Spending time in landscapes' space

February 13, 1997|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,SUN ART CRITIC

Landscape is the nominal subject matter of Eliot Cohen and Dan Kuhne, the two artists who share the current exhibit at Goucher's Rosenberg Gallery. But both Cohen, a photographer, and Kuhne, a painter and printmaker, transform the landscape. In their images, writes Goucher exhibitions director Helen Glazer, "the landscape becomes a vehicle for the poetic exploration of space, time and light."

Of the two, Kuhne's work is ultimately more satisfying; it's more varied than Cohen's, and contains more emotional expression and historical allusion. In his prints, which constitute the high point of this exhibition, Kuhne first fashions an image in etching and aquatint and then reworks each impression with drawing in charcoal, pastel or pencil to create a unique work. These possess a dim light, trees which undulate in dance-like fashion or twist in grotesque distortions, and looming dark areas that appear to shift ominously as you look at them.

They carry you back a century. "Blinded by the Light" and "Nightbird," with their silhouetted and contorted trees, recall the proto-expressionism of a van Gogh or a Munch. "At Gunpowder Falls," with its intimation of a flickering light, suggests early films. These works achieve an atmosphere of mystery and portent, but without melodrama or cliche. And despite their allusions to earlier art, they're bracingly original.

Kuhne's much larger paintings are in somewhat the same vein, but their size and more pronounced colors rob some of the subtlety that's so essential to the prints. The paintings look like they're saying the same thing in a louder voice, to be sure you don't miss the message. But the muted voice of the prints is essential to what they have to say. The paintings are good -- just not as good.

Cohen's photographs of wooded landscapes are made by re-exposing the same negative, sometimes as many as 15 times, to produce multilayered images that do suggest the passage of time, ambiguities of space and investigations of light. Where the effect of Kuhne's images is expressionistic, that of Cohen's is impressionistic. Or one might say multi-impressionistic, the combining of a series of fleeting moments into a single image.

With repetition, though, Cohen's idea comes to seem a device, and eventually something of a dead end. One might call them variations on a theme in which there's too much theme and not enough variation. They are individually intriguing but cumulatively add up to less than the sum of their parts.

Cohen and Kuhne

What: "Space, Time and Landscape: Eliot Cohen and Dan Kuhne"

Where: Rosenberg GalleryGoucher College, 1021 Dulaney Valley Road, Towson

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and some evenings and weekends

Call: (410) 337-6333

Pub Date: 2/13/97

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