and each has a vintage, Life-magazine quality. The two images are opposites: "Summer" is represented by a white man in dark water, while "Winter" is a dark figure in a parka surrounded by dazzling white snow.

Salvo's diptych entitled "Fishing Establishments" also combines shots -- in this case related by virtue of geometric forms. Similar triangle and rectangle shapes appear in both images of men among boat rigging.

Whether or not it was intentional, Rita Fuchsberg's medium-sized acrylic "City-Country Scape" has the same proportions as the front portico of the Parthenon in Athens. Her composition is apparently based on the Greek-invented rule of design known as the Golden Mean, giving the abstract work both grace and stability. A horizontal axis two thirds of the way up her composition has a central vertical axis beneath it, at the painting's midpoint. "City-Country Scape" employs an equally sophisticated color harmony of light blues and medium browns, and the canvas is rich with patterning and varied lines.

Traditional beauty certainly seems to prevail over more conceptual contemporary art at the Chaffee. But in the sense that all newly executed art is "contemporary," it would be accurate to say that this year's Fall Members' Exhibition is a strong contemporary show.