Among works in the current Grimaldis Gallery group show, Mel Kendrick's "Purple Heart and Poplar" is particularly stunning. His wooden sculptures look like they're reversing the course of 20th-century art, going backward through cubism from abstraction to representation, but they can also incorporate aspects of the history of art more broadly, while retaining the integrity of their elements. That is particularly true of this work. Looked at one way, it's reminiscent of a figure from the Laocoon, another way it's a dancer by Degas. It's at once brutal and sensual; but none of that robs it of its interplay of pure mass and void, volume and line.
Every summer this gallery has a group exhibit largely made up of works by its "stable" of regularly shown artists, which includes Kendrick, Anthony Caro, Grace Hartigan, Eugene Leake, Elaine de Kooning and Norris Embry.
It's never possible to deal with all of these regulars and also say a word about some of the new faces, but attention must be paid to the two recent paintings of Trace Miller because they suggest the artist has undergone a significant change. Miller has always been a most accomplished painter, but in the past there was something of the tour de force in his work, of showing how good he was for its own sake. One began to wonder if he might slip down an easy path to eventual slickness.
The two paintings here, "Pressed" and "Peeled," indicate, happily, a major step in the opposite direction. There's a new gutsiness about these paintings, they're more expressive of personal feeling, and they're more interesting in the way that they reveal the artist's hand. They're harder to take than Miller's earlier work, but more rewarding.
The summer show usually includes some newcomers, and XTC among this year's is Spanish sculptor Pello Irazu. His wall-mounted "4C" consists of four pieces of steel, square and black at the back, with raised, red-painted segments that curve at top and bottom. Initially, the work suggests minimalism, but there are indications of more than meets the eye. The squiggles in the black steel suggest calligraphy, and there's something anthropomorphic about the curves of the red segments, especially the lower curves. It's too bad the show only includes one of his works, and one that's somewhat tentative, too.
Richard Ballard's landscapes are notable for the textures of their surfaces, for the richness of their colors and for their light, which more than anything else brings them to life and defines them. The paintings here concentrate on a tiny piece of landscape, most of them limited to one tree on a bit of ground, yet they don't leave the impression of being pieces of a larger whole; rather, they have an integrity and completeness about them that suggests the larger whole.
Warren Brandt's pastel still lifes bring to mind Matisse, not so much in the way they look as in the way they delight in the sensuality of seeing.
Mary Shaffer's metal and glass sculptures offer a play of opposites -- dark against light, geometric against organic, solid against liquid. For although glass and metal are both solids, Shaffer bends glass in ways that make it a flowing, watery substance. Her work is attractive, but not particularly deep.
In fact, these newcomers don't look as if they're going to eclipse the best of Grimaldis' regulars any time soon.
What: "Summer '93" group show
Where: C. Grimaldis Gallery, 523 N. Charles St.
When: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, through Aug. 21
$ Call: (410) 539-1080