Some artists venture beyond dance cliches at Life of Maryland show

August 19, 1991|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

Degas made great art out of dance pictures, but there are not many artists like Degas. And so an exhibit titled "Art of the Dance," at a gallery known for its conservatism, sounds like a prescription for cliches.

But that isn't completely the case at the Life of Maryland Gallery's newly opened show (through Oct. 25). It's true that most of these dance-inspired works are more or less traditional, and some of the selections are confused, amateurish or just plain boring. But others, even if not stunningly new, can be admired on their own terms.

Among the artists who stand out in this group show is Douglas Hofmann. Though his smaller lithographs are pleasant but not special, two of his larger ones excel. "Dancing at Dusk" and "Before the Ballet," are endowed with a lovely soft light, a feeling for space, and realistic detail down to the grain of the floorboards and the transparency of a skirt with the dancer's leg and a chair leg showing through the material. These are sensitive as well as technically accomplished.

John Ebersberger's charcoal drawings "The Dancer" and "The Young Ballerina" possess more than evidence of skill at reproducing poses and working with light and shadow. These dancers have an individuality that makes them real people rather than mannequins, even capable of evoking an emotional response in the viewer.

Al Masino contributes some of the show's more original works. His untitled drawings, and especially the smallest of them, capture almost abstractly some of the dynamism and energy of the dance. His large two-part painting, "Spatial Rhythms," exhibits a strong sense of color but appears less than totally resolved.

And Moe Turner's pastel, "Time," reveals a mastery of the medium, from the subject's flesh tones to her soft-edged deep black skirt, which has its own sensuousness.

These artists prove that it's still possible to make time-honored subject matter fresh.

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