Pull up the anchor

Highlights of Maine’s summer art offerings
By NICK SCHROEDER  |  June 18, 2014

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'Economy Skeleton' by Tom Burkhardt; oil paint on cast plastic; 40" by 32"; 2012

If they know where to look, the Maine art summer should satisfy many of the interests of our culturally voracious populace. Suckers for modernism will have a lot to chew on at Bowdoin College’s latest exhibition of works from powerhouse art collector couple Dorothy and Herbert Vogel, running through September 14. Titled “It’s What You Do With What You View?”, the show boasts a selection of the 320 recently gifted pieces from the wave of minimal, post-minimal, and conceptual art from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s.

Over at the PhoPa Gallery on Washington Avenue, which has emerged as one of the more gratifying small viewing rooms in Portland, an exhibit of the generational Maine art photographers Paul Caponigro and son John Paul Caponigro traces the duo’s obsessive knack for transmuting vibrant natural settings into stark, still, achromatic tableaux, and the advances in technology that have deepened their practice. Their exhibit, titled “2 Generations,” runs through August 2. And while slightly more sales-driven than their year-round features, Aucocisco’s “Summer Salon” (through August 16) is a good bet to find some of the more thought-provoking and process-based works from area artists.

Another highlight at Bowdoin is a retrospective of the American artist Richard Tuttle. The museum will show his print works, a unique inroad into the post-minimalist sculptor, whose idea-driven approach and fondness for weak materials (paper, string, cardboard) undercut the grand masculine gestures of the American leg of modernist sculpture. “Richard Tuttle: A Print Retrospective,” tracks the artist’s ideas closer to their hatching point, on the two-dimensional page (opening June 28 and lasting into the fall).

On the other end of the ledger is Richard Brown Lethem, the painter who discovered his form during the last glimmers of the dawn of New York’s abstract expressionist movement, applied the style to the rich emotional life he experienced as a teacher in Brooklyn, and brought it with him to South Berwick, where he still paints and resides. The Ogunquit Museum of Art, a sure bet for Modernist triumph and name-recognized artists, unveils “Richard Brown Lethem: Figure <–> Abstraction” (through August 31), a collection of new work that explores the complex relationship to the figure in Lethem’s work, which for decades resisted much of any representation beyond the color field.

Summer, of course, will be considered a disaster if you fail to make it up the Midcoast. The prizes there include the daring abstract paintings of late Stonington artist Jon Imber; as well as the treated photography works of Shoshannah White, whose “Undercurrent” makes menacingly beautiful statements about the changing tides and the various ecologies dependent on them. Both run through July 6 at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art; if you’re too late, save the trip for August, where a collision of solo shows from national artists makes the Rockport institution a must see. Betsy Eby’s gorgeously luminous encaustic paintings are as intricate as they are ambiguous; Tom Burkhardt’s bright canvases blur Constructivist and street art aesthetics into abstract color fields; and Elizabeth Fox’s “Played to Win” projects present-day wit and irony onto deceptively simple retro-modernist oil paintings (like the hilariously straight-faced “Businessmen in the Snow”).

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