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Installation view
at Silverstein Gallery

Allison Davies
Self Portrait

Liz Deschenes
-170' Below Sea Level

Carribean Queen

Becky Smith
(Wet Petals Thinking of Vance)
The Gem in the Back
by Charlie Finch

"Women in the Landscape," May 24 -June 23, 2001, at Silverstein Gallery, 520 West 21st Street, New York, N.Y. 10011.

Sometimes the piece in the back room is better than the show. Such is the case with a self-portrait by Allison Davies in the back room of a worthy group show, "Women in the Landscape" at Silverstein Gallery in Chelsea through June 23.

A blue vision in a see-through top, Ms. Davies' study in self-sensuality recalls the enigmatic portrait of Kim Novak's doppëlganger in Hitchcock's Vertigo, staring forward in timeless judgment at the entranced viewer. Of course, the piece is not actually a part of the show -- it's on the wall behind the desk of gallery owner Dan Silverstein who told us, "For you, Charlie, it's $1200 framed."

Already planning this review, we reluctantly demurred.

"For the last half of this edition, we're jacking up the price," Dan continued.

We walked to the front of the gallery to examine Allison's work from her student days at Yale with Gregory "The Collector" Crewdson. Oddly enough, these shots show Ms. Davies as a feminist astronaut stranded on a barren, faraway planet, work that predated Mr. Crewdson's seminal 2000 show "Another Girl, Another Planet," in which Ms. Davies was strangely not included. Hmmmmm.

Otherwise, this fetching mélange, effortlessly arranged by gallery director Simon Cerigo, includes the usual mix of new names and other galleries' stars that one finds on the Chelsea circuit this time of year.

Liz Deschenes, of Andrew Kreps Gallery, is represented here, as she is in Collier Schorr's monumental travel show, just opened at 303. Sontext, Debora Warner's sound collective (represented by I-20 Gallery) features a hi-tech rubber clitoris, oozing the sounds of her boyfriend Leo Koenig's motorbike in Bermuda, with Debora riding on the back.

Norman Dubrow's purchased Rebecca Smith's Magritte pastiche red rose, a painting that's just OK. More promising are feminist rockscapes by Ellen Altfest, a former student of colleague Jerry Saltz, which look like Mark Tanseys painted by Philip Guston.

Other promising work in this thoughtful show includes Angeline Nasso's stark black shadowlands and '80s veteran Nancy Smith's triplicate flower studies from 1989, inspired by Warhol's black-and-white flower pieces, done for the Block Foundation.

But as good as this exhibition can be, the prize for the eyes is in the backroom -- always a good place to look at group show time (this month!!) if you can get there.

CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).