With scores of local art spaces closing (Quality Pictures), cutting back (Pulliam) and going freelance (Woolley), it's rare to see a gallery welcome new artists into its stable. But with New Discoveries, Butters introduces four fresh faces—two South Americans, two Northwesterners—who share a talent for composition and an invigorating approach to the use of materials.
Uruguay-born Arturo Mallmann conjures glassy-smooth dreamscapes populated by infinitesimal human figures—tiny silhouettes that find themselves lost among layers of aqueous paint and varnish. Based in Miami, Colombia-born Nicolas Guerrero translates CG images into stunning prints whose psychedelic swirls and petri-dish distortions recall the oil emulsion slide shows popularized by Ken Kesey's infamous '60s acid tests.
Seattle-based Patrick LoCicero combines oil paint with collage in his chinoiserie-inflected floral studies. Look carefully at the leafy arabesques of Fall Hydrangea, and you'll discover the clefts and turgid penetrations of vintage erotica. With their vases and abstracted backgrounds, these works are nevertheless prevented from veering into the decorative by clever subtexts. Finally, Matthew Craig, who lives and paints in the Everett Station Lofts, favors a gonzo palette that pops off the canvas. If the contours of his vibrant, meandering compositions are a bit sloppily sliced, then their winning 3-D quality more than adequately atones.
While these new artists bring a fresh vitality to the gallery, all four could learn something from veteran Butters painter David Geiser. Geiser, who had a sumptuous solo show in June, is displayed again this month in the gallery's back room, to jaw-dropping effect. Curator Jeffrey Butters' 2003 horizontal tableau of Geiser paintings remains one of the most stupefying Northwest shows in recent memory, but the current set-up rivals even the primeval power of that exhibition. This effulgent display of small panels in yellow, aqua and cobalt blinks and twinkles with a glamour that offsets its earthy organic quality.
Butters Gallery, 520 NW Davis St., 2nd floor, 248-9378. Closes Aug. 1.