Sculptor Karen Acker's shapes of delicate porcelain, with surfaces that look like skin, are put together into compelling works at the School 33 Art Center; they have the perverse fascination of something horrible that you can't takes your eyes off of.
A faculty member at Goucher College, Acker showed some of her porcelain and steel sculptures there in the spring. The broken and pierced bodies of those surrealist works were a kind of physical manifestation of fears and neuroses, such as might occur in dreams.
Her new works, gathered in School 33's upstairs gallery under the title "Tangent Bundles," are of the same materials but somewhat less psychological and more generally symbolic, with titles that suggest a religious element. "Annunciation," with its rows of skulls, must be the annunciation of inevitable death, while "Conversion," with its feet and legs, speaks of running mindlessly after salvation.
In the gallery's installation space, D. Scot Cahlander and Lee Lehnert have created "Earth Sheild," an elaboration on their piece in this year's Artscape. There they removed a shallow rectangle of earth from the ground and suspended it directly above, suggesting that earth is the bed we lie in so if we kill it we kill ourselves.
"Earth Sheild" also has a rectangle of earth, but this time on a steel base that makes the whole thing look something like an altar. This is bordered on three sides and the floor by steel, creating a neutral, non-living environment for this earth, the source of life. A tray inserted into a bench nearby is filled with grass seed, so the viewer can sow a little. And from a pipe above the earth, water drips down.
Presumably, grass will grow in this barren-looking environment, and such growth can be a message of hope. We may, after all, be able to bring the earth back from the death (yes, the whole thing looks a little like a tomb, too) toward which we are hurtling.
Cahlander and Lehnert have created two provocative works in a few months, but they are variations on a theme; more of the same might take on something of a Johnny-one-note quality.
Downstairs in School 33's main space is a show called "Passages," which brings together new works by three artists. For the most part, these appear ill-conceived, poorly realized or both.
School 33 is a cooperative gallery located at 1427 Light St. The current exhibit runs through Oct. 11. Call 396-4641 for more information.