Clear messages from 3 different media

February 01, 1994|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

Carol Reed's large charcoal and graphite drawings with collage elements -- part of a three-person show just opened at School 33 -- are powerful and subtle. They have the ability to draw you into a communication that gets richer the longer you stay with them.

They are abstract, with broad curved and angled black shapes anchoring the images and other elements that play off them, including smudges, splatters, erasures and pieces of collaged paper. At first glance, they don't directly refer to anything. But their implications keep coming. They incorporate aspects of representational art -- such as light, movement and illusion of depth -- and at times suggest things in the real world, such as an animal or a chair.

Their energy and the boldness generate hints of human emotions such as hope, anger, frustration or joy. They're also reminiscent of rhythms and melodies.

Reed's pieces also have humor. The colliding black arcs in "Plumber's Helper" back into each other from opposite sides of the paper with such force you can almost see a cartoon balloon with "Oof!" or "Wham!" in it.

There are references to a number of art movements, including pop art, geometric abstraction and the gestural markings of abstract expressionism. But these aren't simply a bundle of derivations. They're thoroughly original and the most impressive works in the show.

But they aren't without competition.

In Al Zaruba's long and confused artist's statement, replete with phrases like "psychological, biomorphic, abstract-figurative, conceptual/philosophical iteration," he tries to endow his sculptures with more Significance than they can stand up to. But they do suggest a meaning, and in its own way it's a hopeful one.

With their architecture-like boxes on long legs through which fish-like shapes swim and slither, these creatures look like they're falling down and getting up at the same time. They have a kind of jaunty degeneracy -- they're about to collapse but they still have aspirations; they're graceful and awkward, gauche and suave, defensive and welcoming. They speak to this confusing time, when the world is either pulling itself together or going to pieces, depending on where you look.

Zaruba's sculptures suggest we'll muddle through after all, so they're ultimately encouraging.

The third artist on display is Marcia Wolfson Ray, whose relief paintings made of strips of paper are at their best when at their most understated and carefully nuanced.

For example, the largely white "Fragment from an Ancient Civilization" and the earth-toned "Forces at Work on a Terrestrial Plain" achieve considerable beauty. When the col

ors are brighter and more varied, however, as with "A Sordid but Humorous Tale Told Out of Sequence," the works lose their unity and with it much of their fragile appeal.

Art review

What: "New Work"

Where: School 33 Art Center, 1427 Light St.

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

$ Call: (410) 396-4641

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