Artists Plattner and Bills mix, master their media

March 29, 1995|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

Phyllis Plattner and Linda Bills, together in an exhibit at Gomez, make a good pairing. They start from mastery of their quite different media, providing a handsome show. Then they go on to probe somewhat complementary aspects of the human condition.

Plattner, drawing on her experiences in Mexico, combines depictions of faces and other objects, primarily bones. The inspiration for these comes from pre-Columbian sculptures of figures wearing elaborate headdresses.

The two parts of her pictures are related, the bones representing alter egos or symbolic protectors of the faces. But in her manner of depiction, Plattner refers to the relationship between belief systems and the mystery of the human spirit.

Plattner typically renders the bone realistically and in detail against a brightly colored background (red or yellow), while the face beneath it is executed in black and white and withdrawn from us -- shadowy, with eyes closed or veiled by darkness.

She thus deals with how we seek to understand the mystery of life by externalizing it and giving it a physical presence in the form of visual representation. The bone resembles an icon, a manifestation of our desire to make the unknowable known in recognizable form, like the painting or sculpture of a god. But this externalizing of fears and hopes brings us no closer to the essence of the inner being, which remains, like Plattner's faces, shrouded and unknown.

Plattner calls these works paintings, though they are really drawings, using charcoal, graphite and pastel with great skill in the rendering of volume, texture, detail, color.

Bills, coming from a craft tradition, works with wire, wood, metal and sometimes fabric to fashion wall-hung sculptures that are in no way utilitarian.

Rather, they relate to aspects of personality or character suggested indirectly, by implication. Four related works, all titled "Partly," combine twigs and pieces of wire in similar yet different ways, suggesting a family of individuals with qualities -- flexibility, vulnerability, gracefulness, determination -- combined in different ways.

Three works incorporating wire mesh -- "Easy to Loose," "Trip" and "Parcel" -- constitute the most visually successful works here and suggest a combination of delicacy and strength. Like Plattner's works, Bills' can be "read" for meaning, but needn't be. They exist quite happily as beautiful objects, as do Bills' few watercolors here, which reveal the artist's elegant hand.


What: Works by Phyllis Plattner and Linda Bills

Where: Gomez Gallery, 836 Leadenhall St.

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, through April 15

Call: (410) 752-2080

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