June 17, 2012
BOSTON - It’s “such an ambitious show for us,” says David Cowan, director of ACME Fine Art, of Provincetown Views, on display through June 23.
With dozens of works by more than 50 artists crammed salon-style into the gallery’s two modest rooms, Provincetown Views is ambitious in both size and scope. The aim, Cowan says, is quite simply to “look at the history of landscape painting in Provincetown” – an unusually literal undertaking for the abstract-minded ACME.
But that characterization sells the show short. Using Provincetown as a focal point, ACME in fact offers a survey of major techniques and approaches in American art, spanning decades, dozens of styles, and everything from near-amateur to established artists, including several 20th-century masters who established their own schools on the Cape.
The range is fantastic. There’s Hans Hofmann’s frenetic, ultramodern Light House (1936), a mess of primary colors, next to more traditional, atmospheric interpretations like Charles Webster Hawthorne’s watercolor Provincetown Landscape # 3 (1927) and Edwin Dickinson’s petite oil on canvas Shack, Peaked Hill Bars (1955). Or compare Helen Frankenthaler’s brightly splashy 1964 gouache on paper Two Pillars to Jack Tworkov’s earthy, Cubist-inspired Fisherman’s Family (1931) or Wolf Kahn’s richly textured but nearly monochromatic On the Coast (1960), capturing the particular dull blue-gray of a hazy summer sky.
A few works stick out, such as cultish self-taught artist Mary Hackett’s oddball interior and Susan Baker’s bawdy Technicolor representations of the P-town bar scene. But for the most part, even the most contemporary submissions hold their own, like Ron Shuebrook’s intense, moody little oil Provincetown Fishhouse and Harbour (2011), which I’d take home in a second if I could, and the clean, clear paintings of trained architect Paul Kelly, which somebody smart has already snapped up.
The show also serves as a tribute to Provincetown’s Fine Arts Work Center, the oldest art colony in the United States and a major incubator for visual art and writing since 1968, featuring a dozen or so past fellows. And to P-town itself, with many of the works depicting beloved local fixtures and landmarks, such as Race Point.
Spend some time with this show. Hidden in its lighthouses and landscapes is a wealth of information and insight about not only the charming Cape community but also American art history.
Through June 23
ACME Fine Art
38 Newbury Street, 4th floor
Boston, MA 02116
First image: Hans Hofmann (1880-1966), Light House (1936), casein on board.
Second image: Ron Shuebrook, Provincetown Fishhouse and Harbour (2011), oil paint on canvas.
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