|Jeanette Fintz - Traveler's Reflection 3, acrylic on canvas
Popularly known as the Regional, this show has been running for nearly 80 years, making it one of the longest-standing exhibitions of its kind in the U.S. It's always an annual high point for fans of the local art scene, and can be either a high point or a low point for participants, depending on their success in entering, personal taste, or overall degree of crankiness. This year's edition was mounted on a later schedule than the usual summer appearance and will be up through Jan. 19, affording a nice opportunity for the procrastinators among us to see it, even as 2015 arrives.
|Stephen Niccolls - Nudges, oil on canvas
Indeed, the show includes very few dogs, and it does present a great deal of truly outstanding work in a variety of forms, including painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, fiber arts, collage, drawing, sound and video, and mixed media. Westfall, however, is a painter (apparently of some renown), and his bias is so pronounced that we could arguably describe this Regional as a show of painting. According to the show's catalog (nicely produced and abundantly illustrated), Westfall also planned the layout of this Regional, in which we find solid thematic groupings and some worthwhile innovations (my favorite being the placement of four wonderful photographic nudes, one pair each by Mark McCarty and Dan McCormack, in the Institute's 19th century sculpture foyer, where these modern sprites get to cavort with those of a former time).
|Susan Meyer - House of Windows, wood,
steel, acrylic, hardware, paint, flocking,
wheels, succulents, toy deer
That said, it's a good show, and some of Westfall's installation ideas bring freshness to a format that runs the annual risk of being stale or stuffy. Here, he deploys Colleen Quinn's ALL SOULS, a collection of cartoonishly painted-over beach balls, into three of the museum's spaces, placing them high, low and in between. He also has placed a floor sculpture by Ginger Ertz that represents a babbling brook (crafted in colored pipe cleaners) among landscape pictures from the museum's 19th century collection in the entry hall to the exhibition; put a plaster piece by Linda Horn that looks like a giant prehistoric crawling bug high up on a wall in a narrow gallery; and set one painting by Stephen Niccolls entirely outside the exhibition, where it serves as an emblematic welcome to the exhibition. Emblematic of what? Of the painterly geometry that pervades the rest of the show, of course.
|Jenny Kemp - Mellow Yellow, gouache on paper
Another factor that added to my discomfort with Westfall's method is that a large swath of the photographs selected were segregated in a lesser gallery, along with other work that seemed to be among the show's secondary choices. Pride of place in the exhibition's main gallery was given to three photographs by Jim Allen and two by Julie Pamkowski, and I agree with the juror that they are better than most of the ones in the other room - but then, why keep the others at all? If it weren't for a terrific little painting by Jenny Kemp; a finely seen color photograph by David Ricci (which I liked much better than another one of his that took a prize); a large mixed-media painting by the ever-wonderful Wendy Williams; and a few other choice pieces in that room, I'd say the juror should simply have eliminated the whole bunch, rather than not-so-subtly kicking them to the curb within the exhibition.
|Richard Garrison - Circular Color Scheme: Walmart,
May 22-27, 2013, Pages 1-2 "Celebrate With Savings",
watercolor, gouache,and graphite on paper
Also, upstairs from the Regional is a fascinating historical exhibition of quilts and coverlets, titled Undercover: Revealing Design in Quilts, Coverlets, and Bed Hangings, on view through March 8, and well worth checking out.