The "Art of the Dance" is an agreeable group show at the Life of Maryland Gallery because the 21 artists were free to exercise their imaginations through various mediums.
Likewise, they were free to use either classical or modern dance as their point of departure. Although the exhibit has, if you will, tutu many predictable images of classical ballerinas in romantic motion and not enough images of contemporary dance, there is still enough variety to keep the show interesting.
Because there is a history of artists responding to the beautiful movement -- and no less beautiful repose -- epitomized by the ballet, it is not surprising to find a few artists here who seem to consciously evoke earlier work.
John Ebersberger's charcoal drawing "The Dancer," for instance, uses thick figural lines to depict a dancer from behind. Gracefully at ease, she is a bit reminiscent of Degas' studies of dancers.
John Sills' oil painting "Taking a Break," which simply shows pink slippers hanging on a wall, clearly reflects the influence of the eye-fooling realism of the "rack" paintings done in late 19th century America. Rather than the usual domestic items found in rack paintings, though, Sills makes the slippers the center of attention.
And Louis DeAngelis' series of joyfully colored paper collages, collectively titled "Let's Dance," puts one in mind of the music-themed paper cut-outs done by Henri Matisse late in life.
While the exhibited photographs often provide a straightforward look at a dancer -- as in Walter Levy's "Ballet, No. 8" -- others are more interpretive. Joan Rosenstein's "Salome" places a
translucent veil over its nude female subject in such a way that the picture seems like the visual record of an exotic dance from the turn of the century.
Considering the stylistic spectrum from precise realism to pure abstraction, Douglas Hofmann's lithograph "Before the Ballet" is among the best pieces at the realistic end. This image of one ballerina calmly tending to the hair of a second is accurate in its detailing right down to all the lines in the wood floor of the dance studio. Another nice touch in this lithograph is that the sheer material in the ballerina's dresses has a visual echo in the window curtains.
Abstract approaches to the dance include Theodore Dourakos' "Firebird," in which multi-hued enamel paint rises flamelike to remind us of that tempestuous ballet, and Shari Sklar's alabaster sculpture "Adagio," in which the sculpted curve is about movement and nothing else.
"Art of the Dance" remains at the Life of Maryland Gallery, at 901 N. Howard St., through Oct. 25. An art auction of selected works to benefit the Maryland Ballet is planned for Oct. 10 from 7 to 9 p.m. Call 539-7900.