Florida Artist Group show at Leepa-Rattner has something for everyone

TARPON SPRINGS

With 90 works by as many artists, the Florida Artist Group show at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art is something of a nosh pit, an aesthetic stew with many competing tastes.

Such variety is different from most exhibitions we see these days which, if multiple artists are involved, are organized around an idea. So for this, you have to get in the right mind-set for a visit, prepared to take each work on its own terms, without context.

Organizers have done an admirable job of arranging it as coherently as possible. As with any such show, there's something for everyone, though the majority of the art is painting or drawing. And, as with a show that isn't invitational, you'll see a variety of talent levels, too.

Judge Sam Gilliam, a distinguished artist, chose Richard York's POD as best in show. It's a bright, semi-abstract, heavily textured still life of a flower. (And has a kinship with Gilliam's colorful collage prints from the museum's permanent collection, displayed nearby.)

He conferred other awards, and his choices show his preference for rich colors in profusion and a sense of layered images, even among two-dimensional works. Among them:

Gena Brodie Robbins fits into the hybrid category often called pop expressionism, meaning she uses appropriated and popular images — in Amusement she paints toys — in a style associated with the earlier abstract expressionist movement, with lots of drips and swipes of the paintbrush.

The Cared for Shoe by Cheryl A. Fausel is a dense watercolor with an off-center image of worn Chuck Taylors surrounded by grids of warm color and stippled images that look almost stenciled.

Two abstracts, one by Lois Barton and the other by Gay Germain, use expanses of washed color punctuated by bold, contrasting slashes and stripes. They both express a sense of opposing forces colliding on their canvases.

Gilliam chose only truly realistic works for awards. One is a rusting metal chair in a brooding blue twilight, shadows from the cutout pattern on its back and seat thrown onto surrounding surfaces. Its creator, Jeffrey Smart Baisden, uses pencils like paint. Nancy Sykes Cockerham's mixed media work is also the only figurative winner, another contemplative look at a chair but with a woman occupying it, seated in shadow on the right half of the canvas looking toward sunny geometric shapes on the left.

Melody Oxarart's steel "mask" is the only starkly minimal work in the show, and one of the few sculptures, two curving pieces overlapped and joined with angular shapes suggesting a nose and a closed eye.

I'm unofficially awarding some of my own honorable mentions. Jean Germain's time-lapse photograph is superbly composed. Most of the print is dominated by dark stairs. A small figure stands at the top, trees on one side that are reflected in a glass wall on the other. Behind is a sliver of sky. Another photograph by Bettina Edwards reveals its details slowly: A strange machine in an old warehouse, when studied, takes on a human personality — the gauges become goofy eyes, a nose and mouth. It's smile-inducing.

Two works done in neutrals, a painting with oil crayon by Patton Hunter and a drawing by Marjorie Greene, also caught my eye. Each artist uses her medium in a rich and elegant way with subtle, suggestive details.

Lennie Bennett can be reached at lennie@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8293.

If you go

The Florida Artist Group show is at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, 600 Klosterman Road, Tarpon Springs, through July 19. Hours are

10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, with extended hours to 9 p.m. Thursday, and 1 to 5 p.m.

Sunday. Admission is $5 adults, $4 seniors, students and children free. Free on Sunday. spcollege.edu/museum or (727) 712-5762.

Florida Artist Group show at Leepa-Rattner has something for everyone 05/16/09 [Last modified: Saturday, May 16, 2009 4:30am]

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