Grimaldis shows us why it matters Review: The 20th birthday -- and all-star show -- at the gallery is a good excuse to look back at how we've grown because of it.

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

Baltimore doesn't often see a show that's all stars, but Grimaldis has one this month: painters Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan and Hans Hofmann, all from the abstract expressionist era; landscape painter Eugene Leake and realist painter Alice Neel; abstract sculptors Anthony Caro and Anne Truitt; conceptualist photographer John Baldessari. And the biggest surprise is that nothing's for sale.

This is "Raison d'etre," an exhibit marking the 20th anniversary of the gallery's opening in September 1977. For it, owner Constantine Grimaldis has borrowed back art he's sold by some of the notable artists he's carried during those two decades.

It's kind of a mini-retrospective, not of an artist but of a gallery. It's far from comprehensive, of course, but it's an impressive group of works, and it tells us something about what this gallery in particular and good galleries in general do for a city's art scene.

Hartigan's "West Broadway," a pointillist painting from 1989, is one of the best works from one of her best periods. Her balance here of boldness and restraint, dynamics and repose, abstraction and representation makes this one of her most elegant statements.

Caro's "Table Piece Y81" (1985-1987) has an architectural monumentality achieved by the combination of many small, intimate and even charming sculptural elements. Willem De Kooning's "Untitled V" (1979) shows the artist in a lyrical mood. Compared with his more aggressive works, there's a gentleness here that suggests a rumination on nature. Truitt's "River Rose" (1979) proves that the phrase romantic minimalism isn't necessarily self-contradictory.

Neel's three paintings are all stunningly full of presence, and the central one, a portrait of "Constantine Grimaldis" (1983), shows what a perceptive portraitist she was. She perfectly captured his intense personality and scrutinizing gaze.

The show as a whole demonstrates, of course, how beneficial the presence of Grimaldis has been to those who can buy first-class art. But even those who can't buy this art can afford to go and see it.

Too often, people are timid about going to art galleries. They think if they ask questions they might make fools of themselves, or if they have no intention of buying it's an imposition to take up the gallery personnel's time.

Such hesitancy is understandable but not valid. Galleries are there for us all, and they're an important part of a community's art scene.

Anyone who's gone to a good percentage of Grimaldis' roughly 240 shows since 1977 knows a lot more about art than if the gallery hadn't been here.

'Raison d'etre'

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

When: 10 a.m. to 5: 30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays, through Sept. 27

Call: 410-539-1080

Pub Date: 9/10/97

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