The Allston Skirt girls (Randi Hopkins and Beth Kantrowitz) have a habit of introducing Boston to the best of up-and-coming female artists (I don't know why, exactly, these two rarely feature men, but I think it's safe to assume it's because they hate them). At any rate, few male artists could match the artistic balls on display in Randi and Beth's current show, "Love in a Cold Climate" (guest curated by Sima Familant and Lisa Schiff) which slyly juggles a raft of intriguing formal issues beneath its vaguely dyspeptic surface. Take Ruby Stiler's "Petra Rediscovered" (above/left) - this "sculpture" isn't at all what it appears; Stiler gaudily simulates the materials (feathers, milk crates) she seems to be working with, and when one considers that the piece's central feature is concealed, the assemblage suddenly seems to be operating at the intersection of all kinds of art-world concerns, while at the same time managing to actually be kind of fun.
Clearly Stiler is a talent to watch, and may be on the verge of a breakthrough - but she's hardly the only artistic light heating up "Love in a Cold Climate" (for more info, check out www.allstonskirt.com). There are additional, if more obvious, kicks to be had from the roiling menace of Emily Mae Smith's "Poms Painting" (right), which conjures a kind of pom-pom apocalypse, as well as the sophisticatedly clashing planes of Francesca DiMattio's dynamic pastiche, "Untitled," and the obsessive energy of Simone Shuback's densely layered drawings. Most accomplished of all is the little-known (on these shores) Anj Smith, whose weirdly resonant miniature, "We," literally bristles with painterly skill. More, please.