UMBC's excellent exhibit embraces ethnic variety

April 20, 1994|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

One advantage of a multi-cultural approach to the arts is that it shows people of other than the dominant culture that they, too, have a rich heritage and a vital place in the world. But another, perhaps more important, advantage is that it shows us all our common humanity. That message shines through at the University of Maryland Baltimore County's current exhibit, "View from Baltimore to Washington."

Curator Osvaldo Mesa has chosen installations as the medium of this excellent edition of UMBC's annual regional exhibit. He's selected seven artists of diverse ethnic backgrounds to create six installations.

The ethnic backgrounds include African, Asian, Celtic and Hispanic; but the important lesson this show teaches is that each of these works reaches out to viewers of all backgrounds.

Luis Flores' "Centinelas/(Sentinels)" employs a shelter-like construction with a ladder in front of a structure of paper bags centered on a group of photographs. Elements of the familiar are here, from everyday paper bags to the suggestion of home. But the work's centerpiece is a photograph of a young man in old-fashioned clothes over which are pasted transparent photographs of an old man. Whether this says we carry the heritage of previous generations with us, or that the potential of youth grows fainter as we age, this is a haunting image.

Gillian Brown's "Untitled" is about the hold of the past -- an individual, rather than a generational, past. Superimposed on an installation of a room corner is a painting, taken from an old photograph, of a little girl sitting at a table. Position yourself so that the two images line up just right and they seem one; take a step or two in any direction and they break down into two separate images. The past is always with us, this appears to say, but its influence is usually fragmented and incomprehensible. Only at fleeting moments can we comprehend its meaning.

Similarly, Howard and Mary McCoy's particularly beautifu "Above and Below" involves at some level the persistence of the past. And since the past persists in all of us, there's a great deal of identity to be found here.


What:"A View from Baltimore to Washington"

Where: Fine Arts Gallery, University of Maryland Baltimore County

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, through May 14

Call: (410) 455-3188

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