Soothing colors, tempo take the world away Review: MAP's exhibit of three geometric abstractionists begs the viewer to slow down and enjoy the show.

December 05, 1997|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,SUN ART CRITIC

"Geometrice," at Maryland Art Place, provides just what the art lover needs at the tension-filled holiday season: a restful show that invites leisurely looking and contemplation of the art it offers.

Conceived and curated by MAP director Jack Rasmussen, it's a complement to the gallery's concurrent retrospective of the art of Amalie Rothschild, who works in geometric abstraction.

So do the three artists in "Geometrice," but their work is not as hard-edged as the term usually suggests. They are a little gentler, a little less brittle and -- though thoroughly abstract -- a little oriented toward the world in tone and connotation, rather than strictly concerned with such formal aspects of art as color, line and composition.

So these artists have a good bit in common, but each also has her own statement to make.

Madeleine Keesing, who lives in Washington, is a colorist who recalls the Washington color school painters of the 1950s and 1960s. She covers her canvases with row upon row, top to bottom, of tiny droplets of paint, either in a single color or in subtle variations of color.

These paintings, with simple titles such as "White," "Red" and "Light Indigo," have a banded effect that can recall landscape, as all pictures with horizontals in them inevitably do.

But they're just as pleasing without that reference. They encourage the eye to take them in meanderingly and provide a proper introduction to the slow tempo of this show.

Thinking of the extreme deliberation with which they must have been made only reinforces that impression.

The paintings of Gail Watkins of Annapolis consist of rows of 5- by 7-inch rectangles in a spectrum of earth tones ranging from dusky white through dark brown. They suggest patches of earth slowly altering over time, whether days or weeks or eons. But the most remarkable of them, called "The Mountain," also transports the viewer far back in time to the prehistoric effort to create written communication. Their textured surfaces contain vague lines and shapes that sometimes resemble letters and sometimes pictures, as if they might be developing either toward an alphabet or hieroglyphics. The visual effect of these slowly marching rows of rectangles nicely complements one's sense of the grandeur of mankind's immense effort to create written language.

Carol Miller Frost of Baltimore experiments with different colored discs arranged on backgrounds whose colors also modulate to some degree. The best of her paintings here are those in which the relationship between background and discs is closest, where Frost achieves the subtlest variations.

"The Blue and the Gray" is limited to gradations of those two colors, with the exception of three reddish discs to provide visual focus and punctuation. "Raspberry Thoughts" does much the same with pinkish, purplish, maroonish shades that create satisfying chords of color.

One emerges from this show with one's head cleared temporarily of the clutter of daily life's stresses, and grateful for art that can induce a soothingly deliberate rhythm of thoughts.

'Geometrice' at MAP

What: Geometric abstractions by three artists: Madeleine Keesing, Gail Watkins and Carol Miller Frost

Where: Maryland Art Place, 218 W. Saratoga St.

When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; through Jan. 3

Call: 410-962-8565

Pub Date: 12/05/97

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