Herman Maril show puts his paintings and career in a charming light

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

When Herman Maril died in 1986 he left behind not only a large body of work but an army of friends and admirers with deep affection for both him and his work.

Maril is gone but the work remains, and just now 25 of his pictures are renewing acquaintances with old friends and making new ones through the exhibit "Herman Maril Special Collectors" at University of Maryland University College in College Park.

It comprises loans from private collectors, and it is hung in a long corridor with bad lighting, where it's especially difficult to see fully the subtleties of color for which Maril was known. On the other hand, it contains a number of works from the earlier as well as the later, better known part of his career.

For Maril, color and form were paramount. He never let go of the DTC representative, but his works were basically abstractions in which he explored composition and color. This is less obvious in earlier works, which were more descriptive and in which subject matter was more evident, but it was nonetheless true.

Aside from the green of its trees, the palette of "Hay Wagon" (1935) is largely confined to a narrow range of white to gray to putty color, and "Barns" (1933) is as much as anything else about the two barn sides -- more or less abstract planes -- in brown and red. There are a number of objects in "Midnight Snack" (1955), but it's primarily given over to abstract shapes devoted to various colors and color relationships: green-gray, gray-blue, blue-violet, etc.

In these earlier works both the color and the objects are heavier and more solid, and the paintings have a great deal of both charm and character. Later, not only Maril's colors but the feel of his paintings became ever lighter, more atmospheric, more full of sheer beauty, and the abstractness of his compositions became more evident.

"Our Sea" (no date) is a good example of how the later paintings developed. Despite the presence of a few tiny people, this is essentially a painting of three unequal bands of shifting and modulating color: yellow, blue-gray-green, sand shades touched with the lightest lavender.

Something else Maril communicates through all of his work is the love of life and particularly of work. You look at one of his paintings and somehow you know he loved doing it. It's impossible to put into words exactly what it is about the painting that makes you know that; but you know.

It's' good to have this show, but at the same time too bad that a larger opportunity was not taken. Forty-eight other works by Maril hang in two rooms upstairs in the same building, many on loan from the artist's widow. If only a selection of them could have been added to the show downstairs to make it more complete. The upstairs rooms are open to the public on Sundays, otherwise by appointment. I suggest Maril lovers go on a Sunday or make an appointment.

Herman Maril

Where: University of Maryland University College Center of Adult Education, College Park.

When: Daily 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Through Oct. 18.

Call: (301) 985-7154.

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