The University of Maryland Baltimore County's fine arts gallery, which opened a year ago, moves into its second season today with the opening of "Large Works on Paper" (through Nov. 30), an instructive exhibit whose strengths outweigh its unevenness.
Names it has: Robert Rauschenberg, Jim Dine, Vito Acconci, Chuck Close and Julian Schnabel among others. And size it has, too, with Acconci's 20-foot-tall photo-etching of a ladder, called "20 Foot Ladder," and Jim Dine's 8 1/2 -by-12-foot triptych "Youth & the Handmaiden" the two largest among the large. But size alone, or even how artists cope with size, is not what constitutes the interest of this show.
Process is important here -- how the artists choose to work, combining techniques and selecting processes that heighten the effect of the finished product. Dine, for instance, uses hand painting both to enrich the surfaces of his prints and to create an aura, as with the eerie, slightly sickening green in "The Foreign Plowman." Al Held uses screenprinting and multiple panels to reinforce the geometric impersonality of his two "Untitled" works here.
Robert Rauschenberg's two "Study for 'Chinese Summerhall' " photo-collages are made by cutting up and collaging the negatives and then making a print from the collage, resulting in a work that looks like a collage but is a single print.
The three handsome Chuck Close portraits here are the results of three working methods that differ from one another to some degree, resulting in increasingly painterly effects. Especially beautiful is the melting, liquid-looking surface of "Georgia," achieved using dyed handmade paper applied to a brass template.
The stark whites on deep, rich blacks of Eileen Cowin's silver print "Untitled (POV-Shoes)" are reminiscent of film noir, an association that adds to the sense of mystery aroused by the image of one man watching another. This is a work that keeps on giving, too -- the geometry of its
composition and its spatial ambiguity also reinforce its content.
Other works are not so rewarding, however. One finds oneself wondering if Acconci's ladder is really more than a neat trick, and why Julian Schnabel chose to print on a map. That's a neat trick, too, but it doesn't really make the finished work more visually effective or more meaningful; less so, if anything.
And one wonders why Richard Bosman and Meyer Vaisman were included in a show titled "Large Works," since their works, with the exception of one of Bosman's, are not all that large.
As a whole the show leaves the impression that its curator, David Yager, may have had to make do with what he could get. Despite its flaws, it will be instructive to art students and has more than enough interest for a general audience to warrant a visit to UMBC. The Dines and the Closes alone are worth the trip.