Feel the fall sun in Mountain Meadow

Thursday October 4, 2012

GREAT BARRINGTON -- Exhibits in three galleries here along Railroad Street make the drive to South County worth the effort.

The Geoffrey Young Gallery offers the same experience as a small antiques shop: interspersed with the run-of-the-mill items are genuine finds. "Disquietude" groups 13 artists -- 78 artworks -- and some exhibitors immediately step forward.

Mike Glier is a studio art professor as well as a successful gallery artist. In today's art world, that's a rare combination. Working outdoors on aluminum panels, Glier captures nature in a slashing, expressionistic style. But as his four paintings reveal, this approach is a hit-or-miss proposition.

Inspiration, execution and an element of luck all must align to produce a top-drawer work. Otherwise, a piece can read somewhat hackneyed. His "Feb ruary" is an example of the former. While the subject is discernible, water flowing over rocks, Glier's deft painterliness recasts the scene as an essay on Modernist sensibilities.

Zohar Lazar is purportedly one of the top 10 illustrators in the United States, working for such publications as The New Yorker. He's also trying his hand at gallery art. His ink and watercolor drawings resemble studies for fantastical junk sculpture. They are full of imagination, energy, and eccentric wit.

Phil Knoll is certainly an accomplished draughtsman, as his pig with bedroom eyes and stack of perched pachyderms establish. But his work makes little distinction between cartoon art and fine drawing (note the Mickey Mouse portrait). This crossover, I suppose, appeals to like-minded people.

The star of the show is Valaire Van Slyck. His 14 small mixed media paintings are a kaleidoscopic barrage of urban fragments. Shards containing pedestrians, pavement, signage, store fronts, and traffic form a broken mosaic of the American city. Metropolitan verve pulsates through the diagonal compositions littered with glitter, confetti, rubber tread, felt, shoelace, and more.

The only reservation I have is that these paintings are so heavily varnished, they almost look laminated. For me, this plastic packaging visually cheapens the product. But then again, perhaps it plays into the message: Society glosses over the street-level grunge of city life.

Next door is the Mary Childs Gallery, a relative newcomer to Railroad Street. "Mixed E-motions" is a mixed bag of work: glass and ceramic wares are the main focus, but there is also wall art. I tend to walk past glass art, but Alex Fekete's Star Trekian pieces, which combine glass and metal, captured my attention.

I kept returning to Andy Matlow's ceramic vessels. Like artifacts from the past, they engaged my curiosity. Their organic color, texture, and language triggered some inner level of consciousness. Clay seems to work a Jungian magic on me.

Also on hand are 30 collages by Valerie Fanarjian. Some are quite nice, but collage work can look a little too facile, and an overabundance adds to that impression. Tighter selection, retaining only the strongest examples, would have highlighted better the artist's work.

Gessica Silverman's two large expanses of Japanese paper resemble the underside of hides. A pair of sculptural hands emerges from each of the panels. Evocative titles like "Struggle" help the disembodied hands to mime out human emotion. These pieces are among the gallery's most arresting.

Although Gallery Walks limits galleries to one review per season, I would be remiss if I didn't also mention "New England Oils/New York Water colors" at Sanford Smith Fine Art. These paintings by Kathleen Kolb and especially Nan Lom bardi are worth crossing the street for.


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