If you weren't aware that a few internationally known Brazilian artists have tended toward the cool, conceptual and often colorless - from neo-concretists Lygia Clark and Franz Weissmann to contemporary artists Vik Muniz and Ernesto Neto - you might reasonably expect young Brazilian painters to use the same lush, tropical colors employed by most Brazilian artists of the 1920s through the '50s.
Or, the way things get recycled in the art world, you might expect them to put a new spin on color. Beatriz Milhazes, born in Brazil in 1960, has brought vivid color back to Brazilian painting with her paintings of ornate, graphic patterns, as has Elizabeth Jobim, born in 1957, with her ultramarine-blue-on-white abstract paintings.
Now, more recently, the younger Brazilian-born Clara Fialho, who earned her B.F.A. from Cooper Union in 2006, has joined their ranks. But Fialho's fanciful paintings search further back for inspiration than Milhazes' mash-ups of modernism and psychedelic art or Jobim's curvy geometric allusions to Yves Klein and late Matisse.
Fialho, whose show at Bridgette Mayer Gallery runs through Saturday, says that some of her images come from her dreams - she subscribes to the theories of Carl Jung - and that her paintings "are often the product of a struggle against society's moral dissipation, a personal disenchantment with the material world around me."
But these delicately rendered images of orbs, totems, pinwheels, and jellyfish clustered together in magical landscapes also are reminiscent of the brilliantly colored feathered masks, crowns, capes, and back plates of indigenous Brazilian tribes - ceremonial decorations tied to their creation myths that have been worn by tribesmen for centuries.
Occasionally, Fialho's paintings veer too close to Hundertwasser for comfort; the late Austrian painter of candy-colored, hyper-busy compositions seems to appeal to a lot of young artists. Klee and Miro come to mind, as well. For the most part, though, her visions of paradisiacal places seem unique and genuinely felt.
Good things do come in small packages in Pentimenti Gallery's "Thinking Small," and the exhibition itself is well thought out and nicely installed.
This could have been a larger group show than it is, but the works of the nine artists, most of whom always have made modestly scaled work, have plenty of breathing room, which suits both the diversity of the work and the proportions of this rather small gallery.
Joseph Hu's Bartram's Ginkgo - a pile of facsimiles of the leaves of the ancient ginkgo tree at Bartram's Garden, all 1,500 of which were individually cut and painted in yellow and green watercolor by Hu - is the star of the show, at least partly because of its amusingly casual placement in the gallery, as if someone had left a door open and the wind had blown the leaves into that particular spot.
Like Hu's work, Kevin Fink-lea's painted plywood boxes look good anywhere, but they stand out here for their uncontrived plainness, a quality they share with the minimalist Donald Judd's much larger boxes. Nearby, Anthony Cervino's strange Pinocchio figures of cast and found plastic painted glossy white, though totally different from Finklea's work, have a similarly mysterious, unfathomable quality.
The placement of Margaret Murphy's small, colorful Henna Hands - cut and painted hand shapes collaged with magazine coupons - across from Judy Gelles' Photographic Memories, archival pigments of toys, was another clever move.
There are are many other surprisingly compatible treats in this show, by Darlene Charneco, Matthew Kucynski, Aurora Robson, and Kate Stewart.