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Annual juried show in Abington dazzles

Seventy-two artworks from 51 artists on display.

Semion Rabinkov's stainless-steel "Icarus" at Abington Art Center.
Semion Rabinkov's stainless-steel "Icarus" at Abington Art Center.Read more

Abington Art Center has mounted a knockout of an annual juried show featuring 72 artworks, in all media, by 51 regional artists. The show's judge, art dealer Richard Rosenfeld, made the selection from 375 entries by 206 artists. And he had the advantage of being able to choose both the display and its prizewinners from actual works, not from slides.

Right away, the show rivets attention with Dana McElroy's untitled ink-jet photo of a manikin she has made; it suggests a world where life imitates an imitation, and artificiality is its reality. Winner of the best-in-show award, this startling, seemingly 3-D image portrays a woman not real but somehow not quite a figment.

Part of the fun here is seeing artificialities pile up. The artist treats the subject as a found object and omits any trace of surroundings, leaving room for wry, deadpan wit. In the process, she manages to link soul-searching work and pop culture.

Exhibition judges may come and go, but in eastern Montgomery County, statistics are always rock-solid for exhibiting artists: Thirty-four of this year's participants are from Abington and surrounding townships and suburban counties, the other 17 from Philadelphia. Several show prizes are designated specifically for mosaic, mixed media, creativity, and technical merit. And while this approach may sound unusual, the results speak well for it.

Lots of styles and media are represented. Noteworthy works range from gutsy abstractions - by Johannes Brevis, Jennifer Brinton Robkin, Lynn Costomiris, Cindy Masiejczyk, Semion Rabinkov, Nancy Shill, and Bruce Weiner - to figurative subjects and landscapes. The latter include works by Andrew Eastwood, Robert P. Emory, Lynn Goldstein, Beth Green, Chris Sheerin, Winifred Weiss, and the art2love nonprofit group.

The best local "annuals" can provide a rich source of learning about the art of our region, and Abington's latest is a distinguished example.

Thrilla's back

After a two-year hiatus, Jim's of Lambertville has revived its "Thrilla in Lambertvilla" show and sale with a 21st iteration displaying 150 paintings by about 60 artists, and focused on the gallery's specialty, Pennsylvania impressionist and modernist paintings.

Among the most familiar and generously sampled artists at the core of this show are regional eminences Walter Elmer Schofield, Daniel Garber, Edward Redfield, Robert Spencer, Fern Coppedge, M. Elizabeth Price, and George Sotter. This substantial presence provides a good notion of the diversity and inventiveness of these early-20th-century painters - a considerable amount of whose art seems to have come on the market of late.

There is refreshing familiarity to be gained from viewing this work closely, as well as examples by some of their immediate followers. Certainly these stalwarts made lasting contributions, as popular artists expressing what appeared at the outset to be basic attitudes and widely held truths of their period. It is to be hoped that in the future, people gazing back on our art with a fuller outlook on history will be able to conclude that these artists spoke for us.

Scenic route

Next to the Lambertville-New Hope bridge, also on the New Jersey side, desChamps Gallery caters to clients' marked preference for representational landscape painting, and invariably they want to know what particular places are pictured. (Diversity in painting styles matters less where such considerations prevail.) DesChamps' stable of a dozen or so living artists mostly has local connections, which is a saving grace and one of the strengths of this holiday show in a region where awareness of a century-old impressionistic landscape-painting tradition is still strong.

Standouts here include Brazilian-born Luiz Vilela's oils George Street, Winter, and Lilly's, Fading Slowly, local scenes that, with directness and conviction, evoke intense interest. Also noteworthy are other oils given luminosity by the open-air painting techniques of Susan Blabaugh and Dominican Republic-born Cesar Jerez. Another oil painter, J. Stacy Rogers, took a different tack with the solemn earnestness of his rock-strewn fly-fishing scene.