EXHIBIT: "Off the Wall," multimedium works by co-op members. 215 College Street Artists' Cooperative Gallery, Burlington. Through January 21.
ARTWORK:"Klee's Clown" by Catherine Hall
The 215 College Artists' Cooperative Gallery in Burlington is an unusual artist-run venue that strives to exhibit "excellence and diversity in the arts" as its members "build a network for connecting and communicating with one another, other artists, and the community at large." It lives up to its mission statement in the current "Off the Wall" exhibition. The lively, multi-medium show includes works from 11 of the 12 co-op member artists.
In her "Notions" series, Jude Bond makes creative use of the envelopes from early-'60s sewing patterns. Sporting illustrations of shapely ladies with Jackie Kennedy hairdos, each piece has a pair of gloves affixed around the edges. Measuring tapes stream beneath them; in "Notions #3402," a foot-long zipper hangs down.
Diane Gabriel's 21-by-39-inch mixed-media painting, "Those Who Came Before," also features an iconographic article of clothing - in this case, a light-blue skirt flattened against a reddish-brown background. Like the feminine version of Jim Dine's Pop Art "Robe," Gabriel's skirt is more associative than literal as viewers invent their own narratives for the garment's meaning.
Three black-and-white Gabriel photos also appear. "Towards Flight" focuses on a little girl in an angelic white nightgown lifting a shawl of gossamer fabric, like a pair of wings. The girl stands in the center of the image, seeming to float over a sweeping lawn. A high horizon and a few distant trees serve to deepen the space.
The photographic strength of "Off the Wall" also owes much to Rosie Prevost's large selection of black-and-white photos. Her 8-by-13-inch "Untitled (Maple Leaf)" is a simple composition of maple leaves adhering to a twig, silvery gray on black negative space. The twigs cut across the negative space like lightning bolts. Other Prevost photos are somewhat more complex, but her images are always completely natural. Nothing about them seems staged.
Cathy Cone's selections in the show are also black and white. Her pieces include drawings and iris prints of fine lines intensely scribbled and layered. The denser sections reveal bird images. Her 34-by-47-inch iris print "Birdsong" looks like a jumbled forest of lines at first glance, and the effect comes in part from the fact that the artist scanned some of her own hair in making the image. Equally fine, drawn lines also fill the picture plane. A bird form - perhaps a starling's silhouette? - comes into view as the lines become visually untangled. In the 4-by-6-inch "Two Birds," the birds are stacked as if one stands on the shoulders of the other.
The title of Catherine Hall's "Klee's Clown" refers to Swiss artist Paul Klee's playful, quizzical paintings, which are known for tightly organized color harmonies. Hall placed hundreds of dots over waves of color in the 29-by-23-inch oil. Hues seem to organically modulate within the field of dots, evolving from lavender to turquoise, orange and yellow. All of the dots are of the same diameter, and eight squares made up of the same-caliber dots punctuate the particolored matrix at asymmetric intervals.
In addition to what's on the gallery walls, two display bins of works on paper by member artists are available to rifle through, and a unique installation of "Paper Prayers" dangles from the ceiling. The dozens of prayers are beautiful strips of paper, up to about 14 inches long, decorated by 215 Collective artists and local children. Proceeds from their sale will benefit the Vermont Campaign to End Childhood Hunger.
Recently, several prominent shows around the state have included artist-initiated fundraising ideas. Maybe that trend will yield more fruitful partnerships in the new year.