Sculpture show is weakened by cliche

January 22, 1998|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,SUN ART CRITIC

Baltimore gallery-goers will know the sculptor Daithi O'Glaisain, the current artist at the C. Grimaldis Gallery, by the name of David Gleeson. Irish-born, educated in Ireland and the United States, and a local resident for several years, he now shows his art under the Gaelic equivalent of his name.

And the 15 wood sculptures on view at Grimaldis, all created in 1997, relate to divided Ireland, its troubles and the artist's guarded hope that it can be united again some day.

Although these works undoubtedly spring from deeply felt emotions and an admirable desire to see his motherland once more united and at peace, as a group, they suffer from two problems: repetition and cliche.

Almost all of them consist of either two principal sections unjoined and straining to connect, or (more commonly) three sections with the two outer ones alike and the center section the different and presumably weakest link.

"Trauma" exemplifies the first type. A group of wooden beams hangs from the ceiling, and another group rises from the floor, like stalactites and stalagmites in a cave. At the bottom of the hanging group and the top of the rising group, wooden fingers reach out toward one another but do not touch. The image of hands reaching out to one another has become such a cliche that it's something of an embarrassment to see it used by an artist as talented and creative as O'Glaisain has shown himself in the past.

"Connect" exemplifies the second type. A standing sculpture, its bottom and top dark-hued beams are joined in the middle by a group of pink-stained sticks embedded in wax, obviously the most fragile section of this tripartite work. O'Glaisain makes a pair of complementary points with this and the similar sculptures here: that Ireland's two parts have far more in common than what divides them, and that any settlement that brings peace and unity will be fragile and must be accepted as such.

The artist achieves some variety within his constant subject matter. There are wall pieces ("Suture"), and floor pieces, both vertical ("Connect") and horizontal ("Dreamscape"). They are executed in several woods, sometimes left plain and sometimes colored, and often with the addition of wax.

Some of these works constitute strong sculptural statements quite apart from their content. In fact, any one would be more successful standing alone than in this group, where they inevitably create a sense of over-familiarity.

O'Glaisain is an accomplished artist. He shows that in this show, as he has done with earlier works that carried psychological and sociological meaning. Here, unfortunately, his understandable zeal has resulted in a show that sags with the weight of sameness.

'Check'

What: "Check," sculptures by Daithi O'Glaisain

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 Feb. 2

Call: 410-539-1080

Pub Date: 1/22/98

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