Individuality characterizes exhibit of five painters' works

November 20, 1991|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

Painting is alive and well in the Maryland Institute's current exhibit, titled "Painting." The five artists included do not share a common theme or style, but at times what they have to say does overlap.

Karen Gunderson's black paintings remind us forcefully that we're in the postmodern age. Her works reach back into art history for very representative and association-laden subject matter -- "Sunflowers," "Conversations: Before the Fall -- After the Fall," (Adam and Eve, of course), "Still Life." The heavy, sensuous use of paint gives her surfaces a baroque feeling and leaves the impression that these works are most of all about their own physicality.

Joe Zucker's paintings, with their thick, viscous surfaces, are even more physical than Gunderson's as paintings but less so as pictures. In "The Ravenswood Series: Four Brush Britta," the three-dimensionality of the surface contrasts with his depiction of the cocktail glass, human figure and cat as flat, solid-color silhouettes, denying the volumetric aspect of objects and playing against the very object-ness of the painting itself. Ron Snapp combines paintings with everyday objects in the real world, which stand not only for themselves but for all that interferes with communication between artist and viewer. "Targets in the Landscape Revisited" consists of four separate paintings to which are attached -- and/or before which are hung -- tubing, switches, lamps, a clock, a fire alarm, what-have-you. Strangely enough these distractions make one want to concentrate on the paintings all the more. The conscious barriers are easy to deal with; it's the unconscious ones that present the problem.

The trompe-l'eoil-painted drops of water which proclaim surface Michael Byron's paintings, such as "A Cantina Named 'You Know Where' ", achieve a counterpoint with the dream-like images which appear to float up to and back from those surfaces. These works play off illusion and reality against one another, and as well the physical nature of the work of art as a reflection of the mental activity of the artist.

David Bates is the most traditional painter here, but the figures in his works, such as "Hawkins," have so much physical presence that it transcends itself to reach into the realm of the metaphysical by implying qualities such as integrity and character.

"Painting" continues through Dec. 15 at the Meyerhoff Gallery in the Fox Building of the Maryland Institute, College of Art, Mount Royal and Lafayette Avenues. Call (410) 669-9200.

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