Lively Constructed Images speak for themselves

February 01, 1991|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

Constructed Images When: Tuesdays through Fridays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Thursday evenings until 7), Saturdays and Sundays 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., through March 24.

Where: Baltimore Museum of Art.

Call: 396-7101.

Photography in the postmodernist age has gained a new cliche called the created image, meaning that the thing called a photograph itself is only one part of the total work of art. Sometimes a scene is created and then photographed. Sometimes a photograph (which the artist may have taken or may have appropriated) is tinted, collaged, combined with other photographs, or words, or other materials to make a work of art.

"Constructed Images: New Photography by African-American and Latino Artists" contains the work of 15 people who demonstrate that the created, or as it is here called the constructed, image still has some life in it.

In his "Harlem Barber Shop Series" Jeffrey Scales works as a documentary photographer, immortalizing everyday moments. But by putting these moments together in a series (of 10 here) he creates a poetry of place. Pat Ward Williams creates a poetry of memory in "Ghosts That Smell Like Cornbread" by collaging family photographs in a pair of window frames, giving the viewer the feeling of looking in on a life in which the past is a crowded stage.

Lorna Simpson uses photography to comment on the power of words and of prejudice in "Good Twin Evil Twin II" by taking two photographs of the same person, blotting out the faces with squares saying "Good Twin" and "Evil Twin," and putting a series of words under each photograph: "undisturbed, undismayed," etc. under "Good Twin" and "illbred, illegal," etc. under "Evil Twin."

Tyrone Georgiou in "So They Told Me" takes a photograph of a placid lake scene and puts in front of it an open box containing four skewed columns; the tops and the bottoms of the columns are separated -- if you could push them together they'd match up, but you can't. This is a comment on history; whether it's the history of a country or of a family, the history is reality skewed -- it's what "they told me," not what was.

Elisabeth Sunday uses the seemingly trite device of a special-effects camera to elongate figures, but it works like magic; instead of making the figures grotesquely distorted the effect is to make them elegantly beautiful.

Too many of the artists here think their works have to be explained and accompany them with statements. If indeed their works have to be explained then they're incomplete as works of art.

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