In bloom: Roy Volkmanns Calla Lily on display
at the Carrie Haddad Gallery.
By David Brickman
Haddad Gallery, through April 27
It may not be the most ground-breaking idea for an exhibition,
but the Botanica show at Carrie Haddad Gallery in Hudson
is an apt entry into the spring season we’ve all been wishing
would just get here already and stay.
About 50 pieces by 15 artists, all but a few of them painters,
are comfortably spread throughout the rambling, two-story
space where owner Haddad holds court. Unlike most successful
dealers, she is neither concerned about seeming sufficiently
cutting-edge nor afraid to intermingle new talents with more
established ones; the result is that this show is both a bit
challenging and as familiar as an old neighbor.
Marking the extremes of experience among the artists included
are Jeff Briggs, a newly minted BFA having his first show,
and Richard Baker, whose résumé boasts more than a dozen solos
at New York City galleries. For Briggs, it is a fine debut:
His three oil landscapes evoke light, color and movement with
deftly brushed patterns in a quasi-pointillist style. He’ll
be one to watch in the future.
Baker offers pieces in three media and, if his skill were
less, one would complain about the inconsistency of the selection.
But the one pastel, one charcoal and two oils on wood are
so masterfully rendered as to disarm the critic within.
The drawings (like everything else in the show, they’re of
flowers) have that confident, easy quality that makes the
work of such artists as Matisse and Picasso so delightful.
And Baker’s Dutch-style oil studies of individual, robust
tulip blooms set against vague landscapes are lovely and iconic.
Less successful are the sterile floral still lifes of Taylor
Harbison. With their dramatic lighting, dark backgrounds and
big, gold frames, these are the sort of paintings that easily
find a place among antique furnishings in conservative homes,
but they are not sufficiently well-painted to transcend their
In a similar mode, but far more convincing, Lucy Reitzfeld’s
unframed canvases capture a playful note by placing as much
(or more) emphasis on the vase as on the flowers. Particularly
successful is one titled Fanciful Vase, in which a
sparse arrangement is nearly outshone by the enameled flower
pattern on the vase that holds it.
Some of the artists in this group seek to vivify their subject
matter with innovative techniques, such as Ana Demertzis,
whose Tulipa—Purple Parrot triptych successfully imitates
the look of an old fresco, or the duo Kahn and Selesnick,
whose three flashe-on-plaster pieces are in the form of a
Still, Anne Francey gets far more energy into her work, not
by technical innovation but by seeing in a new way. Her large
acrylic on linen, Pink Rumination I, lives up to its
title by roaming the picture plane to fill it with leafy washes
of pink, green, rust and gray silhouettes, making of itself
a near-abstract exploration of positive and negative space.
In two other pieces, Francey uses a similar looseness to create
small gouache studies on rice paper, then groups them into
framed grids of nine sheets that the viewer can compare and
contrast. It’s a nice way to both reveal the process of seeing,
and invite the audience to join in.
By far the freshest stuff in the show comes from Truro, Mass.-based
Bob Bailey, whose pop-inspired wall reliefs combine sophisticated
design sense and perfect craftsmanship to engage the viewer
in an uncomplicated, fun encounter.
a huge, improbably striped bloom, consists of five separate
forms grouped around an empty, white-walled center circle.
Clasp, though perhaps not a flower at all, wins us
over with its jaunty shape and the sharp color design of a
postmodernist brooch—however, being more than 2 feet across,
it goes on a wall, not a dress.
Two digitally printed black-and-white photographs by Roy Volkmann
also utilize scale to transform the subject, in this case
a rose and a calla lily. They beckon the visitor upstairs
to the photography gallery, where a series of 10 prints by
newcomer Carl Dellatore awaits.
Dellatore has taken inspiration from Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s
brilliant novel 100 Years of Solitude to create still
lifes with flowers and other objects, all arrayed on the same
rough-hewn slab of wood. Unfortunately, this Wood Plank
Series, though lovingly and skillfully rendered in sepia
tones on textured paper, comes off as more sentimental than
Back downstairs, brash paintings by Frank Litto remind one
that there’s no need to be ponderous, not when spring is in
the air and every blossom on a branch of magnolia is worth
studying individually. Litto’s willingness to revel in both
petals and paint best captures the spirit of this show, as
do the unapologetically exuberant cone flower studies by Marie-Louise
McHugh that beckon to passersby from the gallery’s front window.
It’s nice to be reminded that art doesn’t have to be overly
serious to be good or inspiring. Sometimes a sunny subject
and the willingness to take a close look are enough. Take
note: If you’re planning to see this show, there isn’t much
time, as it ends on Sunday (April 27).