Contemporary 'New Illustration' at Towson is effective within its limits

February 25, 1994|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

"New Illustration," an exhibit currently at Towson State University, was organized by the Society of American Illustrators to show contemporary works that reveal a variety of approaches.

This being illustration -- work tailored to a client's needs -- it isn't art that pushes the boundaries of the new and the experimental. Those interested in pure art won't find this show their cup of tea. But in a university gallery, where students interested in the field will make up part of the audience, it has its uses.

L And, on its own terms, it includes work of some originality.

There are a number of styles on display, such as the straightforward realism of John Thompson's "As the Crow Flies," with its picture of a group of people in front of a grocery store. Jerry Pinkney's "The Storm Winds Rise at His Command," with its ship navigating a rough sea, is in the romantic tradition of such famous illustrators as Howard Pyle and N. C. Wyeth.

In the science fiction category, we have the fantastically outfitted horse and rider of Jean Pierre Targate's "Winter World" and the group of spaceship inhabitants in Dorian Vallejo's "The Destiny Makers." For pure fantasy, there is Albert Lorenz's "Fantasy City," with its wild and wonderful constructions springing up among the more mundane buildings of the city.

For a period piece, there's Michael Deas' untitled oil for Ghurka Luggage; its man and woman on shipboard have the unreal, too-perfect look of people in an Arrow shirt ad from about 1925.

The humor of Gary Locke's untitled drawing for Summer Stage -- the caricatures of singers, musicians, actors and comics, all springing from another singer's head -- provides one of the liveliest works in the show.

All of these works, as might be expected, are two-dimensional, but they cover a spectrum of media from oil on canvas to drawing, watercolor, montage, photography and mixed media. Among the most satisfying uses of media are Stephen T. Johnson's pastel and watercolor "Battle Scene with Mice"; its fairly narrow palette, with the predominance of browns and pastel highlights, unifies the picture nicely. Another is Joe Ciardiello's effective contrast of white and black in his pen and ink drawing, "Mingus for Like Jazz."

Among the most telling images here are Ron Finger's "Woodwinds," with its woodwind instruments growing into trees; Kevin Hawkes' "The Turnip," in which an old man in a castle addresses a board groaning with pig, turkey, pie and other goodies, but eats only the turnips; and, Barry Moser's "The Magic Wood," with its character whose eyes shine with such malevolence that you can't look at him for more than a second or two at a time.

Art review

What: "New Illustration"

Where: Holtzman Art Gallery, Fine Arts Building, Towson State University

When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, through March 5

Call: (410) 830-2808

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