Patterson's originality doesn't pay off

September 28, 1993|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Art Critic

Gregory Patterson's works, now at Loyola Art Gallery, "portray a visual exploration of the human body, its systems and functions and how they interact with the external environment," according to a press release for the exhibit. Let's see.

The show consists primarily of three large works that exist

uncomfortably in a region between the realms of sculpture and installation. "Infect" is made up of three groups of 12 clear plastic containers, each group lined up in four rows of three. Through each row of containers runs a fluorescent light. Thirty-five of the 36 containers are filled with clear water. The 36th contains a greenish liquid. One supposes this stands for the power of a malignant presence to infect the healthy body.

"Mother's Milk (Tantalus)" consists of a Plexiglas cube fitted with rubber nipples and mounted high on a wall, from which two tubes descend to the ground and rise again to a sphere sitting on a lower shelf. The sphere, partly filled with a milky liquid, has a device that's tripped by the approach of a visitor, resulting in the liquid rising through one of the tubes to create a spray for a few seconds in the center of the plastic cube above. Or at least that's what's supposed to happen. It wasn't working the day I was there, until the gallery attendant fixed it.

Since the approach of the viewer causes the "milk" in this device to flow, but then the place to which it flows is too high for the viewer to reach, this perhaps means that we humans cause mother nature to give up her resources but then we are too small (of mind, that is) to use them properly.

"Stasis," the most interesting of this trio, consists of four glass tanks, each partly filled with water and suspended in an open-sided metal construction. Each tank is suspended by means of springs, and tubes connect the tanks to one another. As one watches, water is pumped from two of the tanks and into the other two. Because of the way the tanks are suspended, they rise as they are emptied and descend as they are filled, keeping the surface of the water at the same level in relation to the rest of the room. This has something to do with showing how things ought to be kept in balance -- both in the universe and in the body, perhaps, or maybe in the body as a microcosm of the universe.

Patterson also works in a more traditional medium. On one gallery wall are three small paintings, titled "Cell Series #1," "Cell Series #2," "Cell Series #3." The checklist of the exhibition says these are created of "oil, wax, bodily fluids." Which bodily fluids it doesn't specify.

In his more ambitious works Patterson goes to a great deal of trouble to make old points in new ways. But the new ways, by and large, fail to excite the imagination, so one is left with a feeling of "So what?" One can at least credit the artist with pursuing originality, and the gallery with recognizing that, even if the pursuit doesn't really pay off here.

ART REVIEW

What: Works by Gregory Patterson

Where: The Art Gallery at Loyola College, 4501 North Charles St.

When: 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays, through Oct. 8

Call: (410) 617-2799

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