'West Meets East' exhibit at TSU comes up short

October 07, 1994|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

There's enough worthwhile work in "West Meets East," at Towson State's Asian Arts Center, to make it worth a visit, even though it falls short of what it might have accomplished.

Curated by Dorothy Fix, a Towson faculty member, it springs from a good idea: to bring together works of Western artists who have been influenced by the arts of Asia. There are nine artists from places as far-flung as Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Georgia, Iowa, Tennessee and Oregon. They work in a variety of media, including paper, ceramics, jewelry, screen printing and fiber.

But the show has problems. "Unintentionally, the majority of pieces displayed have been touched in particular by the Japanese sensibility," Fix says in her introduction to the show's catalog. Unintentionally? If, as curator, Fix wanted a wider range of sources of influence, she could have put together such a show. Or, if she wanted a show reflecting Japanese influence -- also a valid concept -- she could have put together that show. "Unintentionally" makes no sense coming from the show's curator.

The obvious purpose of the exhibit is to show how the artists have been influenced. Here we have another problem. Fix's introduction raises the issue, but fails to address it adequately. Some of the artists' statements help a little, but not enough. And what of the larger question: How is the Eastern (or Japanese, if you like) sensibility different from the Western?

We're left with a show that doesn't sufficiently explore its theme.

But it does offer some interesting work. Bill Griffith's wood-fired ceramics have earthy colors that complement their strong, simple shapes; his "Spirit Dwellings" are his most successful forms. Karen Melfi's jewelry incorporates items from other cultures -- a piece of pre-Columbian jadeite, Japanese fabric, Peking glass beads.

Sukey Hughes' paper works reinterpret aspects of traditional cultures in quirky but intriguing ways. And Fix's own printed fabrics offer a colorful, heavily patterned change of pace from the more reserved works here.

*

Towson State's art faculty exhibit is concurrently running in the university's Holtzman gallery. It's better than last year's show, but it's short on excitement. There's a lot of technically competent, traditionally oriented work; not much that makes you sit up and take notice.

ART REVIEW

What: "West Meets East"

Where: Roberts Gallery, Asian Arts Center, Fine Arts Center, Towson State University

When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays; through Oct. 21

Call: (410) 830-2807.

What: Art Faculty Exhibition

Where: Holtzman Gallery, Fine Arts Center, Towson State University

When: Noon to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; through Oct. 29

Call: (410) 830-2787

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