Zaruba, Cooper quite a pair in uplifting Goucher exhibit

Art

December 03, 1996|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,SUN ART CRITIC

Art sometimes makes strange gallery-fellows, as the current show at Goucher demonstrates.

Called "Points of Entry," it brings together the works of John Cooper and Al Zaruba, two area artists in whom Goucher exhibitions director Helen Glazer finds a number of similarities. In her (as usual) enlightening essay accompanying the show, she writes that their work "is notable for its passion, lyricism, the inventive combinations of materials and the fusion of painting and sculpture. Through the language of abstract art, these pieces offer points of entry into an experience of movement through space, allude to aspects of the human condition without representing them directly and suggest the operation of unseen forces."

Nevertheless, there's enough room for another viewer to respond more immediately to the two artists' differences. Cooper's works are essentially two-dimensional, Zaruba's essentially three-dimensional. Cooper's are primarily abstract, although they contain real objects (paint stirrers, cardboard tubes from the centers of paper towel rolls). Zaruba's are primarily representational, though what they represent are creatures of the artist's imagination.

More important, Cooper's works -- such as the four-part "Pavan" with its sections of wood, paper and paint stretching across an entire wall -- are reticent, subtle, introspective, contemplative, handsome and serene. Zaruba's works -- especially the wild and wonderful "Roller" -- are aggressive, loud, vulgar, ugly, frightening, funny and gregarious.

Cooper's works elevate the ordinary to the level of the beautiful and lead us in pleasant and peaceful paths of thought. Zaruba's look like creatures from a science fiction movie or a nightmare, and they look just vaguely familiar enough to make us think they could be physical manifestations of fears and neuroses with which we have some acquaintance.

Different means, then -- refreshingly, stimulatingly different means. But the ends, it turns out, are similar after all. They are similar, Glazer concludes, because the works of both artists "serve as a point of entry to the personal associations, thoughts and feelings of our internal worlds."

They are similar, too, in that they share a fundamental optimism. Cooper accentuates the positive through finding value and beauty in the quotidian, while Zaruba conquers the negative by rendering it visible and therefore manageable. Strange gallery-fellows, maybe, but reassuring ones, as it turns out.

'Points of Entry'

Where: Rosenberg Gallery, Goucher College, Dulaney Valley Road, Towson

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, evenings and weekends of events in Kraushaar auditorium, through Dec. 20

Call: (410) 337-6333

Pub Date: 12/03/96

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