'Growth' escapes the confines of usual landscape conventions

February 24, 1993|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Art Critic

Landscape in its broad sense (cityscape, seascape) is so constant a part of our lives that we can see it almost anywhere. Abstract artists have used vertical rather than horizontal lines in their paintings because the latter might suggest a horizon -- it is, after all, where the word horizontal comes from.

Thus someone wanting to do a landscape show has a wide latitude of choice, and painter Diane Kuthy has used it in %J curating "Growth and Atrophy: the Empathetic Landscape" at School 33. Not all of the works by the eight artists in this show would strike one as being landscapes if they were not in a landscape show; but once in, they do fit in one way or another.

With "You Can See It from Here" Hermine Ford has fashioned a canvas in all-over blue-gray except for a tiny corner of lighter color at the top, into which -- or from which -- a stream in the blue-gray appears to flow. The suggestion of landscape is clear, but the picture works on two other, contradictory levels as well. It can be taken metaphorically, as connoting aspirations, or it can be taken on the level of visual symbolism as the virtual engulfment of the environment by pollution.

Gerald Hawkes' "Learn Tree and Park Avenue" is one of his painstakingly constructed matchstick works, of a tree with spreading branches in front of two houses. As the tree has a cross in its trunk, we assume that it refers to the presumably desirable spread of religion, but this matchstick tree also carries its own ironic message: Just as it took a long time to make this picture, so it takes a long time to make a tree, so cutting one down is an act of destruction; but a tree had to be cut down in order to make the matchsticks from which this picture was created.

Jessica Weiss' "Diablo," an abstract painting with bits and pieces of debris in it, looks like landscape under the microscope -- a tremendous blowup of a tiny piece of earth. It reminds us that the most insignificant bit of dirt may, when approached properly, yield unexpected interest.

Gregory Crane's paintings, "Burned Fields with Windmill" and "Storm over Paradise Street" are the most obvious landscapes here -- or are they? These surreal images are really landscapes that reflect the mind's processes.

Randi Reiss-McCormack has made a "Cellar Door" like the horizontal cellar doors on the backs of houses. Only this one looks like it's made of earth and covered with grass. Open it up, though (it's allowed), and what do you see? Nothing but pipes, wires and tubes, the underground workings of civilization. It is this for which we have sacrificed the virgin landscape.

Sukey Bryan's painting "New Land," one of the most satisfying works here, looks like a landscape and doesn't. The more you study it the more it seems to be a gestural abstraction that is more about human emotions than about anything this work may at one level depict.

R. Edward Nadeau's paintings, one untitled and the other called "Patience," are of all the works here the most directly concerned with destruction of the landscape and what it does and will do to those who destroy it.

Ivy Parsons' "Surfacing," an enormous and glittering cascade of copper and mica, suggests above all the beauty of nature. It looks like sunlight dancing across the surface of the sea.

ART REVIEW

What: "Growth and Apathy"

Where: School 33 Art Center, 1427 Light St.

When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; through March 26.

Call: (410) 396-4641.

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