Eight alumni illuminate MCA exhibition

Laurie Nye, 'So Forgotten,' oil and tempera on Canvas.

Laurie Nye, "So Forgotten," oil and tempera on Canvas.

Megan Marlatt, "Under the Watchful Eye of the Elephant," oil and acrylic on linen.

Megan Marlatt, "Under the Watchful Eye of the Elephant," oil and acrylic on linen.

2012 Alumni Invitational Exhibition

At Memphis College of Art, 1930 Poplar in Overton Park, through Nov. 4. Call 901-272-5100.

Many exhibitions that feature work by faculty or alumni of a school err on the side of inclusiveness, so viewers see one or two works by 15 or 20 artists. The current Alumni Invitational Exhibition at Memphis College of Art, however, offers work by only eight artists — two are husband-and-wife collaborators — so we perceive a wider range of work or more pieces in a single series.

Curated by guest juror Beth Edwards, a professor of painting in the Art Department at the University of Memphis, the show is smart, diverse in style and technique, and filled with light and brightness.

Chosen for the exhibition were Bill Price (graduated in 1994), Rob and Melissa Hart ('94 and '93), Annette Fournet ('76), Deile Cherry-Smith ('90), Kristina Falotico ('08), Megan Marlatt ('81) and Laurie Nye ('95).

One is immediately impressed by the virtuoso element of the exhibition, in which several artists exploit their mediums to the fullest extent without being splashy or show-offy. I'm thinking in particular of two super-size woodcuts by Falotico, especially the crowded and active "My Excavation;" or Nye's muted yet richly detailed "So Forgotten," an oil-and-tempera-on-canvas painting that's seemingly a chapter from some personal fairy tale; or Marlatt's exuberant "Under the Watchful Eye of the Elephant," acrylic and oil on linen, in which the toy elephant of the title warily presides over a whole colorful junkyard of forgotten toys and games.

The Harts have collaborated for years on the "domestic" activity of small, fanciful embroidered panels enclosed by handmade wood frames; they showed such work in MCA's Alumni Gallery in 2010. Several of these deceptively simple pieces are on display in the present exhibition, but there also are different selections from the artists' "Factory" series — pencil, watercolor, gouache and colored pencil on Venetian plaster inside cedar frames — delicate, stark and almost cartoonlike in their paradoxically beguiling indictments.

In April 2011, Fournet exhibited at ANF Architects found-object-collage photographs that were intensely visual, eerie and dreamlike and quite different from the black-and-white images taken in Eastern Europe that she had previously shown in Memphis. Now, Fournet's vision has matured and deepened, and while she still seems to be working in the collage and digital format, the selections from her "Landscape of Memory" series are more provocative, more profound and more disturbing than the efforts she displayed last year.

In fact, Cherry-Smith is showing a group of "digital alchemy" images in this exhibition — macabre, nightmarish (and rather funny) altarpieces out of Hieronymous Bosch — that resemble in many ways Fournet's work from last year, though with a definite psychological twist that's almost prurient.

Price, who now teaches at MCA, reveals two sides of his imagination. His "decoys," made of steel, limestone, walnut and brass, combine the figure of a duck with a gunlike apparatus, as in the dangerous-looking "22 Caliber Canvasback." On the other side of the gallery are more delicate plantlike and floral pieces that emanate a radiant sense of tensile strength.

And don't miss, in the small Alumni Gallery around the corner, recent paintings by Janice Albertine. Though we are not told when she graduated from the school, she was born in 1931. Of particular interest are her oil-on-paper abstractions that reveal a sure eye and a steady, precise hand that can indulge in whimsy as well as seriousness.

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