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As anyone who has attended enough of these presentations knows, a juried regional exhibition can be a crazy quilt of oddly fitted parts of variable quality that run from the marginal to the magnificent.

Grant Holcomb, director of the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, has gracefully managed to avoid this usual erratic profile of such displays to make the "2004 Regional Artists Exhibition" a solid and harmonious affair. Sponsored by the Western New York Artists Group housed in Art Dialogue Gallery, the exhibition attracted nearly 600 submissions, a very impressive number. From these Holcomb selected 55 pieces, applying what seems a conscious effort to represent a variety of styles and approaches.

Even this astute juror wasn't able to avoid the occasional clunker, but there were enough strong, energized items to keep the aesthetic temper of the show high.

Norine Spurling has always been an artist enamored with soft effects (which in her feminist-oriented pieces were put to hard uses). "April" (honorable mention), a monotype of gentle ochre tonalities, is a lovely meeting of geometry (imitating a film strip) and splotchy forms (describing silhouetted birds and nest), all neatly settled around two women in old-fashioned garb.

While Spurling is delicately exploring female culture, Bruce Bitmead seeks to throw off trappings of civilization to reveal a primal, rough-hewn figure of mythic proportions ("Mortal"). Adding to the elemental forces of the painting are the choppy brushwork and steely gray tonality.

At the other end of the psychic world is Carrianne Hendrickson's clay sculpture "The Temptation of Laura: Sculptural Teapot Based on the Poem Goblin Market by Christia Rossetti" (second place). If you've every read this lurid, sexually saturated poem you know that Hendrickson has captured a good piece of its pre-Freudian psyche.

Among the more pleasant surprises is Bill Corning's flat, dark-toned and admirably simple rendition of a rangy man in "Reverie in the Waiting Room." Amy Greenan's "Someday Things Will Be Like They Used to Be (Red Spoon)," on the other hand, shows a savvy use of purposely misapplied drawing and pictorial hesitancy.

The show includes a number of pointedly conventional works. Intriguingly, John Novelli merges a female and male head in "Janus." Less intriguingly is Mark Carrol's "Standing Figures."

Edward G. Bisone's "Metamorphosis & Fragility No. VIII" (third place) shows a murky dirty orche (a favorite color with this artist) expanse from which scraggly linear forms attempt to emerge into a scruffy light.

First-place winner Linda Parlato draws on the same general organic vocabulary as Bisone (the vertable/bone/insect mode so popular at mid-20th century). But "Relic," as the title may suggest, is presented as a plant/animal hybrid with some sacred connection to the mysteries of organic life.

Abstraction comes in a number of guises. Joan Hambleton has set aide her traditional watercolor landscape for an easy, confident brushy abstraction in "Erosion." Diane Menchetti doesn't gamble much in "Earth Elements V," but her well-wrought combination of a skeletal leaf and vigorous paint handling gives it some internal vitality.

Robert Freeland's "Banality of Evil No. 40" is trimly structured if a bit hidebound to abstract convention. Elleen Pleasure O"Brien "Smell of Oranges") seems also cowed by what others have done before her, this time in color field painting. Georgia Trimper's "Mapped Facets: Collage XXII" (juror's choice) also suffers some from a lack of independence.

That interesting category -- the Cagily Crude, lets call it -- is barely in evidence here, although Catherin Shuman Miller's falling vases of "Descent" may come close. "Handsome" is the word here, but that doesn't end it: a thinking brain and some lively feelings are often behind the pleasant good looks.


Art review

"Western New York Artists Group's 2004 Regional Artists Exhibition"

Continues through Friday in Art Dialogue Gallery, 1 Linwood Ave. 885-2251

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