Such a show appeals to ardent lovers of contemporary art no less than the general public. Still, it suggests that art is more important than art movements, for it takes a broad-minded, all-things-to-all-persons attitude toward the scene over the last half-century.
Participants range from such internationally recognized talents as Andy Warhol, Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein, Alexander Calder, Claes Oldenburg and Alex Katz to a couple of folk artists, Benny Carter and Barbara Strawser. Also worth mentioning is painter Benny Andrews, with his very human portrayal of ordinary people.
There also are substantial works by lionized 20th-century female artists such as Helen Frankenthaler, Nancy Graves, Louise Nevelson and Beverly Pepper, and by local luminaries Sidney Goodman, Jimmy Lueders, Elizabeth Osborne and Martha Madigan. Also of local interest is Vik Muniz's photograph of a mass of diamonds portraying Philadelphia's Grace Kelly.
Among the most imaginative works here is Belgian-born surrealist Pol Bury's electrified wooden sculpture 30 Opposing Rods (1966), which its owners first saw at the Venice Biennale. So spatially interactive and rich in suggestion is this piece that it pulls away from everything else in this show.
Some of the work represents artists, most notably Philadelphia's Warren Rohrer, at their peak. In his wonderfully sensitive abstract painting Variations of Equation, 1986-87, the soothing mood is enlivened by a kind of submarine glow of soft and close-keyed color harmonies. Is Rohrer our region's supreme abstract painter?
I would have been disappointed, though, if all of this show's work was benignly uncontroversial. But actually a couple of the more recent things are challenging and provocative, namely Jenny Holzer's electronic sign that conveys a dark view of life, and Cindy Sherman's big mask photo.
These call into question, even by the most superficial analysis, what ideas ultimately guided the work. But Diana Thater's newer video piece on a wilderness theme is a striking relief from Holzer's pessimism.
Even though the display is not large, it's an exuberant success and a very impressive feat. At a time when many neighborhood art centers and small art museums would give a lot to know how to put together an exhibit of privately owned artworks comparable in quality to "Main Line Collects," this show demonstrates that the true source of art is deep conviction and a compelling urge to embody it. Congratulations to the Main Line Art Center for stirring the pot of very nourishing broth.
Main Line Art Center, Old Buck Rd, Haverford. Free. To April 26. Mon-Thurs 10-8, Fri-Sat 10-4. 610-525-0272.
Phoenixville. "The Upstairs Studio Artists" is a 10-person mixed-media show, the first by this group, by artists with studios in Phoenix Village Art Center, a rehabbed building open in downtown Phoenixville nearly a year. The display in the center's art gallery marks a first-anniversary milestone.
While muralist Laura Davey and another artist have significant commissioned pieces that they are working on apart from this show, all 10 have a body of work here that seems to be expanding and maturing. Gretchen Shannon and Suzanne Halstead head that list in the refined and narrow sophistication of their painting and monoprint styles, respectively, that show real merit.
Meanwhile, painters Melissa McNett, Chris Butcher, Joanne Carothers and photographer Cary Moore offer assorted still-life landscape and children subjects, often refreshing in the humble sincerity of their approach.
Siobhan Bedford, in particular, Neil Dreibelbis and Anne Mitchell Reid each present a meditative response to quality of light and mood in abstract painting.
Phoenix Village Art Center, 209 Bridge St, Phoenixville. To April 30. Mon-Thurs noon-6, Fri noon-5, Sat 10-2. 610-983-9430.
Sabine Rose. At one level, Alan Fetterman does straightforward Bucks County suburban and rural landscape painting, but at another, it's what occupies this Doylestown native full time now.
In his year's output of 94 works, mostly paintings, at Sabine Rose, the self-taught Fetterman works rapidly, intuitively, tapping the unconscious, yet his awareness of day-to-day scenes around him, usually unpeopled, is quite apparent. His dozen best pastorals and streetscapes here are painted with the brevity of a sketch and seem to speak to us directly.
Sabine Rose Gallery, 68 S Main, Doylestown. To April 27. Tues-Weds noon-5, Fri-Sat, 12 to 8, Sun 12-4. 215-489-5700.
Contact art critic Victoria Donohoe at The Inquirer, 800 River Rd., Conshohocken, Pa. 19428.