India, the Persian Gulf inspiration behind works on display at Nye Gomez

January 30, 1992|By Mike Giuliano | Mike Giuliano,Special to The Evening Sun

Individual people are passing blurs or mere shadows in the India photographed by Vasant Nayak, but the ancient architectural features of his native land endure. Although the series of black-and-white photographs he's showing at the Nye Gomez Gallery rely on carefully composed images to put across this message, he fortunately isn't locked into too strict an aesthetic formula.

"Man Near Sacred Stone" is typical in that all we see of the man is the bottom of his white robe. Perhaps he has come here to worship. The stone itself looks like the base of an old column, suggesting that even the timeless monuments eventually wear away, too.

Also characteristic of Nayak's approach are "Devotee Climbing Hill Temple," in which the human figure is a blur on the temple steps, and "Crossing Near River Temple," in which a boat is likewise a blurred presence against the unchanging landscape.

The relationship between ephemeral humans and eternal deities is a constant of Indian philosophy, but Nayak doesn't simply buy into this in black-and-white terms. A photograph such as "Unfinished Statues" is aware of some of the ironies involved. His subject here -- a workshop full of sacred statuary in various states of completion -- has appealed to other photographers. One can see why. These statues represent the divine and yet they are, of course, man-made. The statues still lacking limbs have a few more stages to go in the assembly process, and thus seem as vulnerable as their flesh-and-blood makers.

As for the people themselves, they are usually absent from these photographs. But their presence is strongly implied, as in "Water Well" and "Ceremonial Cloth Being Dried." When they do appear, as in the "Temple Worker" posing in a doorway, the portrait is so deliberately composed that what is gained in formal interest is to some extent lost in psychological insight.

Two other artists are also currently exhibiting at Nye Gomez.

Keith McCormack, in an artist statement, says that his recent drawings and paintings were prompted by the bombing in the Persian Gulf war. These abstract works have a geometric rigor in the way overlapping circles are used to emulate the spreading circular patterns that would register on a computer screen to show the impact of bombing on a landscape. And in such works as "Craters No. 1" and "Craters No. 2," the density of the paint application makes the orb-patterned painterly fields seem akin to a real landscape.

When McCormack becomes too literal in treatment he is less effective, as in "334 Superfortresses," which offers a high altitude view of airplanes flying against circular patterns. Also, his occasional incorporation of circles of lace raises questions as to what he means by adding such collaged notes of elegant disjunction to this series.

Gina Pierleoni's figurative paintings most often present lithe female nudes with their hands outstretched. Her style is intentionally primitive and the overall effect gaunt, as in "Maiden White World," in which rib-cage-marking black lines make the chalky-white nude woman seem rather emaciated. The directness of Pierleoni's approach is appealing, even if her work otherwise doesn't seem very profound.

Vasant Nayak, Keith McCormack and Gina Pierleoni exhibit at the Nye Gomez Gallery, at 836 Leadenhall St., through Feb. 22. Call (410) 752-2080.

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