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Mary O'Malley's 'The Garden #1'
Mary O'Malley's "The Garden #1."
Visual Arts Review

Systems, patterns, repetition

At Montserrat exhibit, fresh perspectives from New England curators and artists

BEVERLY -- Not too long ago, artists were considered young until they hit 40, and any artist under 30 was downright unformed. Today, an art market voracious for new blood snaps up artists right out of grad school.

"New Art Collective: Emerging Curators Select" at Montserrat College of Art Gallery spotlights up-and-coming New England curators and artists. Gallery director Leonie Bradbury put out a call to curators, asking each to propose a mini-show with three artists. She tapped her favorites, then pared down the slate to one artist per curator.

The result has a bit of the hodgepodge quality that beleaguers most juried shows, although one strong theme emerges. What it lacks in elegance and cohesiveness it makes up for in energy.

Most of the artists and curators here are young -- some are just out of school; one hasn't even gotten his bachelor's degree yet. Although "New Art Collective" hops on the emerging-artist bandwagon, Bradbury and assistant curator Shana Dumont set a different parameter than age: Curators and artists had to be on the scene for less than five years.

Independent curator Heidi Marston Aishman (a longtime artist, but only recently a curator) plucked youngster Patrick Short out of the hallways of Boston University, where he was a junior this year. In his frenetic wall drawing " 1/2," Sol LeWitt meets Bart Simpson . Short drew " 1/2" freehand in chalk, using a system of overlapping grids on black. A black gully runs down the center, and the marks get denser as they approach it. The piece prickles and hums, restless yet holding together.

Systems, patterns , and repetition appear in much of the work in "New Art Collective." Axiom Gallery's Phaedra Shanbaum chose digital video artist Shawn Towne , who pairs lulling, patterned visuals with hypnotic music. In his powerful "Carousel," a broad band of vertical black-and-white columns expands, contracts, and changes its stripes. If it ran longer than its 30 seconds, it could trigger a trance state.

Paul Roux , another independent curator, called on his former classmate at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts , performance and video artist Katie Osediacz , whose videos here are aggressively monotonous yet sly. "Horses" rushes with rapid-fire edits marked by audio clicks. The shots, taken from several angles, set us eye to eye with a horse. Toward the end the edits stop, and Osediacz goes to slo-mo, letting us gaze into that dark eye as it slowly blinks; all that speed makes this last shot a sweet caress.

Bradbury, who fairly counts herself and Dumont as emerging curators, makes her own selection: Barbara Rita Jenny's "Untitled (B&W -Trellis 2)" is a knockout, at once gorgeous and viscerally creepy. Jenny creates kaleidoscopic designs from photographs of skin -- in this case, knuckles -- making a diamond and cross pattern in shades of pink and brown. It drops from the ceiling in a photo banner and continues in tiles on the floor. The installation and scale suggest wallpaper and flooring, which ramps up the ick factor -- who would want wrinkled skin all over the living room? As an art installation, though, it would be wild.

Mary O'Malley's drawings, chosen by Clark Gallery assistant director Kristen Zeiser , are intricately patterned paintings in metallic pigment on black paper. They're eye-catching and technically deft, crammed with delicacy, but not quite realized. O'Malley flirts with figure/ground and spatial issues, but then retreats back into the safety of dense design.

Independent curator Leika Akiyama includes painter Amy Goodwin , who takes on sentimentality and pop culture -- tough topics. Unfortunately, her work -- such as "Poptiquity," a speckled female form in a Mickey Mouse hat, set against a golden sphere hovering and black flocking -- is too sweet. If you're going to invoke Mickey, you need an edge sharper than over-the-top kitsch and prettiness.

Dumont picked Irina Rozovsky , whose trios of lush color photos, such as "Sky, Mouse, Sweater," make elusively poetic links that hint at mortality and loss. Independent curator Eleonora Lecei aptly deems Amy Borezo's gouache and acrylic works on paper "sublime apocalyptic." In them, small people are like game pieces opting to leave the colorful but chaotic game board, even though beyond the game board there's nothing but threatening, empty whiteness.

Finally, recent Montserrat grad Katherine Mary Romansky III tapped painter Juan Jose Barboza-Gubo , whose layered, operatic paintings not only critique the Catholic Church, but also question faith itself. Barboza-Gubo wears his heart on his sleeve (or his canvas); his work feels distinctly out of place in this group, which on the whole coolly pushes buttons with formal experimentation.

In showcasing emerging talent, "New Art Collective" serves a great purpose, and even though some of the work is patchy or doesn't fit, the exhibit affirms that there's no dearth of fresh vision here in New England.

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New Art Collective: Emerging Curators Select

At: Montserrat College of Art Gallery, 23 Essex St. , Beverly, through Aug. 10. 978-921-4242 , ext. 13 19