Truitt's works display her unerring eye for form

April 09, 1994|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

Anne Truitt is best known for her larger sculptures, columns of more or less human height clothed in many coats of acrylic paint. But she also creates smaller, pedestal-sized works, and the group of them currently on view at Grimaldis share with the larger works multiple levels of satisfaction.

It's tempting to say they're deceptively simple looking at first glance, but they aren't.

They're simple in form -- vertical or horizontal rectangles painted in beautiful colors, often with a band or bands of contrasting color near the top or bottom.

But it's obvious even at first glance that these are complex works. In the first place, they are neither sculptures nor 'u paintings, but a combination of both. It is as inaccurate to call them painted sculptures as it is to call them three-dimensional paintings, since the elements of painting and sculpture are so evenly balanced in them.

Then there is the dichotomy between weight and weightlessness. They're obviously solid objects, but, set on recessed bases, they also seem to float just above their pedestals like weightless pure color.

Truitt calls each of them by the Latin word parva, meaning small, but their scale easily expands in the mind's eye to monumentality. "Parva XXVI," consisting of three pink verticals with green bands near the bottom of each, might be a cluster of modern office towers.

Their relationship to one another in size and asymmetrical placement is so right, one thinks that if only Truitt had been an architect cities might look better than they do. The red tower of "Parva XXV" is placed just a little farther back than front, and just a little farther right than left on its pink horizontal, creating a simultaneous sense of tension and release.

Truitt is nothing if not reserved -- her work has even been called minimalist, though it isn't. But she so combines beauty of color, simplicity of form and elegance of proportion that her work at times takes on a kind of sensuousness, without ever straying into the realm of the voluptuous, the luxurious or the cloying. The blue of "Parva XXIX" naturally brings to mind both sky and sea, but it's not really like either; it's a color unto itself, glorious but nothing so trivial as pretty.

There's an emotional level to these works, too. In their quiet, formal way they reflect the humanity that created them.

Perhaps one should say that at their best, these works do all of the above. They are not all equal.

"Parva XXXII" misses the mark; its four blue columns look a little contrived, not quite as totally resolved as the other works here. But with Truitt one is talking about degree of success, not about failure. In this as in all of her works, her refined sensibility shines through.


What: Small sculptures by Anne Truitt

Where: The C. Grimaldis Gallery, 523 N. Charles St.

When: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; through April 30

$ Call: (410) 539-1080

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