BAUhouse gives shelter

April 24, 1991|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

The BAUhouse, which by now most people know stands for Baltimore Arts United house, opened its first art show a year ago this month. To celebrate the anniversary, the BAUhouse has opened an exhibit called "Giving Shelter" (through May 18), and it's a two-part show with a two-part benefit.

According to a statement by curator Andrea Pollen, it addresses the difficulty of artists finding shelter for their art (i.e., a place to show) and "the much greater plight of finding a place to live for many homeless individuals and families." The show contains works of artists on shelter and related subjects, and works by children at Baltimore shelter workshops.

As can easily be imagined, such a combination does not produce a show of great consistency. Almost all of the works by children look like works by children. But both the BAUhouse and the YWCA/Coalition for Homeless Children and Families will benefit from this show and sale, so it was certainly worth doing.

The group of works by artists is itself uneven, but certain ones stand out. Susan Grabel's table-top clay sculptures make their points effectively, sometimes by distorting scale. "Garbage Day" is a group of three things apparently thrown out and waiting for the garbage collectors: two big bags of rubbish and one person, smaller than either bag. "Once I Built a Railroad" shows a man living in a wooden box.

Sue Pierce's "When the Safety Net Fails" is a clever idea well brought off. It's a wall piece on two levels. Standing out from the wall is a safety net in the form of an applique quilt with a pattern of repeated pretty houses with appropriate American cliches about home: "The American Dream," "Home Sweet Home," etc. Behind this is another quilt, which one can glimpse around the edges of the safety net and through holes in it. This quilt, much sloppier looking, has more ominous phrases stitched on it: "Fell Through the Cracks," "No Fixed Address," "Heat Grate," etc. It reminds us that just below the comfort and apparent safety of our middle-class lives the plight of the homeless waits for us.

Margaret Morton's photographs of places where homeless people in New York live -- "Appliance Box Castle," "Bloomingdale's" -- are doubly disturbing. These are makeshift shelters made of cardboard boxes, tarpaulins, clothes bins, etc., on the streets of New York. A larger group than the three shown here would have been even more effective.

Robert Reichel's "In God We Trust" is a construction of steel beams from which rocks are suspended, their tops strewn with coins, over a grate on the floor. The point is less than clear, but the work has a commanding and rather handsome presence.

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