EXHIBIT:13th Annual South End Art Hop, juried show. Maltex Building, Burlington. Through September.
ARTWORK: "Rainy Day Cityscape (with figure)" by Gillian Klein
Burlington's 13th Annual South End Art Hop went all out on September 9 and 10, and several of the 100 shows it spawned are still on display in various venues. The largest is the annual event's flagship exhibition at the Maltex Building on Pine Street: juried works in a variety of media by 39 Vermont artists will remain on view through September. Andrew Witkin, director of Boston's posh Barbara Krakow Gallery, made the selections.
Closely keyed dark values make Jesse Bourdeau's hard-edged abstraction, "Green Space Shuttles vs. Green," nearly invisible in the first-floor hallway, but its muted hues would be problematic in all but the most carefully directed light. A positive aspect of the hallway location is that it encourages up-close viewing of the 4-by-5-foot canvas. Doing so puts Bourdeau's matrix of interlocking shapes in the best possible light.
Other paintings are more accessible to casual viewers, including some strong figurative works. The modest oil "Rainy Day Cityscape (with figure)" by Gillian Klein presents a blurry composition of steely grays and blues, punctuated by dots of warm color. At the upper left of the canvas are thick tree branches against a pale sky; these counterbalance the hulking buildings at right. Viewing Klein's cityscape is like looking up a street through the windshield of a car with broken wipers.
Phoebe Mott's "Docking" is the large-scale acrylic of a rowboat pulling alongside a steeply angled dock that recedes into space. Mott built scalloped waves on the surface of her water with modeling-paste impasto. Broad brushstrokes drag dark reflections along the boat's sienna hull; the passengers in the boat are also angular. The brushwork and textures of "Docking" are both confident and inventive. Mott's flat chromatic harmony of pale blues, reds and lavender is enlivened by her variations of white and gray.
"The Rift," a wall sculpture created by Shawn and Theresa Gulla, is one of several strong installation works. Three distinct sections of burnished steel wrap around three large slabs of Italian marble; the work is a bright yet rather somber representation of separation. The steel surface creates an elegant counterpoint to the grain of the polished marble.
Two strong antiwar pieces also appear in this show: "Moon Over Iraq" by John Douglas and "Memorial to the Foundation" by Terry Zigmund. Douglas' photo-mural consists of 16 squares of black-and-white shots of a rising and setting moon traversing a night sky; appearing underneath the squares are strips of text describing in dry, understated language details of the Iraq war and American public opinions about it. Douglas handles his statement subtly, whispering rather than shouting.
The title of Zigmund's piece evidently refers to the founding of the United States. Thirteen parallel panes of colored glass are closely layered in a standing base; a passage of text runs from pane to pane, deeply etched into the layers. Zigmund quotes from the Declaration of Independence -- "The history of the present King is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations . . ." -- but she has added "(George)" after the word "king." The sentiment needs no explanation.
The People's Choice Awards at juried exhibitions aren't necessarily more astute than those of the jurors, but at this year's Art Hop the vox populi is superior. Without being specific, two of Witkin's top three awards for indoor work are mystifying, the third merely questionable. The People's Choice Award, however, is completely just. That accolade was bestowed upon Jennifer Dillner for her "Gelato Dress Goes to Rome" -- a chic yet whimsical, paper Pop Art dress ensemble with shoes, all made from gelato labels. What's cool in Rome is, in this case, clearly hot in Burlington.