Sculptures catch the light and the eye

April 10, 1997|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,SUN ART CRITIC

The glass and steel sculptures of Costas Varotsos, at Grimaldis, operate very well on a visual level, though that's not all there is to them. People walking into the gallery look at his "Untitled," a six-foot-tall spiral with a steel outer edge from which glass wedges reach toward the center, and say things like "Wow!" "That's beautiful!" "Impressive!"

And they're right. Catch it in the light, and it can sparkle like sunlight dancing on the sea, but it's big and solid and sharp and dangerous-looking, too, and also elegant. It stands still, but it also implies motion, as if it might start rolling down the gallery floor at any second.

It's a testament to Varotsos' other sculptures here, all wall pieces, that this one doesn't overwhelm them. The largest, "Horizon," has an undulating ribbon of steel curving up and down the gallery wall. Glass strips sit in the U-shaped curves at the bottom, like water in several vessels. This "water" reaches the same height in all of the "vessels," creating a straight line or horizon for the eye.

There's both stasis and implied motion here, too. Light glints off the glass as you move past the work, as if the "water" were shifting gently, and the ribbon of steel looks like a drawn line wandering up and down the gallery wall.

But these works operate on another level as well. As a Greek, the sculptor is a legatee of his country's glorious history and a close neighbor of the troubled Balkan states. To Varotsos, these works represent the world as people might see it if only they would.

The "vessels" represent nations, the "water" their peoples. They may be separate, but they have a great deal in common, including their shared humanity. The spiral represents the great continuum of time, in which our history follows us into the future. History, too, is common, and we forget that at our peril. We have, in sum, much more to unite us than to divide us, as Varotsos' art would remind us.

The work of Osami Tanaka, the other sculptor in this month's show, complements that of Varotsos. Where the latter is dynamic, Tanaka's is quiet, in repose. Blocks of white or creamy paraffin rest near the molds in which they were made -- wood, encased in steel or lead. The paraffin is soft to the eye, the wood and metal hard. But the wax also bears the faint impression of the grain of the wood in which it was made. Again, the piece's history speaks through its present form. Like Varotsos', Tanaka's sculpture makes inventive use of materials and relates to the inescapable imprint of the history we carry with us always.

Costas Varotsos and Osami Tanaka

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

When: 10 a.m. to 5: 30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, through May 2

Call: 410-539-1080

Pub Date: 4/10/97

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