The tattoo station at its most recent reception wasn't the only thing distinguishing In Full Bloom, a big group show at SPACE Gallery. Indeed, needles staining live flesh raised barely an eyebrow during that Gallery Crawl event for a vibrant exhibit showcasing 40-plus local artists, most of whom have come of age since the 1980s.
Guest-curated by artist Bob Ziller, himself of that generation, In Full Bloom makes a teeming garden of expansive SPACE. More than 100 paintings, sculptures and mixed-media works cover the walls, dot the floor and hang from the ceiling. Ziller's criteria encompassed any artist who's flowered; contributors in their 30s and 40s seem especially well sown.
In Full Bloom is an ambitious roundup of many deservedly familiar local names. Kate Bazis' colorful floral abstracts glow, while Rick Bach's edgy renderings of drunken bishops and manic-eyed horse-people still induce a caffeine jolt. Tim Kaulen updates his famous flock of spray-painted goose silhouettes with roosters and herons cut from steel plates, embedded faucet heads suggesting gyroscopes. James Shipman's found-metal sculptures -- all struts, chains, cones and spheres -- manage to look at once impossibly light and heavier than they actually are.
There's also John Fleenor's witty little portraits; Evan Knauer's bold, expressionistic "Agincourt" paintings; assertively but mysteriously textured mixed-media abstracts by Jorge Myers; and Masha Vereshchenko's darkly suggestive collage/drawings on distressed paper. Paintings by Monika McAndrew combine the soothing with the unnerving: a dessicated old woman stitches the empty skin of a cat who, though quite dead, looks thoroughly content. Work by Ian Green includes a monumental multi-panel homage to industrial detritus ("The Machine") and the stunningly lit still life "Moonflower." Amir Rashidd contributes a haunting wood sculpture and the beautiful, provocative mixed-media piece "And Sing."
The exhibit's most famous piece is Joe Wezorek's "War President." The mosaic portrait of George W. Bush, composed of hundreds of little photos of dead U.S. soldiers, made international news and remains a devastating indictment.
Meanwhile, the big crowd-pleaser might be "Bridges Old & New": Renée Dupree's large-scale work isn't long on craft, but its colorful combination of vintage Pittsburgh photos and hundreds of matchbook covers ("Triangle Esso," "Diamond Square Roller Rink") could keep you reading for an hour.
Almost inevitably, In Full Bloom suggests an omnibus (or a party) more than a tightly themed show. And some works feel out of place. Colleen Black's realist painting of a bull fighting a bear reads as kitsch; Mark Panza's cityscape photos feel uninspired; and Ed Parrish's "Backside of a Black Hole," an explosion of polyethylene camp from the gallery's front wall, might be a prop from an unfinished Ed Wood movie about Venus.
Still, there's enough here that it might take two visits to do it justice -- not least work by two of the show's most seasoned artists. A suite of installation-style works by Bob LaBobgah, for instance, nicely summarizes his darkly shamanistic dream-closets of butoh, bones, ink-veins and human hair. And Richard Rappaport's haunting large-scale works on unframed canvas are alone worth the trip: They're masterfully simple, and they almost steal the show.
In Full Bloom continues through May 12. SPACE Gallery, 812 Liberty Ave., Downtown. 412-325-7723.