Seven artists show works that react to society

December 24, 1991|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

Jenni Lukac's "Mississippi Shrine," among the best of a generally good group of works in School 33's new show, is an installation memorial to three civil rights activists who were murdered in 1963. A large photograph on the wall shows a wooded scene like the area where they were buried. Hung on this are pictures of the three, Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner. On the floor in front of this, memorial candles share a patch of earth with chewing gum wrappers, a cigarette butt and other debris.

It's a testament to how we all forget -- have you been carrying those names around in your head recently? I haven't -- and to the fact that the fallen heroes of the civil rights struggle remind us of its nature as a war of liberation.

Lukac is one of seven artists in "Mixing It Up: Art Reacts to Society," a show similar to Maryland Art Place's concurrent issue-oriented exhibit, "The Gathering Storm," but different in feel. Whereas the latter has about it an overall wistfulness for a civilization being lost, "Mixing It Up" in the main deals more directly with specific socio-political issues and thus has a somewhat harder edge.

Painter Arvie Smith confronts rape, or at least cruelty, in "Tell Momma All About It." As a man, whose fists tell of his nature, turns to leave, the young woman in a slip looks out of the picture with an expression that doesn't register any emotion just yet. We know that it's too soon for fear or shame or anger -- they are still to come.

Mary Anne Crowe's "Jones Falls Valley: Views From Third Study for Maryland/American Landscape Painting" takes on what man does to the environment through a specific example, the Jones NTC Falls Valley and the fact that it has become the site of a highway instead of the park planned as far back as a 1904 study. That study is included here, along with a lot of text and picture materialthat most people probably won't examine in great detail. The point gets across anyway, though.

Not all of the artists here are so specific or so successful. Carl Clark "trains his camera on the diversity of contemporary urban life," as Heartney states, but not, to these eyes, "in a way that suggests a common humanity beneath our very different life styles." At any rate, his work, despite its strengths, is a little too generalized for the rest of this show, which is at its best in those works that make a point good and hard.

The show runs through Jan. 31 at School 33 Art Center, 1427 Light St. Call 396-4641.

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