'Series' show of Maryland artists isn't as much as it could be


April 09, 1992|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Art Critic

Maryland artists, like artists everywhere, need all the exposure they can get, so it's good news that the Art Gallery of the University of Maryland at College Park has inaugurated a "Maryland State Artists Series" of exhibitions, the first of which is now on view with a second edition slated for the spring of 1994. The bad news is that this show isn't as good as one would have hoped. But that shouldn't be taken as discouraging the continuation of the series.

The idea was to show emerging artists, and of 150 who applied six were chosen. The number is appropriate; three have made site-specific installations. A largely successful installation of the show as a whole gives each artist a more or less discrete space.

The problem is too many of these artists either think they have more to say than they do, or expand what could have been a successful work on a smaller scale into something too pretentious for its own good.

Take Mercedes Teixido's "Her Favorite One." One part of this work is a hanging "house" made out of screening, inside which is suspended a red cushion bearing two tiny, probably plastic, feet. Next to this is a hanging "house" made of a fine mesh see-through fabric, and tiny hands hang from the base of this house. The meaning of these surrealist images may be obscure, but visually they add up to a striking, even beautiful presentation. By adding a series of drawings and another series of lighted images on two adjacent walls, however, Teixido dilutes the effect and makes the work as a whole less successful than part of it.

Other artists also end up disappointing to some degree. Some of Mary Deacon Opasik's wall pieces made of found objects are clever and pointed; "Psychoanalysis," for one, with its suggestion of a swing out of a box and into either freedom or the void (but watch that row of spikes down below), and "Sterility," with its soap dispenser for a head. Others make less sense, suggesting the need for some self-editing.

Keith Tishken's photographs taken from peeling advertising signs and similar material on urban walls strive for more meaning than they achieve. Randi Reiss-McCormack's installation "The House Project" has a pleasant enough appearance but doesn't add up to much, and Lisa Austin's installation "The Myth of Objective Reality" adds up to something like confusion confounded.

In this show, Mary Kunaniec Skeen's photographs provide the most consistently interesting group of works. We may not know exactly what we're identifying with in a work such as "RELAX/SCREAM/ FALL," which consists of a photograph of a blindfolded woman with bound hands between two identical photos of swirling clouds -- or water -- vaguely in the shape of a screaming mouth. But we sense an idea suggestive of trauma or fear, and the element of the mysterious makes it all the more disturbing.

The show runs through April 24 at the Art Gallery in the Art-Sociology Building at the University of Maryland at College Park. Call (301) 405-2763.

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