At Grimaldis, a welcome abstraction Art review: Sean Scherer paints shapes that weave time, space and culture into comfortable, inviting and wholly beautiful works.

March 13, 1996|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,SUN ART CRITIC

Say "geometric abstraction" and a lot of people get intimidated. Not only is it abstract, which means we can't immediately identify with it as relating to the world around us, but geometric seems hard and cold as opposed to organic, or warm and cuddly (at least in comparison).

The show of painter Sean Scherer's geometric abstractions, at Grimaldis, may surprise those who expect this art to be forbidding. Yes, if you ask him, he'll say it has roots in the work of early 20th-century Russian suprematist artist Kazimir Malevich, and that sounds pretty esoteric. But he'll also say that Malevich's art like all art came out of something, and he'll mention religious icons and symbols on church vestments. So this work isn't really divorced from the world or the past. Scherer will also mention Islamic art and Indian miniatures as precedents for some of the elements in his works the hexagons and stars, the 16-sided figures joined in patterns that create pointed crosses in the spaces between them.

But this art isn't accessible only because it comes from someplace. There is also the matter of its beauty.

In these works Scherer employs mainly reds and whites; his reds have depth and richness, and his whites look aged and soft, like good wine tastes. Scherer paints with oil and wax, a combination that creates a tactile, sensuous surface. Most of the works here are on canvas, but some are on handmade paper, and its thickness and slightly irregular edges make it reminiscent of old vellum, used in medieval illuminated manuscripts.

Some of these paintings look as if the color has been lost with age gradually washed away like paint on a house or faded from years of sunlight.

In short, these works seem luxurious and antique, a combination that gives the viewer a sense of beholding something rare and precious. They let you in, so to speak, by virtue of their almost seductive physical presence. They're not at all hard to get to know.

But once you're in, once you've cozied up to these delicious paintings and become thoroughly comfortable in their presence, what more do they have to offer? Is there a deeper essence here, a more subtle message than their physical beauty, their highly accomplished execution and the artist's ability to run a theme through numerous variations without inducing boredom or fatigue?

That in itself is an accomplishment, and in this case it will have to suffice, for ultimately what you see here is what you get. One could, perhaps, make some point about the past informing the present and providing a sense of security as we (and art) march into the unknowable future. But these works are above all about visual pleasure.


What: "Sean Scherer: Works on Canvas and Paper"

Where: The C. Grimaldis Gallery, 523 North Charles St.

When: 10 a.m. to 5: 30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, through March 30

Call: (410) 539-1080

Pub Date: 3/13/96

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