Inasmuch as it's impossible to review a themeless show containing 155 works by 109 artists, this is more in the nature of a plug for a worthy cause.
Maryland Art Place's "Seventh Annual Benefit Exhibition and Sale" opened Saturday with a big and successful party; but as usual, says MAP director Susan Badder, once several hundred people jammed into the place, there wasn't much chance to look at, much less buy, the art. There's plenty left to sell between now and closing day, Oct. 4.
This is indeed a worthy cause. Since MAP opened its doors in 1982, this private non-profit alternative art space has shown more than 1,000 artists. And MAP counts on the benefit show, with the hoopla that surrounds it (a party, an auction, etc.), to bring in a major part of the operating budget -- $60,000 out of $360,000, says Badder.
Everybody benefits from this sale. MAP splits the sale price of each work with the artist (or his gallery), and the public benefits from having a tremendous amount of art in many media and styles to choose from.
You like big abstract paintings? Consider Claudia Amory's "Night Forest," even though it's not well shown high on MAP's first floor gallery wall. Amory paints big but a recent McDonogh School show proved her work does well in an intimate space.
You have an apartment that can only take teeny weeny works? Allan Janus' photographs are only 2 3/4 by 4 inches, but the effect of his hauntingly quiet spaces is out of all proportion to their size.
And, in between, all manner of work, from Robert Seyffert's appealing landscape "Morning Light" to N. Katherine Brown's intriguing boxes ("The Stars Fell from the Rafters"), and from Patti Tronolone's tables to Mary Kay Dilli's jewelry.
The enormous number and variety of works make it impossible to find any summary remarks, but individual highlights include Madeline Irvine's "Study for Rust Don't Sleep." This painting has something in common with Barbara Kassel's eerily quiet rooms, except that here we don't feel that something has happened, we feel that something we don't understand is happening. Much the same might be said of James Colwell's "Ghosts" and Peggy Fox's "Warrior" -- if there is any even vaguely general statement to be made, it's that some of the strongest works in the show share a sense of mystery.
And this show makes it more than ever evident that MAP ought to decide whether its basement level is a cabaret or a gallery space. Right now it's serving as both, and with the dark walls and the tables strewn about, it's a depressing, horrible place to show art. If I were one of the artists relegated to this cave, I'd think twice about consigning anything to next year's show unless I got a guarantee of space upstairs.