Show catches Sigler on way to wherever

March 23, 1994|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

Tammra Sigler's 15 years of showing her work at major Baltimore galleries has been marked by ups and downs, but certain strengths have endured. She possesses, among other things, a confident brushstroke, a sure sense of color and a willingness to change -- to leave safe havens and embark on new seas.

In the early 1980s her figural works took on aspects of expressionism. A few years later her "shelter" series revealed greater serenity and lightness of mood and, for a time, she abandoned the figure. By 1990 she had returned to it, with sensuous nudes in dark, rich settings. More recently, the work took on a more aggressive and again expressionistic edge, with a compelling tension between filled space and void.

Her latest exhibit at Gomez shows her in a transitional period. The beauty of color and technical accomplishment are in evidence to some degree, and as usual Sigler's surfaces can be inviting. But a sense of confusion also pervades these paintings and monoprints.

In an artist's statement, Sigler says that recently she has been drawn to markings of earlier cultures -- petroglyphs in Hawaii, Egyptian hieroglyphics, etc. -- and through them to marks themselves as a means of communication.

Her recent works, as a result, are filled with marks and figures, from the cross and zero marks of tic tac toe -- which, as she says, relate to both the markings of early cultures and a child's earliest markings -- to representations of houses, stick-figure people, furniture, animals and so on. These fill the most ambitious canvases in almost patchwork quilt fashion -- in fact, one is even called "Summer Quilt" -- but they don't coalesce into images that invite entrance and exploration.

The best of them, such as "Spreadsheet Hopscotch" and "Summer Quilt," have a certain immediate beauty. But others, such as several largely black paintings and the incoherent "Outer Place Inner Space," look like works that were abandoned rather than resolved.

Sigler is better than this. She's going someplace, no doubt, but she's still en route and it was a mistake to show works that reveal some uncertainty about the destination.

ART REVIEW

What: Tammra Sigler paintings and monoprints

Where: Gomez Gallery, 836 Leadenhall St.

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays, through April 16

Call: (410) 752-2080

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