July 2, 2014 at 1:00 am

Bottled up: Anne-Lise Coste invests simple vessels with emotion and power

'Morandi in colors II' by Anne-Lise Coste is one of several still lifes at Susanne Hilberry Gallery. (Susanne Hilberry Gallery)

French artist Anne-Lise Coste is perhaps best known for using words as art, airbrushing questions and slogans in childish block letters. These are text-based compositions that the Italian art magazine Mousse found filled with, in an apt phrase, both “severity and airiness.”

In 2013, however, the painter filled a show at New York’s Eleven Rivington gallery with studies, most black and white, of details from Picasso’s “Guernica,” an interesting turn toward the mythic and profound.

“Anne-Lise Coste” at Ferndale’s Susanne Hilberry Gallery gives us something mellower, a show that’s dominated by still lifes of bottles — simply rendered vessels that, indeed, could well have stepped out of a Picasso or a Matisse. The show runs through Aug. 9.

The bottles come in both black and white and a rainbow of soft colors. The former are interesting, if a bit intellectual. But the latter? They’re complete and utter knock-outs, throbbing with power and, surprisingly, emotion.

Like a child, Coste typically colors outside the lines, as with “Morandi in colors II,” and as a result, the vessels rendered in warm tones glow like they’re catching the late-afternoon sun. They’re irresistible.

Much like her “Guernica” studies, these paintings are also an homage, this time to the Italian still life master, Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964). But where Morandi’s detailed vessels came in a wide variety of styles, Coste’s are mostly all alike — simple, slim, tapering and narrow.

The show at Hilberry isn’t all “Morandis,” however. There are four of Coste’s text compositions, one of which reads, in her typically disjointed fashion, “Disappointed again? Feel falling apart? Refusing to grow up?”

There are also abstracts in the show, some quite large. The three in the “Elle” series are particularly cool, and with their layers of jumbled letters and lines, a world away from the warmth and tranquility of those bottles.

'Morandi with table I' is one of the artist's black-and-white images. (Susanne Hilberry Gallery)
'Disappointed Again' is a text-based composition. (Susanne Hilberry Gallery)