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    Taking two approaches to collage

    “The Best of Both Worlds” by Peter Hutchinson
    “The Best of Both Worlds” by Peter Hutchinson

    WINCHESTER — Collage invites us to swing Tarzan-style over gulfs of logic and find associative connections. There’s a thrill in the leap. 

    In a small, frothy show at LaMontagne Gallery, Peter Hutchinson uses his own photographs to craft odd, cluttered, color-drunk worlds, and Erik Benson makes painted collages. That sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s all in the process: He applies paint to glass, lets it dry, cuts it up, and collages it onto panels.

    The paint has a knife’s-edge crispness in “3 Vases with Chili Lights.” Dead plants with skinny brown leaves droop out of stacked urns. Red lights drape over the lot. Little Tree air fresheners hang from branches. 

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    The paint jumps off the surface, almost sculptural and with stunning trompe l’oeil effects — it looks as if Benson glued dead leaves to the panel. But the stacked vases are painterly: Two gray ones comically illustrated with a fish and a cat are shadowed and volumetric; the other, a warm yellow, cracks open to breathy black over pink. He cannily toggles between paint’s enveloping universe and collage’s fractured one. 

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    Hutchinson’s collages, on the other hand, lead us deep into weird, almost believable worlds. He has an electric color sense, he won’t let the viewer’s eye rest, and he plays with how landscape unfurls, so that it seems to stretch and crinkle. 

    In “The Best of Both Worlds,” he folds two of his favorite places together — Herring Cove Beach, on Cape Cod, and the Swiss Alps. The artist appears in the bottom-left corner, surrounded by gulls. The beach ripples out in front of him like an open accordion. 

    The Cape sky, colored over with mottled aqua, abuts the mountain scene above. Hutchinson playfully adds a watery horizon in a cleft between high ridges, making his world turn. More gulls wheel above the mountains, but giant and Hitchcockian. Because photography suggests reality, a photo-collage’s disjunctions of space, place, and proportion are especially surreal. Sunny as the scene is, it’s nightmarish.

    “3 Vases with Chili Lights” by Erik Benson
    “3 Vases with Chili Lights” by Erik Benson

    ERIK BENSON and PETER HUTCHINSON  

    At LaMontagne Gallery, 540 Main St., Winchester, through April 30. 917-744-7957, www.lamontagnegallery.com/Benson-and-Hutchinson.html

    Cate McQuaid can be reached at catemcquaid@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @cmcq.