In presentation of works, artistry anew

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

There are a lot of old friends among the artists in Grimaldis' 15th anniversary show, but they don't add up to anything old. On the contrary, they communicate a sense of the fresh and challenging, partly because of the creative juxtaposition of the works of the 10 artists included.

Take Grace Hartigan, for instance. Two paintings, "Freesia" from 1960 and "Degas Sketchbook" from 1992, hang next to one another in the gallery. The earlier one, filled with color, energy, emotion and tension, is totally abstract. The recent one at first looks totally different; it's painted in gray and black, and plainly depicts several riders and horses a la Degas.

But gradually it becomes clear that this painting is as abstract as the other. What you see is the embodiment of abstract concepts. The grayness is the perfect way to render visible the intellectuality of Degas, as opposed to the sensuality of a Renoir. The overlapping planes and shallow space are a tribute to Degas' unorthodox rendering of space, which helped to move art toward the 20th century and to artists such as Hartigan. And the very fact of such a tribute is a statement of faith in the continuity and the future of art.

There are other revelations here, too. Theodoros Stamos' gestural painting "The Day the Phoenix Rose" (1956) brings out the intensity beneath the calmer surface of his later "Infinity Field Lefkada Series" (1980).

Jonathan Silver's sculpture has always appeared deeply expressive in its ugliness, but his "Even with Eve" (1987) and "Small Venus" (1989) reveal a beauty of line. Abstract sculptor Anthony Caro has never seemed so referential, though what he's referring to may not be quite visible: Despite its rusted steel, "Table Piece CCCLXXXI" (1977) possesses a lightness that suggests the movement of air and its effects, while "Table Piece 'Catalan Chant'" (1987-1988) exudes sexuality.

Conceptual artist John Baldessari's works are often difficult to decipher, but not the recent "Meat: Passers-by/ Flowers (incomplete)/Person with Money/Bowl and Spoon" (1992); this indictment of society presents us with the coexistence of greed and want, the destruction of beauty and the environment, the triumph of image over reality.

The show also includes works by Elaine de Kooning, Willem de Kooning, Hans Hofmann, Eugene Leake and Alice Neel, several in other interesting juxtapositions of works that call across the decades to one another.

These are some of the artists this gallery has shown during its 15-year history here; it's an impressive roster that leaves one looking forward with high hopes and enthusiastic anticipation to what the next 15 years will bring.

Aniversary show

Where: The C. Grimaldis Gallery, 1006 Morton St.

When: Tuesdays through Saturdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sundays 1 to 5 p.m.

Call: (410) 539-1080.

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