A wild collision between minimalism and maximalism, Tilt's third annual juried exhibition, Divine, is one of the strongest group shows so far this year. In the past, guest curators such as artist and PICA staffer Kristin Kennedy have helmed the show, but this year, gallery co-directors Jenene Nagy and Josh Smith took the reins themselves, honing 150 applicants down to a small handful of artists whose viewpoints could not be more divergent and whose artworks could not be more complementary. Divine's most extravagant piece is a sprawling, scene-chewing installation called Pilgrimage by Stephen Funk. With its foam, felt, faux fur and holographic stickies, it climbs the gallery walls, invades the corners and colonizes the ceiling. A malignant Byzantine phantasmagoria, it teems with quasi-Biblical imagery of pilgrims embarked on an elaborate narrative quest drawn from Funk's obviously fertile imagination.
As a counterpoint, Chris Knight's dark acrylic panel affixed with pastel squares has a cheeky austerity—imagine the monolith from 2001 adorned with paint samples from Martha Stewart Colors—so wrong, but so right. Danielle Kelly adorns her whimsical untitled columns with plaster statuary and peacock feathers, while Eva Speer (no relation to yours truly) contributes what is perhaps the show's most accomplished piece, a jaw-dropper called Award. It's made out of 23-karat gold and looks like a fluffy-puffy Charmin-soft quilt, but in reality it's a solid wood panel, carved to "how'd she do that?" perfection. Speer is finding her voice as an artist; she is an extremely talented figurative painter who has recently explored abstraction to largely middling results. But this foray into sculpture shows enormous promise. Cozy but offputting, pedestrian in imagery but glamorous in execution, Award could lead the way to a body of work that is both conceptually forward and imminently saleable. Rare is the group show in so intimate a space that manages to feel so expansive, heterogeneous and bracingly au courant. These artists reference classical forms in a way that is neither tedious nor snide, and together in this small square of a gallery they dialogue with one another and us about art's past and present and maybe, just maybe, its future.
Tilt, 625 NW Everett St., Suite 106, 908-616-5477. Closes June 28.