January 6, 2013

Art Review: Bullish on wide-ranging display of pioneering women's work at UNE


"Maine Women Pioneers III: Homage" is a fascinating show for myriad reasons.

click image to enlarge

“Golden Splendor” by Beverly Hallam

Courtesy of the artist and Art Gallery at UNE

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“Embattled Bulls” by Dahlov Ipcar

Charles Ipcar photo/Courtesy of Art Gallery at UNE

Additional Photos Below



WHEN: Through March 3

HOURS: 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesday and Friday to Sunday; 1 to 7 p.m. Thursday

WHERE: Art Gallery at University of New England, 716 Stevens Ave., Portland


INFO: 221-4499; une.edu/artgallery

ALSO: 5 to 7 p.m. Jan. 17, conversation with the artists

For starters, it not only gives a preview of Lois Dodd (born 1927) before her major solo show opens at the Portland Museum of Art later this month, it puts Dodd in the context of some of her finest contemporaries -- 12 other significant, active Maine women artists.

If you are interested in Dodd's upcoming PMA show, you should see "Homage." Conversely, Dodd's PMA show will remind us that all of these women have created massively rich bodies of work during their careers.

Yet by its placement and scale, Dodd's presence in "Homage" has the least splash or panache of any of the included artists.

It says something great about a show when Dodd's works aren't near the top of the list for excitement. As far as I am concerned, Dodd doesn't (and probably can't) miss.

In general, "Homage" presents mini-retrospectives of each of the 13 artists. This makes for a dense but coherent show that self-divides into clear and self-developing chapters.

One of the most impressive chapters includes Dahlov Ipcar's (born 1917) "Embattled Bulls" of 1946 -- a fierce and violent scene that echoes Picasso's "Guernica" in the social Realist style of Thomas Hart Benton. With evident testosterone engines, it's one of the very few pieces in the show that makes a direct moral comment about gender.

While Ipcar's powerful anti-war painting would be a stand-out in any show, its placement next to a 2012 canvas -- "Serengetti Triad," showing three cervine inhabitants of the African grasslands -- painted by the artist at age 95 is extraordinary.

One of the most interesting chapters comprises four works by Beverly Hallam (born 1923), in part because I had never quite been able to wrap my head around her large airbrushed flowers. But with the acrylic paint pioneer's newest works -- abstract shape-oriented computer drawings -- and three-color woodcut, Hallam's commitment to abstract shapes in her airbrushed works becomes clear (think masking).

Alison Hildreth's (born 1934) newest picture -- a tall, elegant topographical work on paper with archeological ambitions -- reveals the artist's shift to the linear intelligence of drawing in its placement next to a large brushy 1986 Abstract Expressionist landscape painting.

Framing this pair, her more complex works easily reveal their densely complicated components of design, notions about linear narrative and complicated relationship between image, object and time process.

Yvonne Jaquette's (born 1934) 1976 landscape appears as a Pointillist anachronism (Seurat et al certainly couldn't make aerial views) next to a sophisticatedly urban 2006 pastel depicting multiple night views of Augusta from a helicopter.

Jaquette's colored dots on a black ground, "Galaxy of Night Lights" (2008), does something very unusual by shifting a downward view into the upward logic of the night sky. It's the inverse of a fundamental tension of Modernism -- the sometimes dysfunctional relationship between the vertical, painted canvas and the horizontal landscape it depicts.

An excellent example is Frances Hodsdon's (born 1926) lithograph of patio chairs on a flat ground of garden flora imagery that tries to stand up flat on the surface on which it was rendered. While the chairs are superb analogs for the human body, their sense of design encourages the linear greenery to play the part of decoration or even fabric. "Fascinated IV" is a brilliant little gem.

Every artist in "Homage" is worth a critical discussion, but there simply isn't space here. To merely mention or describe a work by any artist tends to incidentally deny its serious depth; the work of Maggie Foskett, Susan Groce or Marilyn Quint-Rose is as strong as anything.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

“Silhouette No. 2 Flatiron” by Rose Marasco

Rose Marasco photo/Courtesy of Art Gallery at UNE

click image to enlarge

“Fern” by Lissa Hunter

Courtesy of the artist and Art Gallery at UNE

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“Lowry Pond Basin” by Yvonne Jacquette

Kevin Ryan photo/Courtesy DC Moore Gallery, New York, N.Y.

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