Imaginative installations


May 14, 1991|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

You remember all those movie shots of lovers running through fields in slow motion? You want to have something like the same sensation, indoors, with not a blade of grass in sight? Go down to the fine arts gallery at University of Maryland Baltimore County and walk through Allyn Massey's installation "Zephyr."

An unpretentious, beguiling work intended for the participation of the viewer, it consists of a 27-foot long corridor with "walls" made of sheets of thin white paper and a "floor" of cotton several inches thick. As you walk on the cotton, sinking in at each step, and run your hands along the paper, there's that slow-motion sensation.

This is one of five installations in "View from Washington to

Baltimore," UMBC's second annual exhibit of area artists (through June 29), an imaginative and largely successful show. One would think it difficult if not impossible for five artists to do separate installations in a single space without clashing, but they did. One reason, probably, is that for the most part they're non-aggressive, which is not to say superficial or uninteresting.

Jeff Spaulding's "Untitled" is another of his tree pieces, one of which was seen at School 33. His combination of logs, bound DTC trees and spiky tree parts does several things. In abstract terms it's a meandering but coherent composition. It's a reminder that the tree has had symbolic meaning in many cultures (think of the Christmas tree). It speaks of the forest and forest creatures (some of these tree parts look like a swarm of spiders or a little animal shambling along). And it's pleasant to wander through.

Ivy Parsons' "Hearth's Longings," seen in somewhat different form at School 33, consists of a bowl shape made of translucent mica hanging from the ceiling and on the floor a sphere-shaped )) shelter made of steel rods (covered with brown paper to look like sticks) and pieces of slate. Inside, on a bed of black gravel, is a scattering of candles whose flames are reflected in pieces of glass. This could carry a double-edged meaning -- it looks peaceful and inviting, but try to crawl in and you'd probably

get cut. Somehow, though, the darker meaning dissolves in the context of this show.

Alex Castro's minimal "After TT" consists of two pieces of steel on the floor which have the effect of gathering the floor, the walls and the nearby space into a single entity, a discrete, quiet, three-dimensional composition.

Only Tex Andrews' "File Test" feels out of place here. Andrews has constructed a room in one corner of the gallery. Inside, it looks like a corner of a dirty basement with cast-off objects on shelves. On one wall is a photograph of a woman's hand cutting glossy red paper with scissors, a grating image. There are other aspects of this disagreeable but undeniably effective piece.

There is also a companion exhibit of eight videos, total running time 70 minutes, with exploring the environment as a common theme.

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