Traditional work dominates Institute's annual faculty show

October 22, 1997|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,SUN ART CRITIC

The 1997 edition of the Maryland Institute, College of Art's faculty show benefits from altered exhibition spaces. But as usual with this annual show, traditional media dominate and leave the best impression.

The show occupies the college's two main galleries, in the Mount Royal Station and Fox buildings. New walls have been added in both galleries, breaking larger areas into smaller ones and in the process providing more wall space. Because there are consequently fewer works in each space, the installation seems more spacious rather than more confined. The show accommodates works by 80 artists without a lot of crowding.

Despite two videos, an installation and a few computer-generated works, the show is not cutting edge. Paintings, drawings, prints, photography and a few sculptures dominate. It appears that MICA, generally rated one of the country's best art colleges, has resisted throwing itself into the embrace of every trend that blows in and instead continues to provide a strong, traditionally based curriculum in which the importance of craft is not neglected.

Painters provide the largest number of striking works here, from the realist to the abstract, and from bold to subtle. Speaking of subtle, James J. Hennessey's "Meehan" quietly entices the attention with its soft tones and suggestions of nature abstracted that recall the work of Richard Diebenkorn. With a limited palette of browns on black, Gwen Fabricant's "Four Last Things" achieves a richness of effect.

It takes a lot to stand up to Raoul Middleman's dynamic style, exhibited here with "Gloria." But Paul Moscatt's "Christina," hanging next to the Middleman, fills the bill. The subject's frank return of the viewer's gaze suggests her strength of character. Rounding out this wall, Barbara Marcus' untitled painting of a woman on horseback in the forest also holds its own.

One part of Robert Salazar's and Stacey Redford McKenna's diptych "Relationship" is a landscape, and the other's an abstraction. But their colors are related. And the work implies a relationship between the exterior and the interior -- between what you see and what you don't.

The huge belly that dominates Karl Connolly's "Still Life with Apple" repulses and attracts. It presents an image of something grossly alive and at the same time oddly removed from life. Obesity so close up might appear threatening, but here it's enlarged to a scale at which it becomes an abstract concept more than a physical presence.

A painting of a passage of music might sound dull, but in "Sonatina," Michael Economos delights with the sheer use of paint. Power Boothe's untitled painting's an abstraction: a group of small grids against a misty background that looks a little like fog rolling in. It's surprising that something so vague should have so much light, movement, structure and atmosphere.

Timothy App's painting of colored geometric shapes, called "Pawn," looks like one of a series; alone, it makes the viewer want more, for one can easily imagine a roomful of works like this making a major statement.

Some artists have exhibited better works than what they show here. Lois Brett Hennessey's ceramic sculpture "Seeded" lacks a degree of her usual wit. The same can be said of Douglas Baldwin's "The Great Duck Ceramic Conference Hotel," which is too big and complex for its own good. If that's true of Baldwin's work, it's true in spades of Barry Nemett's installation which, a label says, is based on his yet-to-appear novel "Crooked Tracks." A knowledge of the novel will surely help one's understanding, but probably won't obliterate the impression of the bloated and self-indulgent.

Michelle La Perriere's small digital prints are pale and weak compared with the big, psychologically probing drawings she has previously shown. And Dan Dudrow's images based on old master paintings leave the impression that he's in transition, working toward a statement that will be more his own.

Faculty Exhibition

Where: Decker Gallery, Mount Royal Station Building, Mount Royal Avenue and Cathedral Street; and Meyerhoff Gallery, Fox Building, Mount Royal and Lafayette avenues

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays (to 9 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays), noon to 5 p.m. Sundays; through Nov. 9

Call: 410-225-2300

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