Illusions illuminated in thought-provoking show at School 33


December 29, 1992|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Art Critic

Acting as curator for the current show at School 33 is artist Trace Miller, who has brought together the work of three artists, come up with the fancy umbrella title "Form as Metaphor," and dreamed up a statement about why they all fit under it that doesn't make too much sense to me.

But that's all right: When your eye is as good as Miller shows his to be here, it doesn't matter if your rationale is a little far-fetched. These are strong artists.

It's hard to get beyond Jeff Adkins' beautiful surfaces of paint and dyed rice paper on canvas, and his richly somber colors, to see that his paintings are really about something. They involve a structure or indication of home ("Yard," for instance) and in some cases people, and they suggest the positive and negative aspects of shelter. In "Swallows," a tree-like form supports on one branch a small Victorian-looking house and on another several walled structures with faces in them.

Family tree comes to mind, and the implication that we are trapped by the very things that give us comfort -- family, house, possessions. "Break," with its two figures in a suggestion of an interior, conveys much the same message.

Douglass Hoagg's wood and paint sculptures are related to minimalism in their simplicity of form, but they are obviously hand-crafted. They possess a haunting sense of longing for a long-dead past or, perhaps, for something buried deep in the collective unconscious. "Antelope," basically a triangle but with just a suspicion of animal form, brings to mind prehistoric cave paintings; "Double Shield" recalls classical antiquity. These and Hoagg's other sculptures have a clarity of form that connotes a desire for clarity of values as well.

David Fox's big paintings speak of a loss of illusions about civilization. In "Press," a huge pile of books surrounds an old-fashioned press on a beach where the tide appears to be coming in. Compared with the number of books that could have been turned out when such presses were in use, advances in technology should have made us an incredibly literate and knowledgeable civilization, but the promise has not been fulfilled. Instead, these books -- that is, learning -- are in danger of being destroyed.

These three artists have produced a thought-provoking show, and each does have something to say about illusion -- illusion about security, illusion about the past, the loss of illusions about civilization. This is one to be seen.

And while you're at School 33, go upstairs and treat yourself to a look at Steve Reber's installation, "Time Out." He's made a human-scale bird cage, complete with newspaper on the floor and all sorts of objects from everyday life that are covered in bird seed, from an iron and a flashlight to a football and a hot water bottle. It's funny and fun, especially with the upbeat accompanying music, but it's also got its serious side. Unlike birds in cages, we can walk out of this room, so we're free -- or are we? Or aren't we to some degree living in a cage of our own making? Reber's work and Adkins' have something in common.

'Form as Metaphor'

Where: School 33 Art Center, 1427 Light St.

When: Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Through Jan. 29.

Call: (410)396-4641.

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