Nothing borderline at Brill Gallery

Saturday, April 25
NORTH ADAMS — The small, easygoing Brill Gallery is a hidden gem in the Berkshires, consistently assembling quality shows. "Artists Without Borders" proves once again that there is nothing borderline about the Brill.

Conceived as part of the first Berkshire Festival of Women in the Arts, the exhibit features three female artists. As the title suggests, there is a distinct international flavor to the menu: Rieko Fujinami of Japan, British-born Anita Rydygier, and Polish artist Joanna Gabler.

The show diligently avoids visual redundancy. Fujinami is a consummate figure painter, while Rydygier specializes in fanciful, childlike drawings. Gabler experiments with digitally manipulated photographs.

  • Manhattan-based Fujinami is the star of the show. Figural artists today frequently work from photographs. While their art clearly reflects that influence, they reject the camera-eye artificiality of Photorealism. Photo naturalism is a good label for this stylistic current, and we see it in Fujinami's paintings.

    So accustomed to "cheats" in Postmodern art, we might suspect that Fujinami uses a mechanical process to project or transfer her images. She does not — it is all hand drawn. She has genuine artistic ability and uses it. I respect that.

  • Her pieces divide into two technical categories: light, portable frescoes and paintings on Mylar. In both cases, Fujinami casts her gray monochromes as victims of external forces — abraded, tattered, and timeworn.

    These haunting, tactile portraits and figures — embedded in debris and neglect — resonate perseverance. On the one hand, they speak of the survival of the human spirit through time and ordeal. But they also offer effective metaphors for the survival of representational art through Modernism.

    I find Fujinami's work moving and beautiful. The experience of these images long lingers in a person's memory. Her paintings make a visit worthwhile.

    In her gouache and ink drawings, Canadian artist Rydygier appropriates the visual language of a child to narrate adult worlds. These whimsical societies — engaged in commerce, transportation, and construction — ultimately echo the art of Paul Klee and Joan Miro.

    The child in us may enjoy visually exploring these communities and waterways as they sprawl over the two-dimensional landscape of the paper. Rydygier nicely alleviates the flatness of her medium by occasionally modulating the cells of washed colors, giving them a three-dimensional tinge.

    Gabler, now a resident of Williamstown, brings a local perspective to the exhibit. She digitally manipulates photographs of regional landscape and architecture. Her kaleidoscopic compositions arrange replicated imagery into bilateral designs; frequently, process steps in the way of product.

    I found the images of woods and ponds to be her least successful pieces. The visual density and complexity of these scenes sometimes merely read as briar thickets or patches of lichen. I was reminded of the obsolete phrase horror vacui (nature fears empty space).

    Cleaner and more exciting are Gabler's prints of buildings, especially those New England church steeples. She reconfigures the proliferated pinnacles into the crystalline architecture of a snowflake; interesting.

  • "Artists Without Borders" is worth crossing city lines for, but if you're coming from out of town, it's a good idea to call ahead. In addition, gallery visitors will find remnants from last season's excellent "Nude and Naked" photography exhibit. Also worth looking for is Bennington sculptor Jon Isherwood's small model for a proposed Holocaust meditation pavilion, which resembles an urn-shaped oven.


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