'Hypnosis' shows us the mesmerizing stuff dreams are made of

January 28, 1993|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Art Critic

Sometimes the Maryland Institute College of Art comes up with far-fetched titles in an effort to create a link among artists that it wants to show together. One such title is "Hypnosis," which doesn't really fit all four women whose work is on view in the Meyerhoff Gallery.

pTC The one it fits best is Mineko Grimmer, whose "music boxes" are indeed mesmerizing. Each is an open-topped box fitted with strips of bamboo and taut wires. Above this hangs an inverted pyramid of pebbles frozen in ice. As the ice melts, the pebbles fall on the bamboo and the wires, making clacking and pinging sounds.

This "music" attracts one to look, listen and think about such things as the rise and decay of civilizations and how the passage of time seems to accelerate. In the presence of these boxes such thoughts are not depressing, for they are accompanied by a kind of serene fatalism.

Other artists have added the element of time to works of visual art, but rarely so elegantly.

Jane Hammond's paintings are surrealistic in imagery, but perhaps even more so in the process of creation.

She ascribes numbers to hundreds of collected images, and then chooses the imagery for a particular work by selecting numbers at random.

It's something like those novels of the 1960s that consisted of loose pages that the reader shuffled and then read in whatever order they fell into. The difference lies in the fact that the randomness comes at the beginning of the creation of the work of art rather than at the end, so that logic and meaning can be imposed on a group of elements that have been selected without logic or meaning.

But as in a dream, meaning is evasive in Hammond's finished works, though one senses that it's unquestionably there. Paintings of a blindfolded person leading across a rocky stage someone who can see, or a of figure that's partly solid and partly ghostlike, make a kind of sense that's just beyond us.

Hammond's introduction of an element of chance into her work challenges the sense of inevitability that a finished work invariably implies, and by extension challenges the accumulated weight of art history. If a work depends on chance, it is possible that it may break the chain of what has led up to it.

Lydia Dona's paintings, with their complex titles -- "Fear of Falling into a Grid, the Margins and the Edges of the Void," "The Broken Path of Multiple Edges Where Cycles Reopen to Loss" -- challenge the past with the kind of blankness that asks: What will fill the void?

Large "blank" areas of single-color areas, sometimes partially covered with a grid, push aside bits and pieces of art and general history -- abstract expressionist mark-making, equations, mechanical diagrams, biological cells -- but these are never quite obliterated.

The questions these works ask include whether we can (and perhaps whether we should) escape the baggage of the past, and whether history represents progress toward meaning or descent into chaos.

Theodora Skipitares appears out of place in this company, but it is probably because she uses the sculptures included here in her performances.

Despite the fact that they are supposed to stand alone, they look as if they need her presence.

ART REVIEW

What: "Hypnosis."

Where: Meyerhoff Gallery, Fox Building, Maryland Institute, College of Art, Mount Royal and Lafayette avenues.

When:10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays (to 9 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays); noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Through Feb. 21.

Call: (410) 225-2300.

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