Maryland Art Place's annual benefit exhibit this year consists of two parts, both built (but only nominally) around the idea of secrets. One works, one doesn't.
"Secrets: Boxed Unbound" consists of a group of boxes made by artists. There are some good boxes here, especially those by Patty Tronolone, Pat Alexander and Tom Seiler. But as a whole this fails as a show because, at less than a dozen, there aren't enough boxes and they're sort of stuck off in a corner.
It's a different story with "Secret Pages." MAP asked 100 artists to contribute pages to a book, one page per artist, which would then be bound in four volumes and sold by the volume. Moreover, each artist was asked to contribute 26 copies of his/her/their page, so there would be 26 books or 104 separate volumes. One copy of each volume goes to the Baltimore Museum of Art's library, leaving 100 to sell.
The exhibit part comes from mounting one copy of each of the pages on the second-floor walls, which is not the best way to see them. They look a little like so many postage stamps vying for attention, and it's hard to focus on the single image. Nevertheless, there are many well-known local artists represented here and, while these pages are not major works, a good number have their rewards.
Among them (but not all of them) are: the sophisticated shapes and colors of Holly Hofmann's "Scotland Secrets," the lovely and nostalgic sky and superimposed figure in Stephanie Garmey's "Maude," the pattern of dark fields in Laura Wesley Ford's "Kansas Secret at 30,000 Feet," the floating women in Joan Erbe's "Untitled," the social commentary of Carl Clark's "Top Secret" (about war and violence) and the sheer beauty of both image and calligraphy in Mary Atherton's "Incantation."
Also, works by Juan F. Bastos, Nancy O'D. Wilson, Jose Villarrubia, Barbara Traub, Mary Kunaniec Skeen, Robert Salazar, Soledad Salame, Ruth Pettus and Chevelle Makeba Moore.
Downstairs at MAP there are currently two more exhibits. An exhibit of artists' books from the collection of Brenda Edelson includes some very impressive-looking books by artists such as Richard Tuttle, Christian Boltanski, Christian Zwang and Sol LeWitt.
The other show is an installation called "Concertina: A Scroll of the Continuum" by Carol Brown Goldberg. This consists of three parts: an 8-by-22-foot painting ending in scrolls at either end and containing (among other things) alphabet characters from other
languages; an audio accompaniment of a babble of voices, out of which occasionally a single voice comes forward saying something perhaps profound (this makes you think you're wandering around a cocktail party listening in on people's conversations); and a separate video accompaniment including pictures from the painting, pictures of nature and pictures of people.
An accompanying text by J. W. Mahoney suggests this work "is part of a vast continuum of meaning" but also "possesses the unique privacy of its own mystery." As to the second part of that, I couldn't agree more. This work may indeed have vast and deep meaning for its author, but it is so arcane that it communicates, essentially, nothing.
What: Four shows
Where: Maryland Art Place, 218 W. Saratoga St.
When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, through Oct. 2
Call: (410) 962-8565