Among current midsummer shows is "Duo (Artist Couples)" at Galerie Francoise et Ses Freres (through Sept. 3). It naturally brings to mind the question: Do the works of artists who are couples -- but not collaborators -- reveal similarities? The answer given by this show is: Well, you can see them if you look for them.
One can certainly see similarities in the materials and some of the lines in the works of sculptors Rodney Carroll ("Volatus") and Narda Francfort ("Trough"), and in a certain quietness that pervades them both. The installation of Jerry Roe ("The Great Outdoors") and the constructions of Sabine Breitenstein ("Untitled") have a degree of whimsicality in common.
Chris Gavin's sculpture ("Monkey Business") and Amy Ruopp's small wall pieces ("Masks") are quite different in scale, but it is possible to detect the mask of ritual in both. An element of mystery and psychological implications are at work in the paintings of Laura Wesley Ford and Richard Ford.
Both Quentin Moseley and Stephanie Garmey have lots of imagination and a sense of fantasy. And Holly Hofmann and Jeffrey Buhrman's paintings, though very different, share a strong sense of 20th century art history.
One could perhaps as easily find differences as similarities. Either way, you'll find you've looked at the art rather than just glanced at it.
It would be hard to imagine a more colorful exhibit than "Vital Threads" at the City Hall Courtyard Galleries (through Aug. 30). A selection of Latin American textiles collected by Baltimoreans, it includes work from Mexico, Guatemala, Panama, Bolivia, Peru and Puerto Rico. There is also a variety of pieces -- clothing, dolls, masks, bags, baskets and the spectacular yarn paintings of the Huichol Indians of Nayarit, Mexico.
What we desperately need is some explanation of these things in pictures or words or both -- how they were used, how they were combined, what the figures and symbols mean. Without that, the show remains something of a puzzle.
Each year Maryland Art Place has a valuable critics' residency program, in which recognized critics spend time visiting Baltimore artists' studios and conducting workshops for local writers. The critics this year are Charles Biasiny-Rivera, director of a non-profit New York gallery which shows Hispanic photographers, and David Carrier, a Pittsburgh professor of philosophy and contributor to national art publications.
This year, MAP has a show of one work of each of the artists selected by the critics. Called "Critics' Picks" (through Aug. 24), it provides a summer show for MAP and gives the artists a little extra exposure, always welcome.
On the whole, the critics made strong selections. Not surprisingly, gallery goers will be familiar with some of the names here, including Ellen Burchenal, Holly Hofmann, Connie Imboden, Chevelle Makeba Moore. Among other artists whose work draws attention are Laura Wesley Ford and Jennifer La Chapelle.