With its just-opened "Situations," School 33 presents a remarkably consistent show. All three of its artists fall below the levels to which they aspire. That does not mean that they are all equal, however.
Stuart P. Stein is a good painter. His facture is strong, and the same can be said of his images, whether of a person, a motorcycle, a missile, a piece of machinery. There's something reminiscent of the precisionists in his choice of subject matter, and his brush stroke gives a muscular edge to his pictures.
His theme, however, is a bit of a cliche and his manner of visualizing it a bit obvious. The seven works in this show all bear titles beginning with "Fear of . . ." -- of sex, of falling, of flying, etc. These, together with his primarily masculine-associated images, suggest that men's (I mean men's, not humankind's) fascination with such things as machines and bombs are the result of, or an attempt to cover up or compensate for, their profound fear of life.
"Fear of Sex" consists of a dual image, part of a motorcycle next to a hand touch ing flesh. "Fear of Flying," another dual image, brings together a missile and a man plunging forward. These and the other paintings here are very well done, but the message they communicate is somewhat ho-hum, and one wonders whether Stein might not use his considerable talents better in a less programmatic way.
Jean Ohring's paintings of individuals in interior settings -- presumably family members, since the same people appear over and over in these works -- are also very well painted technically. But they look like renderings into oil of photographs, and while one understands that they are supposed to deal with psychological interactions beneath the surface of everyday life, they simply don't. Or at least not to a degree that holds the viewer's attention, so instead of dealing with the universal they end up having all the interest of pictures in the photo album of a family we don't know.
Edgar Kel Smith's works suffer a similar fate. His images combine family snapshots with other pictures (or occasionally something else, such as a fingerprint) to create what have been called conceptual works. They are somewhat like the works of John Baldessari, but more personal in nature. That's all right in principle -- the best way to the universal is through the individual -- but Smith's works smack both of the facile and of the deliberately obscure. They are meant to mean more than they do mean, and their mystery is a smoke screen.
All of these artists have talent, and I do not mean to suggest that any of them is less than committed and sincere. But their work is not yet as substantial as it may well be before long.
Where: School 33 Art Center, 1427 Light St.
When: Tuesdays to Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., through Oct. 2.
Call: (410) 396-4641.