Works involve more than meets eye Karnes' elusive paintings are surprisingly complex

ART REVIEW

June 22, 1992|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Art Critic

Mark Karnes' paintings are deceptive. Walk into the gallery at Towson State University, where they're currently on view along with some of his drawings and watercolors, and you think, "Oh yes, another nice, competent descriptive painter. More street scapes and living rooms."

But it soon becomes clear that these paintings are not about what they show at all. They're about light, and composition, and texture, and paint, and atmosphere. They're elusive, too. For works so seemingly obvious, they suggest something going on beyond the visible.

The largest one, "The Dive," shows a swimming pool, probably at a neighborhood club, with several figures grouped around it, and at the top a depiction of the suburban neighborhood under a band of sky.

There's much to study in this work, especially the calculated relationships of geometric part to geometric part, the play of light across the planes of houses, and the frieze-like nature of the figures at the pool, who appear to have paused in mid-motion, even the diver in midair.

The diver, in fact, has a curious relationship to the rest of the painting. The off-center figure appears to keep all parts of the picture in balance around it, and also to connote a stopping of time that transforms this sunlit pool into a subterranean chamber where nothing happens or changes.

Other paintings here may not be quite so complex, but they have their emanations. The parallelogram of light across the center of "Interior With Doors" has a presence that reverses the relationship between the physical and non-physical in this painting: The wall seems less tangible than the light flowing across it. And the elements arranged in "Kitchen" appear to have been placed just as they are to maintain the fragile atmosphere in which they exist.

Karnes' watercolors are less compelling, but his drawings also carry their everyday subject matter to another level.

The show runs through Aug. 2 at the Holtzman Gallery of the Fine Arts Building, Towson State University. Call (410) 830-2808.

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Among the works of six photographers now on view at Artshowcase, Bruce Blum's are notable for their interplay of light and dark and of abstract geometric composition in counterpoint to the human figure. Sometimes this works well, as in "Shaerding, Austria," and sometimes it misses, but even so it's an interesting miss. And the plant life in Richard Jaquish's nature photographs can take on the look and feel of a sculptural presence, particularly in "Plants With Sun in Water" and "Reeds in Lake."

The show runs through June 30 at Artshowcase, 336 N. Charles St. Call (410) 783-0007.

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Among other shows around town: It's nice to remember, and the Maryland Institute is nicely remembering three recently deceased graduates -- Leonard M. Bahr, Howard Hardy and Perna Krick -- in the downstairs gallery of its main building at 1300 Mount Royal Ave. The show runs through Sunday.

In 1990 and 1991 Baltimorean Barry Stebbing and Dutch painter Frank van Latum traveled across the country painting scenes in 48 states. The BAUhouse, at 1713 N. Charles St., is showing the results of the odyssey in an exhibit of almost 100 of the two artists' paintings. The paintings will be on display through July 3.

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