Black, bold and holding promise Art review: Bernave's marks catch the eye at Gomez Gallery. Three other artists are also being shown.

January 23, 1996|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,SUN ART CRITIC

Todd Bernave has developed a visual language that works well up to a point, and after that point it needs some work. His paintings now on view at Gomez give one confidence that he will develop interestingly.

Taking as his starting point the marks he sees around him daily -- "from the cracked paint on a crosswalk to rusty nails in a bedroom wall," he writes -- Bernave creates a series of bold, black calligraphic marks on squares of paper. Some of these roughly resemble letters of the alphabet -- G, V, D, X, etc. -- while others take the form of punctuation marks, spirals, arrows, dots and squiggles. Each of these squares constitutes a small painting, which Bernave then arranges in several rows -- maybe three rows of three -- to form a larger work.

Bernave's marks are of interest, and so are their backgrounds, generally light to dark neutral tones that give a fluid look to the surface. The problem is that when put together into groupings they don't add up to more than the sum of their parts. They remain groupings of not unattractive small paintings, but they don't become a new, coherent entity.

Bernave has a lot of talent, though. Look at one of his small squares and you want to see more. Look at several and you end up wanting some-thing bolder and less repetitive. These works look as if he's a little afraid to break out of a mold in which he feels comfortable. But he will; the means are there.

Bernave is one of four artists showing at Gomez this month. Ben Marcin's abstract photographs and infrared landscape photographs hanging in the gallery are less interesting than a group of his photographs of walls, windows and doors that were lying on a shelf when I visited. Those last had more visual punch and were more complex than Marcin's other works, achieving nice balances between form and content, abstract and representational possibilities.

Sam Peters is known to me as a printmaker, but here he shows a series of computer-assisted photographs. Like the prints of his I've seen, they are technically excellent, but they make technique their reason for being.

Guy Overfelt's paintings employ imagery from the machine age in playful ways, and look like they're going to be fun. But they don't stand up too well to sustained attention; and, among the nine Overfelt paintings here, a group of four small ones are really too slight to have been given gallery space.

Four artists Where: Gomez Gallery, 836 Leadenhall St.

When: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, until Feb. 3

Call: (410) 752-2080

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