Martick's bar in the 1950s was Baltimore's intellectual meeting place, and there has been nothing to equal it since. Among many other activities, Morris Martick, who now presides over the quite different restaurant at the same Mulberry Street location, allowed artists to show their works there. It was a period of optimism in the arts, and those who remember it often look back with fondness.
They can indulge that fondness, and others can have a taste of the period, in "Baltimore Bohemians: The Martick's Years" at the BAUhouse. Organized by free-lance curator Richard Edson, it includes nine artists who frequented the bar and exhibited there in the 1950s, though the works themselves are not all or mostly from that decade.
On the whole, Edson has done well. Aside from one or two questionable choices, most of the artists are good, most of their works are strong.
A younger audience will no doubt recognize some of these names. Joan Erbe's strongly colored fantasy paintings may well be familiar, but here we get to see an early, more realistic "B&O Cityscape" and a slightly later work, "The Sorcerer," which provides something of a transition to the two recent works. The selection here of the late Glenn Walker's work consists mainly of drawings and watercolors, and confirms Edson's opinion that Walker was strongest as a draftsman.
The late May Wilson earned a considerable reputation after a move to New York in the 1970s, particularly with her assemblages of found objects. She is represented here by two early, almost naive paintings and by later work such as her "ridiculous portraits" for which she appropriated older art and made it over with humorous juxtapositions.
Liz Whitney Quisgard lives in New York and has widely shown her decorative two- and three-dimensional paintings based partly on Islamic textiles, several of which are on view in this show.
For me the principal rewards of this show come from seeing artists little known before. Ralph McGuire's paintings combine naive-looking cityscapes with passages of abstraction that play off of the "picture" aspect in an unusual way. Bill Leizman's representational sculpture, abstract paintings and a small, Klee-like etching are all quite different looking, but all in some way exhibit surrealist influence.
And the late Morris Sokolsky's paintings are strikingly beautiful. As Edson says in his sketch on the artist, one can see something of Francis Bacon in Sokolsky's distorted figures, but perhaps more important are his fine color sense, his tactile brush stroke and his sensuous surfaces.
The show runs through Feb. 7 at the BAUhouse, 1713 N. Charles St. Friday at 7 p.m. there will be an artists' forum with Quisgard, Leizman and Edson. Call (410) 659-5443.