Howard show resembles two exhibits

February 11, 1997|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,SUN ART CRITIC

The Howard County Center for the Arts' biennial "ArtMd/97" juried show has its curious aspects. It's something of a misnomer, since the region covered was not just Maryland but also the District of Columbia and Virginia. And it has a dual personality. The two galleries in which the show is installed look like their works were chosen by two different jurors, one of whom looked for challenging work and the other for safe, pleasant work.

4 The result is not a bad show, but a strange one.

There was actually a single juror, New York-based artist Fred Wilson, who created the memorable installation "Mining the Museum" at the Maryland Historical Society in 1992.

In his statement on "ArtMd/97" he writes, "Eschewing the impulse to curate a thematic exhibition, I've chosen works in the variety of media and styles that were presented to me. These are the very best, in my estimation, of the hundreds of works in their media."

And the show looks that way -- as if Wilson tried primarily for as broad a range of media as possible, even if that meant adjusting his sights here and there. Most of the paintings, drawings and sculpture -- mainly installed in the larger gallery -- tend to be tough and demanding but ultimately rewarding. Most of the watercolors, fiber works and photographs -- mainly installed in the smaller gallery -- tend to be well-crafted, conservative, easy to take.

In terms of their degree of interest as contemporary art, the watercolors here don't stand up against the paintings. But they are presumably the best of the watercolors submitted, and they certainly have technical ability in their favor.

There's justice and generosity in making a selection this way. It involves less of the juror's own taste and more of accepting the artist on his or her terms than one usually sees in a juried exhibit. But it makes for an uneven show, and that's the kind we have here.

At its worst, it's innocuous. At its best, it offers some striking works of art. Among them are Edda Jakab's three paintings, including "Purple Blues" and "East Branch."

Is this the same Edda Jakab who, if I remember correctly, used to create extremely skillful still lifes? If so, abstraction has liberated her from the shackles of depiction and led her to create works of real beauty. One can see in them references to landscape and still life -- a group of blue blobs might remind you of a bunch of grapes, or a thin strip of color might be a vine in a different work. But here color and gesture and composition speak for themselves in works that get stronger with the looking.

Corey Reier's two abstract drawings, and especially "Ubiquity III," have the energy and incipient violence of a force of nature. What to call Jennifer Becker's "Gateway" -- a collage, probably, since it consists of strips of paper stuck to another piece of paper with tar and shellac. But this picture of a boarded-up arch has a raw power one doesn't often associate with collage. Susan Levi-Goeruch's "Alphabet V" is a fiber work in which one can pick out the letters of the alphabet at close range, but which also works at a distance as pattern, composition and texture.

There are enough notable works to make this well worth the trip to Ellicott City. Don't miss Ed Kidera's handsome bell hanging in a seven-foot-tall frame. It's positioned just outside the door of the larger gallery, but because it's in the hall you might walk past it. And that would be a pity.


Where: Howard County Center for the Arts, 8510 High Ridge Road

When: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, through Feb. 28. The gallery will be closed Monday, Feb. 17

Call: (410) 313-2787

Pub Date: 2/11/97

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