Exhibit at institute will quack you up

September 07, 1995|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

Doug Baldwin has been creating humorous ceramic sculptures with tiny ducks in them for years. Every time he's in another show you wonder if he's run out of duck ideas. And, every time, it turns out he's still doing them. If anything, they get better.

He's currently one of four artists in the Maryland Institute, College of Art's "Resident Artists Exhibition 1995." Every year, several faculty artists take sabbaticals, and when they come back the institute has a show of what they've created. Why such a show is called "Resident Artists Exhibition" when the artists have just been non-resident is something of a mystery, but not one that requires a solution.

Baldwin's latest duck series is called "Duck Art History Revised," and in it he revisits works of several masters, giving them his own twist. "Grungasse, Murnau -- Wassily Kandinsky" and "Bridge at Asnieres -- Emile Bernard" are two of four painted wall plaques into which Baldwin reproduces the earlier artists' works and inserts ducks into them -- not too obtrusively, just to give them a little twist.

"Nighthawks -- Edward Hopper" is more ambitious. Baldwin reproduces Hopper's famous painting of people sitting quietly in an all-night cafe, but next to it he puts a McDonald's throbbing with life, mobbed with people and surrounded by cars. It's a clever reinterpretation. Seen by itself, the people in the Hopper painting seem sad and lonely. Seen next to the McDonald's, the serenity of their world appears eminently desirable. Baldwin also has fun with works of van Gogh, Leger and Mondrian, among others.

Allegra Marquart met poet Carolyn Wright at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts last year. She found they had so much in common that she has created a series of etchings in response to Wright's poems. This kind of thing has its perils: Will the works be merely illustrative? If so, will you have to know the poems in order to understand them? But Marquart transcends these limitations by creating characters and scenes that are entertaining and perceptive of human foibles, both with and without reference to the poems. Then she quotes just enough of the poem along side each work to make a connection that gives it fuller meaning.

Ron Lang's ceramic sculptures are quite well made and look innocent enough, except that several are fitted out with three-pronged metal hooks, which give them a menacing touch. Some of them don't make a whole lot of sense, though; a sculpture in the shape of a knot, called "Knot" and with hooks hanging from it, doesn't have much of a point.

Better are his tile sculptures in the form of snakes, called "repTile I" and "repTile II." The best of his works here is his "Gig-o-Lo" in the form of a worm or a snake, both of which are apt metaphors for a gigolo.

The labels on Babe Shapiro's series of small works on paper say the medium is acrylic with colored dyes. The look is watercolor. In these, Shapiro uses a basic target shape over and over, and washes his colors across it to create works of understated beauty and subtle mood. These reticent works are reminiscent of some shy people, who seem boring at first but have a lot to offer if you give them a chance.

ARTISTS IN NON-RESIDENCE

What: "Resident Artists Exhibition 1995"

Where: Fox Building, Maryland Institute, College of Art, Mount Royal and Lafayette avenues

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays (to 9 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays); noon to 5 p.m. Sundays; through Sept. 24

Call: (410) 225-2300

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