Black faculty members' works show range of expression

February 11, 1993|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Art Critic

For some reason, there don't seem to be as many art exhibitions on the occasion of Black History Month this year as I remember from former years. Programs yes, but exhibitions no. One of the exceptions is Dundalk Community College's "In Celebration of Black History Month," which brings together 10 African-American faculty members from local colleges and universities.

This is not a theme show, for these artists' interests are as wide-ranging as their media -- from painting to sculpture to prints to paper wall reliefs to ceramics.

A few of the works deal specifically with social themes. Randall J. Craig's "Female Recidivists" shows a group of women behind barbed wire who look as if they shouldn't to be there. Kenneth Royster's "Urban Flavor" monoprints deal with the cacophony and sometimes threatening nature of life in the modern city. And Ronald X. Roberson in "Atonement" uses an original, superimposed image-on-image format to suggest that the rich eventually atone for what their riches deprive others of.

Other artists' interests range from portraiture (Kenneth Rodgers) landscape (Luke A. Shaw) to the small but surprisingly strong, vessel-like but also sculptural ceramic forms of Carlton Leverette.

Two artists here offer especially rewarding works. Edgar H. Sorrells-Adewale's wall reliefs, of handmade paper with additions such as cowrie shells and bits of colored glass and tiny dolls, probe both psychological depths and collective history, and can be startingly beautiful as well.

His "Power Cross" combines Christian symbolism with suggestions of other religions and mythologies, and centers on a succession of faces, each peeling away to reveal another underneath. The idea that each of us is the summation of both an individual and a collective past comes through this image, which is commanding both in its parts and as a whole.

His "The Phoenix Principle, Book One -- Page 7" is more discursive and less immediately commanding, both visually and iconographically, but it reaches back to Africa (via maps) to deal with (I think) the violent and forcibly fragmented past of blacks. The small dolls that dot the surface of this work appear to represent today's generation, searching or bits and pieces of a vast and uncohesive past. The more you look at this, the more it means.

I have been looking at Sorrells-Adewale's work here and there for a number of years, and it means so much more to me now than it used to that I wonder if his art has improved as much as it seems to have, or if it was always as good but it's taken this much familiarity to breed some degree of response. Perhaps a little of both?

Gabriel Tenabe's paintings combine a strong sense of color, texture and patterning with stylized figures to create images that have both authority and warmth, two qualities rarely found in such careful balance.

His "Creation" suggests the same origin of the universe as of a child, and it's -- at least primarily -- a mother, not a father. The figure in"Second Struggle" has the look of an image of utter rectitude. Tenabe's paintings can be searched for meaning or can be roamed for the pure visual pleasure they offer.

ART REVIEW

Where: Dundalk Community College, 7200 Sollers Point Road.

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays, through Feb. 28.

Call: (410) 285-9876.

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