Garden of art is growing at School 33

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

"Gardens are shaped by the balance and tension between natural growth and the artifices of man," writes Jann Rosen-Queralt, the curator of "Works from the Garden" at School 33. Of the four artists she has chosen for the show, she writes that they "use their individual sensibilities and the physicality of their medium to create the wonder and amazement that gardens provide."

Well, you coulda fooled me. The artists Rosen-Queralt has chosen deal with nature in various ways, but wonder and amazement don't come foremost to mind when looking at most of their works.

Dee Herget's paintings on window and door screens are part of a Baltimore tradition, but they're simply too illustrational and Never-Never-Land in their imagery to be thought of as having anything to do with the real world.

Jo Smail's big, gestural paintings of flowers, including "Red Rose" and "Petunia With Hairy Stem," have a dynamic line that suggests the organic growth and change of the natural world; their size, and especially the aggressive color of "Red Rose," make them almost threatening, and in their way quite effective.

Frances Whitehead's gourds and photographs of gourds, especially the piece called "Platonic Solids and Failed Platonics," speak of the cycle of life and death.

"Platonic . . ." features two shelves of gourds in wire forms; on the top shelf the gourds fill up the forms, on the bottom shelf they are shriveled up within the forms. This is a pretty obvious work.

The real meat in this exhibition comes from Martha Cooper's series of photographs of "casitas," Puerto Rican "small houses," built on empty lots in New York City.

These houses serve as everything from community centers to havens for the homeless, and all of the ones pictured have some kind of gesture toward a garden, even if it's just a couple of flower pots on the porch railing.

These brave little houses are moving, and more than anything else in this exhibit they tell you how much a garden, or at least something growing, means to people.

On the whole, though, the curator's curious choices for this exhibit add up to a lot less than was probably intended.

Upstairs in Gallery II is a group of strong drawings of women by Gina Pierleoni.

The second floor installation space is given to a ridiculous work by Peter Walsh featuring TV monitors showing rock stars shaking their hair to a sound track that sounds like a

combination of waves breaking on the shore and the gurglings of empty stomach. Puh-leeze.

ART REVIEW

What: "Works from the Garden"

Where: School 33 Art Center, 1427 Light St.

When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, through June 10

$ Call: (410) 396-4641

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