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Ever since the birth of impressionism, "isms" have stuggled to be accepted and recognized as "art," let alone "fine art." After many years, they finally took their place among the prestigious "fine arts" group. Eventually making it as well were other art movements - Pop, Op (optical), abstract and nonobjective.

Even other mediums had to wait in the wings - crafts, commercial art and photography, to name a few.But these so-called "lesser" arts have finally made the grade - thanks to tireless experimentation and the creative energies of highly innovative artists.

- The Main Gallery at the Salt Lake Art Center spotlights a traveling exhibition "Mexican Paintings: Three Generations."

The show reaffirms the genius of the first-generation artists since the Mexican revolution of 1920: Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, Francisco Zuniga and Rufino Tamayo - Mexican artists who worked in styles independent of European influence.

The next generation (Juan O'Gorman, Pablo O'Higgins, Federico Cantu, David Alfara Siqueiros, Robert Montenegro and others) attempted to continue in the tradition of promulgating the Mexican style. However, it becomes evident when viewing their works that they were beginning to embrace European styles.

Major divisions in style are evident in paintings by third-generation painters. Styles range from highly representational portraiture by Manuel Munoz Oliveras, to the geometric shapes of Carlos Merida, to the stylized crayon abstractions by Pedro Coronel.

And painters Lenora Carrington and Remedios Varo transport the viewer into a land of fantasy somewhat reminiscent of Hieronymus Bosch's art.

The SLAC is grateful to Lodi Gallery of Altadena, Calif., for loaning the works in this exhibit, which continues through Nov. 10 at the Salt Lake Art Center, 20 S. West Temple, 328-4201. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday.

- Dolores Chase feels extremely fortunate to attract James G. Davis to show his paintings and prints in her gallery.

When in Scottsdale, Ariz., earlier this year, Chase walked into the Riva Yares' Gallery to oggle at Davis' works in his one-man show titled "The Cruise." The exhibit featured a series of works Davis painted while on a cruise to Tahiti and islands off Australia.

Had Davis been living and entered his work in the Paris Salon in 1863, he would have had his paintings rejected along with those by Manet, Monet and others. The world was still not ready for such "controversial" paintings.

Today, it is.

An article published in "Art in America," 1991, pinpoints the artist's style and message. "James G. Davis' oil paintings are psychic anatomy lessons and love songs. Figurative, expressionistic and narrative, they are oddly paradoxical. While gently exploring the tender spots of the human mind and body, they also brutally dissect them."

The paintings juxtapose innocence and danger, not only through use of color, texture, space but an interplay of hard and soft edges.

They reek with symbolism and beg to have their narrative revealed. However, the viewer is left to tell the story. But that's not difficult, since there's so much to trigger the imagination.

The Tucson Museum produced a superb 64-colorplate catalog for an exhibit by Davis held there in 1988. Copies are available for purchase, and the painter will even sign them during a "Meet the Artist" reception on Saturday, Oct. 8, from 7-9 p.m.

The exhibit will continue through Oct. 29 at Dolores Chase Fine Art, 260 S. 200 West, 328-2787. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and Saturday from 2-5 p.m.

- Anyone who thinks that photography should not be considered "fine art" because there's not enough creativity involved need only walk into the Finch Lane Gallery (Art Barn) and take a good look at "Altered Realities: Innovations in Photography." These works go far beyond the unmanipulated black-and-white and color prints.

The show is chock-full of new photographic processes - hand-colored or manipulated photography, xerography, photo-printmaking, computer-generated imagery, photo collage - even photographic sculpture.

The call for entries invited artists residing along the Wasatch Front to submit innovative photography. From the look of the show, the response was phenomenal.

The show was juried by top Utah photographers including Susan Makov, David Baddley, Sarah Northerner and Barbara Richards. Makov said that she looked for works that were well-crafted, reflected a personal statement and posed questions rather than simply making observations.

It is difficult to limit favorites to one or two. I ended up starring 14 of them. A few are Ben Altman's manipulated, brightly colored prints; Ravell Call's computer composites; Lucy Fairchild's xerography; Tai Loc Huynh's mixed-media integration; Victoria Lyons' computer generated imagery; Ephraim Puusemp's mixed-media sculpture; and Anne Vinsel's computer altered/mixed media works.

- Even soft sculpture has made a successful bid for the fine-art status, thanks to the creativity of Carole Doubek. Her whimsical - and sometimes scary - sculptures cling to, slither across and crawl on the walls and halls of the Loge Gallery. What an appropriate exhibit to accompany PMT's "Little Shop of Horrors."

Titled "Things That Go Bump in the Night," the show is an assortment of reptiles Doubek sculpts from the natural world - and the world of imagination. "Whenever possible, I recycle polyester double-knit clothing, as it makes perfect reptile skin," she says. She then adds glitter, sequins and richly textured fabrics to give them instant visual appeal.

Her largest, most ambitious monster is "Kelpie." I hope he can still be seen lurking near the mezzanine's north-west stairway. If you're daring, you might walk close enough to him to read these words: "Kelpie, a fearsome, Scottish water beastie, who, on a good day, might just eat you up."

This free exhibit continues through Oct. 1 at the Pioneer Theatre at Broadway (300 South) and University (1340 East). Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday mornings from 10 a.m. to noon. Theatre patrons may view the exhibit during intermissions of "Little Shop of Horrors."