EXHIBIT: Helene Amses, pastels; Ellis Jacobson, new sculptures; Kenji Katakura, abstract portraits; and Jane Pincus, acrylic collages. Artpath Gallery, Burlington. Through January.
ARTWORK:"House of Dreams" by Jane Pincus
If you've yet to visit Artpath Gallery, the show on view through January 2007 is a good reason for seeking it out. The secluded hallway venue is located in the Wing Building, near the King Street Dock on Burlington's waterfront. Artpath has consistently hosted topnotch exhibitions since its inception earlier in this decade. The current four-person offering includes large-scale mixed-media collages by Jane Pincus, abstract landscapes in pastel by Helene Amses, and Kenji Katakura's expressive portraits of fictive faces. There's also a 4-feet-across, deeply creased sculptural countenance, like that of a benevolent elderly deity, crafted by gallery founder Ellis Jacobson.
The posted materials list for Jacobson's "Final Gift" states: "The sculpture which is on display here was created with 600 pounds of clay, cast in 500 pounds of plaster, and 50 hours of papier-mâché construction." It reflects the distinctive Vermont monumental puppetry style that Jacobson pioneered in collusion with the Bread and Puppet Theater. The floating, white-haired Caucasian face is folded into mountain-and-valley contours, making it look a thousand years old.
Amses' pastels are delicate abstract landscapes emphasizing geometric forms. "October Afternoon," for example, is divided into horizontal bands of color. A row of fiery vermillion foliage - about 15 trees melded into a swath of uniform hue - fills the middle third of the 16-by-18-inch composition.
Variations in value and rhythmic strokes impart light and define depth in Amses' simplified vistas. Coarse horizontal shading on the smooth pond surface of "Pond 3," a 7-by-13-inch landscape, depicts the reflection of a stand of trees at the pond's edge, higher in the composition. "Pond 3" presents more muted hues than does "October Afternoon," but it's an equally exciting little piece, by virtue of Amses' confident mark making.
Katakura's acrylic "portraits" are all vertically oriented, like newspaper headshots, and painted with almost violent spontaneity. Each of his 12 24-by-30-inch canvasses also features a turquoise and pale purple harmony. Viscous brush strokes, often about 2 inches wide, are a Katakura hallmark. "Gluttonous Mass" contains typically crisscrossed brush strokes that practically mummify the figure.
Pincus' are the largest paintings in the show, and the mixed-media collages are rich with symbolic and chromatic complexities. Like two-dimensional dollhouses, the paintings present compartmentalized rooms under pitched roofs. The 36-inch-square canvas "House of Dreams" is a quartered bungalow with a bedroom at upper left; a lion rests on an easy chair in the room at the right. Pincus' symbolism is obscure, yet vibrant and playful. Matisse-like figures and floral shapes tumble in pale green spaces beyond the walls of the house.
"House of Reconciliation and of the Spirits" is a 40-by-60-inch, four-story structure alive with figures and sharp-edged collage details. It's an elaborate crazy quilt of reds, turquoise, deep alizarin crimson and black, laid out with varied weights of line. Pincus' artist's statement indicates she is directly influenced by Romare Bearden, an artist considered by many to be the greatest collagist of the 20th century: She actually met Bearden near the end of his life, in 1988. Pincus' visionary aesthetics and technical mastery of collage qualify her as one of the strongest contemporary painters in Vermont.
Jacobson's bio notes that, in addition to being a theater artist, sculptor and arts educator, he's also a "gallerist and founder of Artpath Gallery in Burlington." The word "gallerist" is new to the cultural scene - it doesn't even appear in Webster's dictionary. Referring to an artist who administers a gallery showing more than his or her own work, the word has gained a respectable connotation in fine-art circles.
Burlington is fortunate that curator Jacobson has such a great eye, and a knack for showcasing exceptional work.