Art complete with talking points, suitable for office or home 

COLUMBIA, 1/14/12  (Revue) --  Two steps from the assassin Anton Chigurh at the Columbia Art League's new winter show about virtues and vices, Anastasia Pottinger's portrait of digital-age youth, "Sloth or Diligence," captures two boys gazing at an iPhone enjoying that sweetly innocent time before teenage angst over-runs the house.  
Though the photo is black and white, gazing on it reveals a tender, thoughtful coloring that continues the exhibit's overall theme:  dichotomies, between good and evil, BW and color, boyhood and manhood, virtues and vices.
With a similarly light-hearted take on childhood, Amy Meyer's graphite-charcoal Baldessari on Paneling circa 1971 has the line "I will not make more boring art" written thirty or so times in careful cursive, a novel image of the "I will not..." punishment that looks like it should hang in a classroom. 
I always enjoy art that looks tame from afar but gets interesting up close.  Catherine Parke's "True Love" and Joyce Huber's "Pride met Lust for Land" are this show's standout examples.  
From afar, "True Love" looks like a handsome framed portrait with dark autumn and pewter tones at home in a bank or law office.  But move in and you see a mixed media portrait of a lady from an age long ago, and the artful scatterings of a quote from The Autobiography of George Grosz, a well-known German artist who caricatured Berlin just before the rise of Hitler. 
The frame is stately but cage-like, suggesting the Germany Grosz sensed was to come. 
My nine-year-old son's favorite piece in the entire gallery, Huber's small, golden-framed watercolor painting suggests nothing at a distance of the powerful themes it evokes close up.  From the safety of Arizona's stark hills, a Native American on horseback warily watches a wagon train rolling slowly in the distance.  
Without so much as a hint of the strife that will follow, the picture suggests dichotomy once again:  past and future, the calm before the storm, the vices and virtues that drove on the early settlers -- and drove out the many tribes.

COMING UP:    Stunning!  Troubling!  Charming!  Bedazzling!   And my surprising all-show favorite!  

-- Mike Martin for the Columbia Heart Beat