It's worth a look as von Minor finds himself

August 13, 1994|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

It's hard to know exactly where James von Minor is just now, judging from the show of his work that opens at Gomez today.

Von Minor creates painted three-dimensional wall pieces made of wood and occasionally other materials such as lead or concrete. A few years ago these pieces were complex, involving more than one level of construction and several colors of paint. While abstract, they slightly recalled Matisse in their colors and elegance of statement.

Since then, von Minor has simplified his work considerably -- to relatively simple shapes painted mainly in one or two colors. The bulk of this show is made up of rectangles combined with crosses, V-shapes, circles and such geometric forms.

Simplicity is fine as long as it has something to communicate, but much of von Minor's current work comes across as attempts to find a new visual language that (at this point) appears to be elusive.

These works do have a quiet strength, however. And certain ones stand out. The largest and most ambitious is "Small Tight Wedge," with a cross shape as background and other geometrics superimposed, and with muted tones of paint giving it a kind of dignified sadness. One can see the human figure here, and possibly imagine either a crucifixion or an angel. But the work is better without such specific meaning.

"Span," suggesting an architectural frame with a pediment above, is one of the more immediately attractive works, and "Remnants" groups a number of shapes nicely across the wall. On the other hand, "Disc Stack," a pyramid of plaster discs, and "Cup Stack," a pyramid of cup-shaped concrete cones, are exercises without much point.

Von Minor is a serious artist, but he's doing more searching than finding at the moment. That will surely change.

Of the other two artists who share this show, Todd Bernave's paintings are made of small squares assembled grid fashion, sometimes five by five and sometimes three by three. The individual units that make up these works may contain calligraphic figures -- a W, for instance -- or may be more abstract. As whole works, these grids have some appeal, but some of the individual units -- especially the more abstract ones in "Enscription #4" and "Enscription #5" -- possess enough interest that it would be nice to see them enlarged and standing alone.

Mary Catalano's photographs of colored geometric shapes in space tend to be too pat and easy to look at.

They sacrifice substance to accessibility. The best are those with the least color, such as "Corporal"; they suggest possibilities that may not be realized but ought to be pursued.

ART REVIEW

What: James von Minor, Todd Bernave, Mary Catalano

Where: Gomez Gallery, 836 Leadenhall St.

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; through Sept. 10

$ Call: (410) 752-2080

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