Simple, subtle, expansive Art review: Works by Marietta Berman draw you in and win you over. Gabriela Morawetz's photos are interesting, yet disappointing.

February 28, 1996|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,SUN ART CRITIC

In his famous "Ocean Park" series of paintings of 1975 and after, Richard Diebenkorn created works that are totally abstract but remind you of the world through his use of color, light and form. They contain elements of geometric abstraction along with hints of expressive gesture. And for paintings of such rigorous austerity, they are wonderfully atmospheric.

Marietta Berman's paintings at Gomez are more delicate then Diebenkorn's; they don't make as strong an impression. But they contain all the same elements, and they grow on you. The more you look, the more they draw you in. The images themselves could not be simpler. The focal point of "Finite Infinite" is a box, placed off-center, with a small black square in one of its lower corners to act as a visual anchor. The lines of the box expand across the canvas to divide it into several roughly geometric areas. Berman painted each area in subtle shades of white touched with other colors -- blue, yellow, green.

Without being specific at all, Berman created a feeling of atmosphere and light, of interior and exterior spaces, of coolness and warmth. Other works achieve similar effects. "Finite Infinite #10," "Further, Beyond " and "The Door" are marked by projecting and receding areas, shafts of light, suggestions of landscape. Another group, including "Don Quixote Was Here," "Winter" and "Fog," is somewhat more gestural and aggressive, with bolder colors.

If there is a certain quiet joy to be inferred from the first group, these are slightly more passionate, but without bordering on the loud or overt -- Berman was much too refined for that.

Her often anthropomorphic steel sculptures exhibit a similar refinement and rigor, but judging by what's here, the essential Berman is to be found in her paintings. A native of Czechoslovakia who pursued her career in Venezuela, she died in 1992. It is always saddening to be introduced to the work of an artist of such sensibility who is no more.

Gabriela Morawetz, very much alive, is also a native of Europe -- Poland -- who works in Venezuela. She is primarily a painter, but here she shows a group of photographs, printed on slate.

The images are mostly of individual male or female figures, sometimes nude. The rough surface of the slate has the visual effect of a veil, through which we peer to glimpse these figures, seen as if floating in an indeterminate space.

On first viewing, these possess a certain degree of mystery and elusiveness, but after a time, that quality dissipates. This was an idea that no doubt seemed better than it turned out to be.

Paintings at Gomez

What: Works by Marietta Berman and Gabriela Morawetz

Where: Gomez Gallery, 836 Leadenhall St.

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, Through March 9

Call: (410) 752-2080

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