Summer is the nadir of the art season. With collectors away and cash flow on hold, dealers wisely place minor emphasis on these hot days. Group shows proliferate in July, and most galleries close completely in August.
But it's not all bad, for summer often offers the chance to see work that's either unknown and unfashionable or blue chip and commercially sound. Barbara Krakow Gallery is having one of the latter, and it's a winner.
Krakow is showing a cross section of some of the hottest artists on the New York and international (i.e., German and Italian) scene. Although they are all primarily painters, their works on paper represent a graphic expression of the themes they explore on canvas, and as such are an excellent mini-introduction to the current state of advanced art.
The names in this show will be familiar to followers of that scene: Elizabeth Murray, Louisa Chase, Richard Bosman, Jennifer Bartlett, Robert Longo, Yvonne Jacquette, Susan Rothenberg, Robert Moskowitz, Greg Amenoff (originally a Boston artist), Bryan Hunt, Sandro Chia, Georg Baselitz, and Enzo Cucchi. In addition, the show includes a handsome collage lithography by Robert Motherwell, a second-generation Abstract Expressionist, and a folded-paper lithograph by Dorothea Rockburne, who works with the simple repetitive forms of Minimalism.
It is hardly news to repeat once again that today's art is rarely abstract, nor is it spare. As countless observers have pointed out, the pendulum has swung toward expressive, content-oriented work. Thus the bulk of this show is figurative, dramatic, and emotive. In the slick menace vein, Robert Longo's portraits of ''Gretchen'' are the most eye-grabbing. Her tense yet deflated body seems to absorb an unexplained blend of domestic and urban violence. These sinister feelings are countered by the exuberant energy of Elizabeth Murray's lyrical plays of shape, texture, and rich color. In between is the spectrum of contemporary artists' concerns, from alienation to fantasy to spirituality. In addition to offering a crash course in what's current, shows like this are valuable to anyone interested in the local art scene, for they illuminate the relationship between Boston's own artists and the larger cultural milieu. Through Aug. 30.