Mark Karnes' three charcoal drawings on view at Galerie Francoise are, above all, about light. Their subject matter -- landscape or cityscape -- serves mainly as a way to organize compositions and to provide the kind of contrast -- the dark element -- that assists in creating light.
The side of a building and one or two bush-like objects provide that contrast in "Sutton Pool," making the entire center of the space so blindingly bright that the pool to which the title refers cannot really be seen at all. In "Rogers Forge" the light bounces off the buildings that sit there so solidly parallel to the picture plane, punctuated with the dark holes of windows and contrasting with the shadow at the bottom of the picture.
Karnes is one of three artists in the gallery's current "Influences" show, and we're told that the influence is his on the other two artists, Kim Parr and Bill Tamburrino. He taught them both at the Maryland Institute, College of Art, and you can see it in some ways in the works of both Parr and Tamburrino.
It's there not only in the medium of Parr's drawing "Winter Interior," but also in her skillful use of light -- though light in her work is less exclusively central to the image. It has to share that position with the complex spatial organization as well as with the sense of whiling away a lazy afternoon that communicates well through the two recumbent figures. "Winter Interior" is the better of Parr's two drawings on display, both of which are much better than her paintings. From the latter, one gets a vague sense of atmosphere. But there is a difference between looseness of execution and sheer sloppiness, and Parr crosses the line too often.
It's possible to see a Karnes influence in Tamburrino's paintings, and not primarily in the fact that he chooses city scenes. For Tamburrino, too, subject matter serves less as an end in itself than as an excuse; here it is for the creation of colors and textures that are of interest rather than for any descriptive role they play.
Get up close enough to "South Baltimore: Autumn" so you can't read it as a picture and it becomes a series of planes -- most geometric, but here and there an organic one -- that are about brown and rust and blue and purple and the changes that Tamburrino can ring within those colors.
Similarly, the bottom half of "Winter Sunrise" is all horizontal bands of color -- blue and gray -- interrupted by an area of brown angling in at the right. A wall in "Woodberry" is about the startling way that color can change in sunlight and shadow. When Tamburrino is at his most descriptive, as in "Summer Sunset," he is least satisfying. When he is most abstract he is at his best.
The show continues through April 27 at Galerie Francoise et ses freres, Green Spring Station at Falls and Joppa roads. Call (410) 337-2787.