This group exhibition of paintings “explores the ongoing dialogue between abstraction and representation,” according to its curator. The potential scope for such an exploration is vast, but curiously, most kinds of realistic or observational painting have been left out. Still, the variety included is too great for any of the pieces to communicate with each other, so the gallery feels like a waiting room in a health clinic where each patient is quietly keeping her own problems to herself. Or it is like an MFA show at a large contemporary art school, such as SAIC, from which eight of the twelve artists, including the curator herself, have graduated, mostly within the last decade. As in an art school, mostly what’s being represented here are current strategies for making contemporary art, but there are a few exceptions, where two women have stepped back to earlier narrative forms of Modernism to express how they are enjoying their lives today. The figurative scene by Carly Silverman captures the joy of youth, where the world feels full of energy and possibility. Is that an iPhone in the hands of the very focused young lady in the brilliant red hat? Meanwhile, the expressive chiaroscuro nudes of Kyle Staver glory in the full-blown sensuality of maturity. Lady Godiva has never enjoyed her provocative ride quite so shamelessly and corpulently. Overall the show serves as a snapshot for the art-making of a certain time and place, but only a few pieces draw more than a quick glance to themselves. Hopefully the curator, herself an accomplished painter, will search a bit wider, and focus a bit sharper on her next exhibition. (Chris Miller)
Through June 30 at the Riverside Arts Center, 32 East Quincy, Riverside
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