At School 33, making sense of it all from 'Fragments'

November 03, 1993|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Art Critic

"Fragments" at School 33 appears to be a show about finished works that nevertheless suggest pieces torn from a larger whole. These are things meant to imply worlds beyond what they themselves can encompass; they succeed in varying degrees.

The wood sculptures of Foon Sham stand out, and "Woodscape" is the largest and clearly the most important. A human-sized tower of layers of wood, with some of its surface areas rough and some smooth, has small holes cut in its sides at various levels. In a gash at the bottom of this tower is placed a mound-like piece of wood, as if emerging or entering. The implications of this piece are manifold. It at once suggests the tower of a medieval castle, an immense structure like a vertical city with windows in some of its hundreds of levels, a cave from which some prehistoric beast emerges, a variant on a classical column, an abstracted symbol of sexual intercourse, and the human figure. In short, it manages to imply the past, present and future of

civilization, quite a feat; but at the same time it remains true to itself as a piece of sculpted wood, handsome in its warmth of tone, its variety of tactile textures, and its quietly impressive physical presence.

Janet Wheeler's wall-mounted paper constructions colored with iridescent oilstick look as if they might be cut-out patterns for ceremonial robes discovered intact in a sealed tomb of some long-lost civilization. They're obviously meant to connote much about that society without actually communicating anything specific, thus retaining their mystery. But they're a little bit too superficially attractive in their beautiful golds and silvers and blues and their tailored-looking shapes to be as deep as intended.

Somewhat the same is true of Sarah Pitkin's paintings with additions of painted sticks. Inspired by archaeological sites, they are meant to connote the effort to impose the order of civilization upon the disorder of conflicting individual impulses; and one can read that in them, but in a way that's obvious and not particularly meaningful.

Carl Knudsen's paintings sometimes become constructions as well by incorporating structural elements such as wooden pediments with finials, or simply articles like painted glass marbles. The structural ones are more interesting than the pure paintings, and the best of them is "Inheritance," in which the elements are particularly well-combined and the generational theme makes itself clear. Knudsen's works here suggest an artist whose vision is not yet fully formed, but they show promise.

The upstairs gallery this time around is devoted to "Potluck," constructions by Jim Opasik. From an artist's statement we learn that these heads formed of kitchen utensils are supposed to say something about the relationship between the inner and the outer being. Sorry, Jim, I'm not buying that part. But if you can settle for someone who finds these pieces, formed from woks and coffee pots and meat platters and can openers, just plain old fun and good fun, then I'm your person.

ART REVIEW

What:"Fragments"

Where: School 33 Art Center, 1427 Light St.

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

Call: (410) 396-4641

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