Enigmatic Beth Soll; Empire Brass; views of city life; Billie's blues; Gritty City Art

For the artist the city is a visual feast, waiting to be rendered in paint and clay. ''Urban Images'' (at the Helen Shlien Gallery through June 23) explores this impulse in the works of 10 artists who work in a broad variety of media, including painting, printmaking, photography, and collage. Although the results are wildly divergent views of city life, all share a preoccupation with the urban environment and those who inhabit it.

Robert Freeman explores class conflict in the black community in his standout large oil paintings. ''The Listener'' shows a sophisticated scene of black partygoers - the women long, lean, and begowned; the men impeccable in svelte tuxedos. Fluidly painted in icy blues and blacks, this scene contrasts with the torrid reds and smoky grays of ''The Fire This Time,'' which shows a maelstrom of rioting in the black ghetto. Yet the dual estrangement of both groups is punctuated in each painting by a haunting male figure in the foreground (the artist's persona?) whose gaze alternately reflects boredom or despair.

Denise Minter's ''Totally Wired'' acrylic painting hints at the city's frenetically charged energy, which discharges into random violence. Sidney Hurwitz's hand-colored etchings offer a cool, observational view of the intricate patterns of shadows in industrial spaces. And moving to the city's outskirts, Amy Ragus's intriguing photocollage ''Logan'' paradoxically presents the urban dweller's classic escape from the city's frantic whirlwind to the equally dizzy vortex of flight.

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