Dazzling the Eye With Images By Cornwall Artists

Art: Cornwall Bohemia

“Canal Zone #2” by Judith Belzer

Cornwall Bohemia is an amazing art show that reminds you that nothing in Kent has been the same since James Barron opened his eponymous gallery last August. Barron, long an art dealer and private art consultant, is ferociously knowledgeable and self-assured. Since moving to Kent from Rome, Italy, where he and his wife, the talented and widely admired photographer, Jeannette Montgomery Barron, lived for 10 years, he has brought his imagination and whirlwind energy to enlivening an already respectable art scene.

   In June, Barron showed revelatory pictures and drawings by Sol LeWitt, the great conceptual and minimalist artist who came to fame in the late 1960s and was enormously influential. Barron, long a believer in LeWitt’s importance and a collector of the artist’s work, exhibited pictures and sculptures from his own collection, as well as a few loan pieces. (A large conceptual piece of LeWitt’s famous diagonal stripes was installed/painted directly on one of the gallery’s walls, where it remains.)

   Now Barron has been intrigued by the strength and depth of Cornwall’s artistic community. The town, known for its ecological concerns and purity, has been the country home for artists and writers out of all proportion to its small size. Barron has reached into that community and brought together a small group of superb artists, many nationally renowned, in a show that dazzles the eye.

   There are two enormous, vividly colored photographs from Todd Eberle. One is from his “Cosmos” series, composite images made from pictures sent from the Hubble Telescope, the other is of flowers, some dying, from the garden Eberle’s partner, Richard Pandisco, has made in Cornwall. The images are kaleidoscopic, vibrating with intensity the longer you look at them. 

   Philip Taaffe, who first became prominent in the 1980s, has kept reinventing himself as an artist. He is showing two exciting pictures. “Pleiadum” from 2004 has nine pink creatures — they look like large puckered lips — floating on a medium-blue background. “Strata Nefrodium” from 2014 is a mixed media riff on fern leaves, beautifully realized and surprisingly erotic.

   A staged 1979 photograph from the famous Laurie Simmons is quiet, very small and typical of her storytelling style. Several paintings are from her husband, Carroll Dunham, a hotshot of the 1980s and currently in the new Whitney Museum’s retrospective of art from its collection. Barron has chosen a number of pieces from Duncan Hannah, also a New York City hotshot of the1980s, who delves into nostalgia without sentimentality, that include collages based on writing and words, and two purposely flat oils that focus on a Citroen in front of impersonal modern buildings.

   Barron has selected two paintings from Judith Belzer’s “Canal Zone” series, full of motion rendered in a loose, fluid style that draws your eye into the active scenes. And Brendan O’Connell, who has made his reputation and success painting Walmart store interiors — one of his pictures hangs behind the Wal-Mart headquarters reception desk in Arkansas — is represented by two acrylics. One is a vibrant enlargement of Lego pieces against the Lego logo, while the other shows a single row of Life cereal boxes from a store display. O’Connell’s wry irony fills the pictures with wit and whimsey.


     Cornwall Bohemia runs at James Barron art in Kent, CT, through Aug. 2. The gallery, which is located at 4 Old Barn Road, is open Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. And by appointment. Call 917-270-8044 or go to jamesbarronart.com.