Exhibit: Good And Bad News


February 20, 1991|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

It was a good idea, but it didn't work out as well as it coul have.

"News as Muse," the title of the recently opened exhibit at School 33 (through March 22), says exactly what it's about: how artists take inspiration from newspapers. It's an interesting, even an exciting-sounding premise, and curator Mark Barry invited artists from the area and elsewhere including such well-known names as Red Grooms and Leon Golub.

But there are problems. For one thing, the show isn't focused enough. Newspapers contain a lot of stuff, from war news to the funnies. Joyce Scott's effective piece, "Hunger," in which photographs of starving Africans are incorporated in beadwork that also includes a skeleton, hangs next to David Loeffler Smith's "Inside the Trojan Horse,"a pleasant semi-abstract oil based on a sports photograph.

That's part of the point, no doubt: that death occupies newspaper columns along with pastimes. But seeing these two works together makes the Smith seem irrelevant and superficial, where in another context it wouldn't.

Elsewhere, the newspaper link gets pretty tenuous. Kay Rosen says of her "Palimpsest" (a word piece) that she is drawing on the print media's "visual deployment of information," but it's a weak work with a weak connection to the subject.

Mike Glier says of his three charcoal drawings, all called "Untitled (from Studies for the Epidemic)": "The epidemic pictures were a response to the people I knew who were sick or had died, rather than the media." So what are these drawings doing here?

Then, too, the dates on these works show that a number of them were not done specifically for the show. Red Grooms' "Aides Seek Solutions" (1984), an oil of a newspaper page, is a thoroughly anemic effort for an artist who can be so engaging.

The good news is that aside from Scott's small piece the best works in the show are the biggest. Golub's "Riot I," which translates a photo of a massacre in Thailand into American urban terms, is powerful, as is Sue Coe's "Vigilante" about subway shootings. Pat Ward Williams and Luis Flores also make interesting contributions.

If all of this show had been up to its better half, it could be wholeheartedly recommended. Its biggest trouble is its inconsistency.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.