The Maryland Institute's "Sabbatical Exhibition" features the work of five faculty members who have been on leave, and it looks as if they haven't wasted their time.
Tom Baird's black-and-white photographs of slate quarries in Snowdonia, North Wales, are explorations -- of sometimes abstract patterns, of gradations and modulations of gray, of light and dark, of the geometric and the organic, of scale.
A few, such as "Lords Quarry," have no horizon at all and are particularly effective because the sense of landscape is minimized, atmosphere is effectively shut out and the abstract qualities of the image come to the fore.
Michael Economos has been painting swimmers for years now, but his two works here (and especially the larger one, "Galatea") indicate something of a breakthrough since the last time I saw his work (maybe two or three years ago). It used to be very well done but a little bit too controlled and eager to please. These new works are not only bigger but tougher, more gestural and more expressive. There is less illusionism -- the water looks more like paint and less like water -- and the results are more direct communication both of process and of feeling.
Jim Hennessey's landscapes -- "Vico," "Pamphili" and "Genicolo" -- are pleasing pictures on one level, showing quiet, seductive towns. But there is also a lot of art history in them: Their surfaces resemble fresco, and the towns have a jumbled, squashed perspective that brackets the renaissance; they are both medieval and 20th century. They are slightly reminiscent of Matisse's Moroccan paintings, too, which adds yet another layer to their interest.
Neon, which Quentin Moseley has done a lot with in the past, is included in a couple of his works here, but mostly these explorations of shape, color and surface are done without it. These three-dimensional, painted wall works have a certain jaunty charm, but this large group is a bit repetitive, as if they are to some degree exercises, or studies for something more definitive that isn't quite here. There's a feeling of transition to these works, as though Moseley is working hard to get from one point to another.
Cyril Satorsky's quirky, funny, Freudian paintings are aptly titled "Autobiographical Pieces." They have elements of landscape, houses, people and objects -- such as a juke box or a pyramid or a plant -- all mixed up in them. Though these colorful puzzles are carefully put together, they're also bursting with unexpected shifts and metamorphoses, as in free association or dreams, and the sexual keeps popping up everywhere. They're personal, yes, but personal enough, and open enough, that there's a little bit of each of us in there, too.
"Sabbatical Exhibition" runs through Sept. 22 in the Meyerhoff Gallery of the Maryland Institute, College of Art's Fox Building, Mount Royal and Lafayette avenues. Call 669-9200.