Massey touches in roundabout manner

June 23, 1995|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

On this wall, three black pouches with water in them and rubber balls floating in the water. Up there, a polka-dotted jacket. On the floor, a triangular steel box on wheels. Across the room, some blue powder on a tiny platform high overhead. Some Dali-inspired surrealist dreamscape?

Not at all. It's the current Galerie Francoise show of Allyn Massey's recent work, in which the artist has put these and 10 other things together in ways that make unexpected sense when you see them.

Massey, who is known for her sculptures, has a way of taking simple materials and using them in unexpectedly effective ways. In an installation at last year's Artscape, for instance, she took a grassy triangle at Cathedral Street and Mount Royal Avenue, stuck a series of poles around the perimeter and attached white banners to them. The result, when the banners waved in the breeze, was thrillingly beautiful.

At Galerie Francoise, we are told, she has not created an installation. She has taken 14 distinct objects and arranged them in the gallery so that one can enjoy them separately and as a group.

It works. That's partly because Massey's individual pieces are so good. She can take a piece of wire mesh, draw its pattern in white on a piece of black paper, then hang the drawing and the mesh side by side on the wall and create a sparsely elegant visual image. She can take a pink rubber ball, place it on a small steel shelf attached to the wall, hang next to it a piece of blank white paper, and create an image of surprising beauty and even quiet drama. There are works here that more or less fit traditional disciplines such as drawing and sculpture, and works that don't, but each seems complete unto itself.

It's when you start to notice relationships between them that they begin to feel like parts of a larger whole as well. Roundness -- the polka dots on the jacket, the round holes in steel boxes, the rubber balls in several works, the disc-like areas in the drawings -- connects these works to one another, and so do other elements.

And one begins to notice differences, too, that play off one another -- soft and hard, sight and sound, light and dark, plane and volume, solid and fluid. These in turn suggest other comparisons and contrasts -- reality and illusion, discipline and chaos, stasis and movement, art and nature, the potential and the realized.

Massey doesn't make cosmic statements here. But she sneaks up on you. Being in the context of this exhibit provides viewers with the experience of noticing their surroundings in more and more ways, so that when one leaves one is more likely to look harder at what's around. That kind of heightened awareness is certainly one of the salutary effects art can have.

ALLYN MASSEY

Where: Galerie Francoise et ses freres, Green Spring Station, Falls and Joppa roads

When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, through July 8

Call: (410) 337-2787

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