Summer looks grand at gallery


July 23, 1992|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Art Critic

Though the summer group show at Grimaldis consists largely of the gallery's "stable" of artists, it is not without its surprises. For one thing, Grace Hartigan is doing watercolors of flowers.

One associates Hartigan, in terms of subject matter, with the history of art, with great figures of history, with the American urban scene, but not with something as normally pretty and un-tough as flowers. These, however, are thoroughly Hartigan flowers. They have the dynamics, the strength, the vitality, the exhilarating color that one expects of Hartigan, and they're also related to art history, as their titles attest: "Spring Bouquet (after Renoir)" and "Peonies (after Manet)."

And it isn't necessary to know what particular works of the French masters these are based on, for Hartigan pays tribute not just to single works but to so much of what the artists were about. The lush colors, the warmth, the sensuousness, the optimism of Renoir shine through "Spring Bouquet." And with "Peonies" there is the echo of Manet's black, and even more strongly the suggestion of death.

How appropriate that "Peonies" should be hung near Eugene Leake's "Night Pond," not only because the latter, the smallest and most recent of Leake's four paintings on view, is the surprising one, but also because the suggestion of death is present in it, too. This expressionistic little canvas, with its touch of light near the bottom of a falling darkness, conveys the sense of life as a gleam between two eternities. But even as it acknowledges the inevitable, this work somehow also conveys a sense of the importance of the gleam, of the possibility of individual worth.

John Gossage is a new artist to Grimaldis; his collages incorporating photographs have topical references -- to toxic waste, to Berlin -- but that is not their chief merit. Of the four works here the three smaller (and better) ones have something of the elegance and European sensibility of Robert Motherwell's little collages.

Of Henry Coe's two landscapes, "Cardinal Sounds" pleases by the way it finds variety in a narrow range of colors and by its real sense of weight and mood; it's a personal rather than a descriptive painting.

In this group, John Henry's painted aluminum sculpture "Goldfinch" comes off as somewhat superficial, though it serves as a foil for the fortitude and subtlety of Anne Truitt's nearby sculpture, "Speak." John Ruppert's "Eclipse" and John Van Alstine's "Implement V" are a little too immediately likable to be among these artists' most challenging sculptures. Trace Miller and the late Keith Martin have been represented by better works than the ones here.

We are talking about a strong group of artists, though.

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