Atrium sculpture is good, solid and almost unnoticed

February 12, 1993|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Art Critic

WASHINGTON — Put your sculpture in an art gallery and how any people see it in a day? Ten? Twenty? Fifty? A hundred? Put your sculpture in a public space and thousands of people walk past it every day. But how many actually see it?

That question is occasioned by an exhibit called "Near the Turn of a Century: Regional Rinehart Sculpture," now at the Washington office and retail complex called Washington Square. Located at busy Connecticut Avenue and L Street in Northwest, the building has an atrium on the corner with three floors of shops and eating places, a kind of mini-version of the Gallery at Harborplace.

Since 1984, the developers of Washington Square have had an art program that has featured more than 500 artists. The latest show brings together 26 sculptors from the Baltimore-Washington area who are all alumni of the Rinehart School of Sculpture, a graduate program at the Maryland Institute College of Art named after 19th-century sculptor William Henry Rinehart. The show's curator is one of those graduates, John Ferguson. It's billed as a show in celebration of the Rinehart's centennial, but since that won't happen until 1996, let's say "advance celebration."

No one could complain about Washington Square's art program, for it gives artists a much-needed opportunity to show their work. But the other day I spent an hour at lunchtime on the atrium's three levels, during which time there was a ceaseless stream of people through the spaces, and I saw the sculpture noticed twice: Two men made adolescent remarks about one of the works, and a group of four men made adolescent remarks about another of the works. No one else even seemed to be aware there was art in the space, and as time went by I began to feel sorry for it; after all, it was doing its best.

And there was definitely worthwhile sculpture to be seen. The show is a credit to the strengths of the Rinehart, for, if there's nothing that absolutely takes your breath away, this is good, solid sculpture.

It's also a credit to the school's lack of dogmatism. There's everything from Tylden Streett's "Aleda" and "Youth" and Bob Copskey's "Leroy," quite traditional figurative sculpture, to Allyn Massey's "Untitled," an elegant metal and cork cube, and James Adajian's "Untitled," three towers of bamboo in graduated thicknesses subtly tinted with the primary colors.

Among works of particular note are sculptures by Raya Bodnarchuk, Richard Roussel, Paul Glasgow and especially Patrick McGuire. This sculptor's "Companions of God" is an attenuated cross shape with birds and foliage, all carved in wood. It sounds terribly old-fashioned, even corny, but actually it has a quiet presence of enormous dignity.

Rinehart Sculpture

Where: Washington Square, 1050 Connecticut Ave. N.W., Washington.

When: Atrium area open 6 a.m. to midnight Mondays through Fridays, 8 a.m. to midnight Saturdays, 5 p.m. to midnight Sundays; show runs through April 30.

Call: (202) 296-2800.

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