Earlier this year, painter John Guthrie added a wall to his South End studio, brought in two sofas, and opened VERY, a gallery that’s a little rustic (unpainted wooden walls) and a little modern (sleek sofas). Guthrie also collects art and throws parties. He brings his passions together with VERY, where he hosts three receptions for each exhibition.

He put together December’s show, “The Prettiest Star,” without thought to theme; he’s just showing artists he likes. The works don’t build into a larger statement, but each generates its own light and flavor. Ellen Rich’s drizzly, juicy abstract paintings, with incandescent tones and shapes stacked like slabs of melting butter, hang beside Pat Falco’s graphic, cartoony portraits of alarmed and distressed people.


Phil Knoll’s “Puppy” portrait, made with watercolor and pencil, dominates another wall. The pup gazes out, head cocked and big blue eyes beseeching. The piece would be sweeter than corn syrup, but Knoll’s exquisite technique rescues it. With every whisker, hair, and fold of skin its own smart mark, this is realism unexpectedly supported by the artist’s gestures.

I haven’t crossed paths in years with Juliann Cydylo’s biomorphic collages crafted with antique paper. Her older works danced with empty, abstracted garments.

The pieces here go inside; Cydylo uses old ledger pages to create bulbous, snaking forms resembling strung-out intestines. Then she fills in certain ledger boxes with black or red, drawing another twisting shape in counterpoint – a shadow that exists within, rather than without, the original form.

The delicacy of Cydylo’s work plays well against the raunchy innuendo of John Axon’s untitled digital photo. He photographs a body part – a shoulder? – then seamlessly joins a mirror image midway down, abstracting flesh. Talk about biomorphic! Axon rarifies the creepy, vaguely erotic hunk by surrounding it with regal purple and green.


Maybe the show has an unintended theme: something unexpected at every turn. In a larger exhibit, that would be cacophonous. Here, it’s like a lively party.


At VERY,59 Wareham St., through Dec. 31.
617-922-5447, www.galleryvery.com

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