'Critics' Picks' illustrate themes of time illusion, loss Art review

March 24, 1998|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,SUN ART CRITIC

Each year Maryland Art Place has a critics' residency, in which two outside critics come to Baltimore to visit artists' studios and work with writers who also aspire to be critics. It's an excellent program and results in a visible product in the form of a show called "Critics' Picks."

If the critics pick independently of one another, the result may be a show of unrelated works. But this year's critics, New York writers Jeanne Silverthorne and Jo Anna Isaak, are friends and selected the show together.

Moreover, their essay in the accompanying catalog states, "We were less concerned with value judgments than with finding themes that would establish links among the artworks." And the effort shows in this remarkably coherent show. Most of its works deal with aspects of time, desire, illusion and loss.

Kenneth Rogowski's color photographs satirizing romance novels deal with desire and its illusions. His satin-gowned women and matinee-idol men look deeply in love, but there's a catch in there somewhere.

In "Love's Desperate Deceit," the bitten apple in "Eve's" hand and the gun that "Adam" fondles indicate that each thinks more about his own pleasure than the other's. And in "Love Not a Rebel," the guy holds both the woman and a vacuum cleaner, indicating what he really wants out of this relationship.

David Page's "Leonardo's Folly" consists of a suit and mask that one could wear, with wings strapped to it. It's about the desire to fly, as metaphor for escaping Earth and its problems (including death) and the illusory nature of such an escape.

In Peter Ivanoff's "The Road," a flotilla of bottles made into sailboats lie on the gallery floor in a narrowing, V-shaped wedge with a single tiny boat at the head of the procession. Like this wedge, life's choices inevitably narrow with time, until only the inevitable destination remains.

Judy Goodkind's collaged and painted pictures, sometimes quite funny, incorporate reproductions of art to suggest a fantasy-world take on real life. In "While Out Picking Flowers, the Boys Were Mesmerized by What They Found in the Vegetable Garden," three children clipped from a reproduction of an old portrait confront vegetables that are much bigger than they are. It recalls not only how big but how significant things seem from child's perspective, and how people lose that sense of significance and wonder as they grow older.

Marisabella Telleria-Diez's installation "Corner with Dismembered Single Seats" consists of two white sculptures of hassock-like seats in a corner of the gallery where hang Telleria-Diez's paintings of -- empty corners of rooms. It's a reminder of how much time, effort and money people invest in their surroundings and of how little, ultimately, possessions have to do with the essence of life.

The most moving work in the show is little more than an old, broken typewriter on a stand. Called "Mother Jean's First Stroke," it relates to the loss of ability with words the artist's mother, a translator, suffered from a stroke. This work has a lot of meaning if one imagines how much effort it would take to put this typewriter back into working order, then imagines how much greater an effort it is for a stroke victim to recover, and then reflects that life holds some sort of crippling illness in store for everyone.

While it's coherent, the show's not entirely consistent. Lester Longino's and Jennifer Blazina's contributions don't measure up to the others here. But thematically, everything hangs together in one of the best editions of "Critics' Picks."

'Critics' Picks'

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

When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; through April 18

Call: 410-962-8565

Pub Date: 3/24/98

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