Paintings a happy mix

May 03, 1994|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

In this time of political art, angry art, identity art and what have you, Mark Barry's art is, of all things, happy art.

Don't gag. If "happy art" makes you think schlock, that's understandable; but Barry's is the -- again, happy -- exception. His scenes of family life, of jazz musicians and of music-making in a family setting are sophisticated and humorous, filled with the movement of people having fun, and above all pulsing with wild, intense, delicious colors.

Actually, I'm not quite as crazy about his current show at Galerie Francoise as I was about his show at the then Nye Gomez (now Gomez) Gallery in 1991. In his somewhat moodier paintings of musical scenes there, his colors, atmospheres and compositions were particularly well integrated with the subject matter and spirit of the works.

Here, there's only one tempo: upbeat. And there's only one mood: fun. And there are different degrees of success, too; the six small paintings, titled "Music Series," look as if they were churned out in the hope that their reasonable prices would attract buyers on a budget. Barry's not infallible.

But he's real good. Overall, walking into this show is like walking into a terrific party in your honor; it lifts the spirits immediately. And in the better (and often bigger) works here, Barry makes real visual music.

In "Set with Blue Guitar," the title instrument occupies the center of the painting while the colors of the suits the musicians wear play off it, each suit looking appropriate to the instrument: wailing yellow for the saxophone, smooth black for the clarinet, deep red for the bass.

In "Where's Tito?" Barry blends red-brown wall and floor into a single continuous backdrop, virtually removing space from the picture and pushing its figures at you.

Two paintings of people making music at home, "Home Cookin' " and "Family Jammin," are probably the most sheer fun of all these paintings, especially "Family Jammin" with its living room full of musicians, the two kids perched on a chair and singing, and Mama (or somebody) who can't stop dancing as she goes to the kitchen.

There's a series on restaurants, including (for local color) a crab feast called simply "The Feast." And one has to mention "The Night Jumper" with its pajamaed kid jumping up and down on a bed from which a lively blue spread slides onto the floor. Only a real misanthrope could fail to be won over by this show.


What: Mark Barry paintings

Where: Galerie Francoise et ses freres, Green Spring Station, Falls and Joppa roads

When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, through May 31

Call: (410) 337-2787

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