"Hot Properties," the show at Upham Galleries, has more variety than a supermarket. Owner Carol Upham selected the nine exhibitors for their freshness. She got, in her own words, works that are "different, sort of exciting, weird, experimental, traditional." The artists themselves cover a range of experience, from established artists Frank Colson, Jack Becker and Robert Daley, to mid-career artists John Costin, Linda Molto and Susanne Clawson, to newcomers Kyle Barnette, David A. Cook and Peppe Dragoni.
Even the traditionalist in the group, American Watercolor Society (AWS) member Robert Daley, has given his style new life. The artist, a painter of New England scenes, has switched both his subject matter and his presentation now that he winters in Florida. Instead of a tight display of technical and decorative mastery, the new works appear looser and less pre-conceived. They reflect not only Florida but a more relaxed state of life.
Frank Colson masters a stylized all-purpose mask, which he allows to emerge repeatedly in new settings. The mask is the face on a body of Egyptian motif (Birdhead Figure); it changes to a fuller shape among tribal characters (Cluster Figures) and it jams the portholes of the whimsical Florida Crusier (sic), a lopsided, whimsical ship with gator decor and palm trees.
Jack Becker is best known for metal figurative sculpture; at Upham, he exhibits landscapes in oil. He treats works in both mediums with strong, deliberate grace. The paintings are charged with bold strokes of color, confidently placed to signify reality while retaining their painterly quality.
John Costin strikes a balance between what is portrayed and how he portrays it. Works on display include three from a suite of hand-colored etchings of birds. Etching lets him define every barb in the birds' feathers while retaining the identity of the medium.
Linda Molto's serigraphs, perfectly on register, demonstrate the heightened color contrast of bright Florida sun on objects. Titles hint at narrative, as in I Want a Clubhouse Like the Boys. But once she lures us, she forces us to judge her visual effects. The cat is the focal point, but the eye wanders around the work in a game of shapes and shadows.
Tallahassee artist Suzanne Clawson's medium is handmade paper, which she combines with mixed media. Much of her merit lies in her innovation from one piece to the next. She uses classic basket weave in Broken Promises; she juxtaposes five panels of irregular shape in Starport.
St. Petersburg artist Kyle Barnette works big. In Seawall, the more detailed of his two works, he paints in and out of shapes, using day-glo green to provide a hot contrast to yellowed newspaper images.
The painting, almost 10 feet wide by more than six feet, must be viewed across the room to capture overlays of reality.
David A. Cook and Peppe Dragoni collaborate to produce videography, a cross-over field combining video design and photography. In transforming images from videotape to still photos they attempt to transform trendy hi-tech design into fine art. Elton, with blue neon-like beams above a keyboard, is an obvious reference to Elton John.
AT A GLANCE "Hot Properties," group show of nine artists, through March 3 at Upham Gallery, 348 Corey Ave., St. Petersburg Beach. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues.-Sat. Free. Artworks are for sale. Phone St. Petersburg Beach 360-5432.