Getting to know artists' other sides Art review: It's worth getting reacquainted with the work of artists brought here from all over the world.

June 29, 1996|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,SUN ART CRITIC

"Summer '96," Grimaldis' two-part summer show, brings us, as expected, the gallery's "stable" of artists -- beginning this month with eight sculptors (including drawings by five of them). Those who follow Grimaldis' exhibits will find no great surprises here (though a number of these works have not been shown here before); but it's a show eminently worth a visit anyway.

To see these artists individually over a period of a couple of years is to appreciate each in turn; to see them together is to appreciate what an array of art this gallery brings to our doorstep from near and far.

Here we have in one place works by John Van Alstine and Mel Kendrick from New York; Jon Isherwood, English and working in New York; Osami Tanaka, dividing his time between Japan and New York; Ulrich Ruckriem of Germany; Jan Van Oost of Belgium; John Ruppert and Paul Daniel of Baltimore.

But there's also the opportunity to see how these artists, most of whom work in abstract ways, look on reacquaintance.

You would think that an artist whose sensibility is as basically minimalist as Ruckriem's would look even more so in the company of some less reserved artists, but just the opposite's true. One tends to notice the slight surface variations and gestural nuances revealed by his one sculpture and two drawings here.

In fact, a number of these artists show an unexpected side, given that they're working basically within their established styles.

Kendrick's wooden sculpture has been likened to cubism. In the two small, pedestal-based works here (only a foot and a foot and half tall) he piles on so many bits and pieces and keeps the eye so constantly in motion that they look positively rococo -- rather like abstractions after Fragonard.

Tanaka's cool columns are richer than one remembers, especially the one combining wood with paraffin and steel. Bands and burn marks break up its surfaces, in precise, almost fussy ways, but not unappealingly.

Van Alstine's combinations of natural stone and bronze have never looked more sensual and fetching. The visual softness of the bronze works to soften the stone as well, and Van Alstine's drawings, with their beautiful colors and almost voluptuous shapes, only reinforce the effect.

Isherwood's elegant drawings also serve to emphasize the calm dignity of his sculpture here, whose dark but varied surfaces create an unexpected complexity that plays off against the work's essential dignity.

Ruppert's two bronze sculptures from his "Lightning Strike Series," while dramatic in their effect, will not show off this artist's versatility as well as his recent show in Chicago did. For that we have to wait for his spring show here.

In the presence of all this abstraction, and of Paul Daniel's two small kinetic sculptures, you might think Van Oost's two figural pieces would look terribly old-fashioned and complacent. On the contrary, they may be the most expressive, anguished works here.

Or maybe not. One of the appeals of a show such as this is in how you can play with it. It invites as many responses as there are viewers, and these artists deserve a goodly number.

Pub Date: 6/29/96

'Summer '96: The Sculptors'

Where: C. Grimaldis Gallery, 523 N. Charles Street

When: 10 a.m. to 5: 30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, through July 6

$ Call: (410) 539-1080


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