School 33 shows work their way up

November 11, 1994|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

School 33 Art Center does what no other Baltimore gallery I know of does: It regularly mounts three shows at once -- one in the Gallery I on the main floor, one in the smaller Gallery II on the second floor, and one in the still smaller installation space, also on the second floor.

Usually, Gallery I gets the most noteworthy show, but not this time. Of the two artists on view now, Chase Chih-sun Hsieh creates paintings on silk and satin. Organic shapes said to be inspired by images from several cultures drift across these paintings' surfaces in vaguely surrealist fashion.

These works threaten more substance than they achieve, with one exception: "Traveling Green," with its torso-like shape, has real weight and impact. Stephen Lee's installation, "Worse to Better," may communicate more to others; to me, it seems a grab bag of symbols that don't add up to a lot.

The artists on display in Gallery II, however, are delightful discoveries. Patricia O'Maille's 24 drawings, organized in rows across one wall, owe much to the works of Paul Klee, but nevertheless achieve freshness and originality. Their fantasy-like scenes jangle with unlikely contraptions and intriguing juxtapositions: a face whose features become a tree springing up from the lips; a dress hanging from a pair of flying arrows (or perhaps weather vanes); a woman in a hammock suspended over a sea populated with sailboats; what looks sort of like a coat rack walking down the street with a skirt on.

These drawings may have special meaning for the artist, but they also evoke a world of daydream and fantasy that's common to all. There's something right about them, and it's not just the artist's charming style. A group of her other works here are more ambitious and less successful, but the captivating drawings more than compensate.

Carol Sky's drawings and paintings are filled with clouds, usually hovering above tiny strips of landscape at the bottom. At their best, as in "Gathering Storm" and "Storm Sky IV," Sky's handsomely rendered clouds combine light, volume, movement,

a sense of turmoil and upheaval above a peaceful landscape.

These pictures are about the forces of nature and of human nature. At times, as with "St. Mary's Glacier Park," these paintings can become too overwrought for their own good. But then, don't we all, at times?

In the installation space, Kass McGowan's "Cenotaph" consists of 13 empty bird's nests in glass boxes set on pedestals around the room, with a band of landscape snapshots lining the four walls at eye level. There's nothing new in this piece's environmental message; it's important, but we have heard it often, and McGowan doesn't have any new light to shed on it. The work, however, is saved by its appealing visual austerity.

THREE IN ONE

What: Three shows

Where: School 33 Art Center, 1427 Light St.

When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, through Nov. 25

Call: (410) 396-4641

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