Exploring the world humans created

April 15, 1991|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

Any show that introduces one good artist to the community is worth going to see. Matias O'Donnell, who has shown before in Washington and Delaware, makes his Baltimore debut in an otherwise uninspiring show, "Personal Politics," at School 33 (through May 17).

The title can be ignored; apparently it's supposed to be a thematic umbrella to provide some rationale for showing these artists together, but it doesn't work because they're so different.

O'Donnell's big, strong black and white woodblock prints -- mountedon pieces of wood with jagged edges -- and his one acrylic painting explore the isolation of the human being in impersonal industrialized society while recognizing it was human beings who produced the society.

In "Pipeline," the underground pipeline under a big city skyline is in the form of a human leg. It may be carrying water or sewage, we don't know, but it reminds us that cities were created by people.

In "Vertigo I" a person falls through the air in front of a cityscape, while another looks on from the safety of one of the buildings. By putting the onlooker so far away he couldn't help if he wanted to, O'Donnell appears to say that individual contact is virtually impossible today. The same point comes through "Immigrants," in which the people represented are walled off not only from the rest of the world but from one another.

And the forcefulness of these images is only reinforced by the weakness of the rest of the work here. Jenny Silitch's mixed-media works draw on advertisements and other objects, but they are by and large not well developed enough to make the points she seems to want to make.

Gail Rebhan's photographs (stills from home videos) and accompanying video are supposed to explore the interactions of family life and the dual nature of being artist and family member. These are really home movies presented as art with a ludicrous degree of pretentiousness. Rebhan is a recognized artist with a long list of exhibitions to her credit. But she takes herself much too seriously here.

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