Abstract sculptures marry the warm and the cool

February 15, 1994|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

Susana Jaime-Mena's sculptures at Gomez are satisfying and beautifully crafted, but "Blade" is the best work by a long shot -- both handsome and provocative.

It consists of two vertical pieces, one of rusted steel resting on the floor and attached to a dark gray vertical piece attached to the wall (it looks like gunmetal, but is actually graphite on modeling paste on wood).

The proportions of these two pieces play off against one another nicely, but it is their implications that go on and on. The steel is roughly textured, hard, acidic in color but at the same time warm-toned. The gray element, by contrast, is smooth, soft-looking, yet cool and somewhat detached.

Together, they form a union rewarding both for its abstract qualities of form, line, color and composition, and for its suggestion of the marriage of two differing but complementary personalities -- one engaging but a little loud and somewhat abrasive, the other reserved, calm and dependable. The work might be summed up as minimalism with human nature thrown in.

Jaime-Mena's other works are mainly smaller wall pieces with some of the same qualities, but without equal impact. They all involve rectangles and contrasts of color and texture, but they're more muted, less challenging, a little too immediately likable for their own good.

The exhibit's other featured artist, Mary Wagner, prints her photographs of nude males on rusted steel plates, some of which have decomposed to the point they have splits or holes in them. This results in images which look old, as if they have been dug up in some archaeological excavation. Some are life-size, others just 13 by 7 inches; the figures' faces are almost always totally or partially obscured so that they lose the sense of individual portrait and take on a more impersonal, iconic aspect.

One thinks immediately of martyred saints; the figures with holes in their bodies, for instance, suggest Saint Sebastian, shot with arrows. But these could also be the martyrs of some recent war, riddled with bullet holes. Whatever specific meaning one gives them, in a more general sense the nudity of the figures, together with the condition of the plates, serves as a reminder of the vulnerability of the human species and the transitory nature of life.

ART REVIEW

What: Sculptures by Susana Jaime-Mena and photographs by Mary Wagner

Where: Gomez Gallery, 836 Leadenhall St.

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, through March 12

Call: (410) 752-2080

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