Karen Gelardi of South Portland, Maine, fills Montserrat College of Art’s 301 Gallery with black ink drawings of trees and flowers and plants that seem to unstoppably spread across the walls. Her drawings have a loose, vital, lush style that recalls traditional Chinese drawing. They sprawl across paper and opened-out file folders patched together with tape that forms a lattice pattern.
The drawings are accented by pillows – balls and lumps and logs – silkscreened with similar designs. She groups them on the floor and on platforms in some sort of strange taxonomy. The drawings and pillows surround you, and the feeling is exuberant and delightful.
A second room of the exhibit offers stylish photos of still-lifes of printed fabric and what look to be test tubes, but they don’t really do anything for me. More interesting is a display of print-on-demand books Gelardi commissioned, each featuring one of her drawings on the cover and all the pages. There are three different types. One by one the books are just okay. But she gets a neat effect by stacking them in piles, that seem somehow like minimalist mass-produced abstracted trees, with the stripes on the ends of the papers vibrating against each other.
“Terrarium: Karen Gelardi,” 301 Gallery, Montserrat College of Art, 301 Cabot St., Beverly, Sept. 3 to 27, 2008.