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A relaxed atmosphere has settled over many local galleries during these summer months. No new blockbuster exhibits appear to be opening. Instead, museum curators, gallery owners and individual collectors are rummaging through storage areas, back rooms and basements to uncover possible shows.

-The Salt Lake Art Center is currently featuring "Contemporary Paintings and Works on Paper from the Utah Museum of Fine Arts." Included in this exhibit is artwork from outstanding Utah and national artists.The purpose of the exhibit is to expose the gallerygoer not only to paintings by these artists but also to some of their works on paper.

E. Frank Sanguinetti, director of UMFA, said, "For several years the museum's staff has thought about putting an exhibition together from late 20th century American works that would include not only selected paintings but works on paper - prints and drawings - by the creators of the paintings."

For the regular gallerygoer, a walk through the exhibit will bring back memories of a number of outstanding shows that have brightened Salt Lake City over the years. I remembered Leonard Lehrer's impressive exhibit at the U., Joseph Raffael's powerful show at the Salt Lake Art Center and Alvin Gittins' retrospective show at the Kimball Art Center. It was like bumping into old friends when I spotted Lehrer's "View of St. Petersburg," Raffael's "Autumn Fish" and Gittins' "Le Mariage Demeuble."

Other artists whose works have been selected for this show include Wulf Barsch, Ilya Bolotowsky, Gene Davis, Lee Deffebach, Vincent Falsetta, Jane Freilicher, Alex Katz, Daniel Lang, Janet Lippincott, James McGarrell, Don Olsen, Fritz Scholder, Frank Anthony Smith, Wayne Thiebaud, Ulfert Wilke and Jerome Witkin.

And I enjoyed making new friends. This time it was with Deffebach's delicious monoprint "Tabula," Frank Anthony Smith's graphite and gesso work "Fish and White Ax" and Scholder's lithograph "Indian and Woman."

The exhibit continues in the Main Gallery of the SLAC through July 21.

-The Upstairs Gallery at the SLAC is filled with "Eclectic Collections," a variety of treasures by local pack-rats and collectors.

Some of these collections began by happenstance. Take Judge Judith Billings, for example. While in England several years ago, she purchased a small, enameled box commemorating the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana. That initial purchase has grown to a collection of over 40 beautiful boxes of Bilston, Battersea and Limoges designs.

Hanging on the walls are hundreds of wooden clothespins Don Clark inherited. Originally they had been used as napkin holders in a restaurant in Jackson Hole. Guests wrote names and dates on them, placed them on a rope and reused them when they returned. Included among the many names are those of famous politicians and financiers.

Other collections include Susan Kinsey's hats; Kaelyn Chapman's Lusterware; Debra Johnson's dirt; Louise Ozmun's pigs; Tom Sieg's stick-pins; Gary Thompson's stoneware crocks and jugs; Billia Wilson's nutcrackers; jade pieces from an anonymous collector; and others.

Although these collectors enjoy arranging and displaying their "treasures," they admit that the greatest source of pleasure is acquiring the objects. Often it is a test of ingenuity, persistence, knowledge, aesthetic judgment and luck.

These collections will remain on display through July 22 at the Salt Lake Art Center, 20 S. West Temple. The center is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Parking validations are available from Crossroads Plaza east of the center.

-Group shows fill the Pierpont and Courtyard galleries. These are works by gallery regulars of not only these two galleries but of Phillips Gallery as well. In fact, creations by these artists can always be viewed in the downstairs gallery at Phillips. When I was there two weeks ago, I was particularly impressed with works by Betsy Campbell, Ron Clayton, Sam Wilson, Doug Snow, James Avati and Bri Matheson.

These and other artists have works on display in the Pierpont and Courtyard galleries. Of particular interest in the Pierpont Gallery is Sylvia Davis' carved wood dog titled "Waiting," Bri Matheson's "Lake Trout" and James Avati's bronze "Sand Flea II." And there are imposing non-objective paintings by Don Olsen, Carolyn Coalson and Denis Phillips.

While there, I bumped into painter John Erickson. He led me to one of his paintings, "Summer's Windblown Child," and took time to talk about it.

He said that this painting of a woman and two dogs is a metaphor in which both specificity and ambiguity coexist.

As he viewed his cool, limited palette, he said, "I like the art of restraint."

But he had intentionally introduced a suggestion of warm color in limited areas. "When you unleash something other than the dominant pigment, then you get an event," he explained.

Downstairs, the Courtyard Gallery contains mainly photography, prints and craft items. And no one sensitive to good art can walk past Ada Irvine's serigraphy without admiring the choice of colors she uses; the dynamic composition in Mark Reid's photograph "Jazz Ranch" and the superb craftsmanship in Sharon Alderman's woven scarves and David Cox's ceramic pots.

Other top works include Jenni Christensen's "Cups of Gold III," Sam Wilson's "Titled-untitled - not much of an expression left," Wayne Kimball's "Normal Wooded Interior" and Ed Rosenberger's unusual photograph of the exterior of the Centre Theatre before it was demolished.

These summer group shows will remain at the Pierpont and the Courtyard galleries (159 Pierpont Ave.) through Aug. 24. Summer hours are 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday and Friday, and 1-9 p.m. on Saturday. For more information, call 364-4141 (Pierpont) and 363-5151 (Courtyard).