A special Maine feel

Exhibitions to remember from 2009
By KEN GREENLEAF  |  December 22, 2009

 art_Indiana_LOVE09_main
GENTLER + LESS IRONIC “LOVE,” Robert Indiana, 1996, Polychrome aluminum, 72 x 72 x 36 inches.

This may be remembered as the year that the CENTER FOR MAINE CONTEMPORARY ART smashed headlong into a fiscal brick wall, and at this writing it is not clear if, after its current show closes this week, it will open again in the spring. Having grown out of a funky summer-artists' co-op in Rockport called Maine Coast Artists, CMCA may have ultimately, to paraphrase A.J. Liebling's Colonel Stingo, overweened itself.

More 2009: The Year in Review

READ: Brian Duff's " In with the new, and with the even newer: The year in Portland food "

READ: Megan Grumbling's " BigMore 2009: The Year in Review "

READ: Deirdre Fulton and Jeff Inglis's " 2009 had some redeeming qualities — really "

READ: Peter Keough's " 2009: The year in film; Men behaving badly "

READ: Michael Brodeur's " Best unsung albums of 2009: The cocky and the cock-blocked "

READ: Mitch Krpata's " 2009: The year in video games: Swimming in the mainstream "

This last show was a fine one, and among my favorites of the year. "Planes of Abstraction," curated by Britta Konau, one of the casualties of the wreck, gathered five artists who share a common interest in a simplified image: Don Voisine, Winston Roeth, Scott Davis, Jeff Kellar, and Duane Paluska. Each artist had plenty of room to quietly contemplate the work, and it was a rewarding experience.

Another noteworthy show at CMCA was "You Are Here," a collection of paintings and preparatory studies by Linden Frederick. Frederick makes carefully rendered landscape paintings that often depict buildings or scenes that have a special Maine feel to them, an enigmatic Maine that is always there but often overlooked.

Through his "Love" image with its jauntily tilted "O," Robert Indiana is probably known to a wider audience than almost any other contemporary artist. The FARNSWORTH MUSEUM mounted a large retrospective of the whole body of work of this Vinalhaven artist, and it showed him to be less ironic and gentler than his pop-art cohorts.

"New York Cool," a survey of abstract art from around 1960 in New York, at the BOWDOIN COLLEGE MUSEUM OF ART, was a refreshing look at a time when American art was at the threshold of change from its spectacular achievements after World War II. Pop, minimalism, and conceptual art, with their endless spirals of self-reference, hadn't appeared. There were paintings and sculptures that were there just because they were really good, like the Noland and the Nevelson.

And speaking of sculpture and Bowdoin, there's a major Rodin piece there on extended loan. Rodin is the standard against which all sculpture gets judged, and having one ready to hand is a fine thing.

The 50th-anniversary show at the COLBY MUSEUM filled most of its galleries with work from its extensive collection. It showed works arranged by the date of their acquisition, which led to some interesting juxtapositions, such as a Bierstadt near a Qing vase close to an N.C. Wyeth.

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