'Home' isn't quite where the heart is

ART REVIEW

May 05, 1992|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Art Critic

There is probably no noun in all the language, except perhaps mother, that has so deep and personal a resonance as does home. So an exhibit on the subject certainly has the potential to be moving. The problem with "Home," now at Maryland Art Place, is that too many of its parts just aren't.

A joint project of MAP and Arlington Arts Center (where it was shown earlier this year), it consists of four installations and a group of photographs. The most effective is Luis Flores' "Homeland/Refugee." According to curator Judy Byron, writing in the show's catalog, Flores approaches the subject "from the perspective of Salvadoran refugees in the United States." But what distinguishes this installation is that it is both specific and general -- that is, it's specific enough to be general.

Arranged more or less as a bedroom, the work consists largely of mementos of home -- pictures and objects that speak of a continuing attachment to the far away and perhaps long ago: a washboard, a hat, a goblet, photos of what must be family members and perhaps the artist himself at an earlier age -- those little things that mean more than words can make them mean.

Margaretha Bull and Pam Thompson collaborated on "Homeland/Indigenous Culture," which is about several things at once: past and present, the encroachment of urban life on nature, and how the American Indian past remains with us even though we have made it virtually invisible.

A huge mantle of latex hung across the space and pieces of plaster strewn along the floor bear the imprints of organic matter, especially leaves. Rows of hanging branches cast shadows on the wall, evoking something of the feel of walking in the forest and seeing sun filter through the trees. A map on the wall shows former Indian trails in the eastern United States, and one needs only glance at it to know that many of them have become modern-day roads. Vessel shapes contain the leavings of human presence: beer cans, a license plate, etc., and kernels of corn, the Indian crop -- the only one of these leavings that has the capacity to replenish itself.

The other three elements of the show are pretty flat. Craig Pleasants' "Homelessness" consists of several articles -- a chair, pieces of linoleum found in Baltimore, balls of various sizes -- in a space whose walls are papered with rows of tiny photographs of people, representing the hundreds of thousands of homeless in this country. One understands intellectually the sincerity of this work, but one doesn't really feel it.

George Chang's "Dreamhouse" makes the point that technology, by invading our homes, robs us of privacy; but it's visually too neutral to be effective. Brigid Globensky's photographs of the things with which people populate their homes might have been telling, but the relatively few here don't say enough; they might have more meaning as part of a larger project.

The show runs through June 6 at Maryland Art Place, 218 W. Saratoga St. Call (410) 962-8565.

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