'Zero Defect': the other side of the fence

June 06, 1994|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

Chain-link fencing is utilitarian, ordinarily ugly, and it doesn't carry the happiest of connotations. One thinks of keeping things penned, such as vicious dogs.

What a pleasant surprise, then, to walk into Maryland Art Place and find that John Ruppert has taken this material and made it into sculptures that are graceful, light in feeling and even suggestive of melodious movement. There are only five Ruppert works in this show that the sculptor shares with painter Timothy App, but they're all successful.

"Fishtail," a spreading net of fencing hung from the ceiling in a fishtail-like form that balloons toward the floor, makes you think of fish but also of hammocks and swings and summer. You want to stretch out in it. As with the other sculptures here, it belies its considerable weight and looks as if it would sway in the slightest breeze.

In "Diva," an upright cylinder of fencing ends in a circle on the floor. It reminds you of the revolving skirt of a dancer turning around and around. "Iris" is a simple cone that looks like the top of a volcano, and the shadows that it makes on the floor remind you of a whirlpool.

This is a medium that no doubt has its limitations, but Ruppert has shown uncommon imagination both in using it in the first place and in the ways in which he has used it.

App's paintings are geometric abstractions in which the palette is limited to white, black and various shades of gray. Their compositions are based on the rectangle, and looked at from a compositional point of view alone, most of them are quite effective. Unfortunately, the stark white elements in some of these works are jarring; where they appear, they reach out to rivet the viewer's attention so that it's difficult, if not impossible, to take in the painting as a whole.

Those paintings in which App has employed only black and grays, such as "Ascension," "Requiem" and "Eclipse," are much more satisfying. Not only do their parts add up to a more harmonious whole, but for geometric abstractions they convey considerable emotion.

Sadness wouldn't be quite the right word to describe what they communicate, but rather a kind of resigned rumination on the sad inevitabilities of life, its losses and its end.

App's paintings and Ruppert's sculptures complement one another nicely and together constitute one of the more attractive and congenial shows MAP has mounted lately. It suffers, however, from the unappealing title "Zero Defect"; art whose ambition is not to have defects will never be very creative art.


What: "Zero Defect: The Recent Work of Timothy App and John Ruppert"

Where: Maryland Art Place, 218 W. Saratoga St.

When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, through July 2

Call: (410) 962-8565

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