3 artists grace new space of Gomez Gallery Contemporary: First show welcomes Juan Logan's socio-political paintings, Susan Fenton's hand-colored still life photographs and Dhruvi Acharya's tiny paintings.

June 10, 1998|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,SUN ART CRITIC

Gomez Gallery has always been an attractive place to see art, but it's never looked as good as it does now. Having accomplished its move from south Baltimore to Meadow Mill in the Hampden-Woodberry area, it has more than doubled its space, with larger offices and frame shop, and a new cafe which will open later this week.

L But best of all, for the public, is the new exhibition area.

With 3,500 square feet compared to 1,500 before, it's obviously more commodious. But it's also more appealing. On entering, the visitor must make a quick right and then left turn, providing a sense of expectancy. It's fulfilled as the rectangular main space opens out welcomingly. In the center is a walled off area, which provides a tiny additional gallery for showing newcomer artists and adds to the viewer's sense of discovery.

The exposed ducts and beams overhead add a touch of geometric abstraction quite in keeping with a contemporary art gallery. All in all, it's a fine space to see art.

With its opening, proprietor Walter Gomez's gallery celebrates its 10th anniversary. The Venezuelan-born former artist turned to the business side and worked two years for the now-defunct Dalsheimer Gallery before opening his own space in South Baltimore in 1988. Since then he has steadily built a business which he expects to gross $1 million this year, and has specialized in local artists, European and Latin American artists and photographers.

He says his new location is already bringing in new people. "I'm impressed by the number of people, especially young professionals, who have found us," he says. He likes being in the building with the adventurous drama group AXIS Theatre, where three performances will highlight the gallery's inaugural reception Saturday, and hopes to encourage interaction among the arts. "I want people to understand that every facet of the arts community is related and important," he says.

Gomez's new space opens with an appropriately cosmopolitan show. It includes works by Juan Logan, an African-American artist whose paintings deal with socio-political issues; Susan Fenton, an American artist whose hand-colored still life photographs relate to a sojourn in France. And newcomer Dhruvi Acharya, a young artist from India who has just received her master's degree in fine arts from the Maryland Institute, College of Art.

Logan's paintings, with their symbolic, icon-like images, deal with multiple concerns of modern life. The white-hooded figure in some of his works refers to the Ku Klux Klan and more generally to racism. In "Just Yellow," Logan makes the hood black with a yellow outline to condemn black on black crime. In "Side Show" the cloaked figure dangles a group of crosses like puppets, to indicate how religion can be used for sinister purposes.

Elsewhere, "Next" and "Sacrifice" take up the issue of abortion and choice -- do we really want to drive it back into the realm of back alleys and coat hangers? And "Tar Baby" warns that in the age of HIV the almost irresistible appeal of sex can lead all too easily to death. These are issues that we hear about often, and Logan's work doesn't overflow with original ideas about them. But his paintings are well designed, strong on color and forceful. They all date from 1989 to 1992, however; not that they seem dated -- they are too generalized for that -- but it would be nice to see what he's doing now.

Fenton's photographs also date from the early 1990s, a period she spent in France. The subject is still life rather than contemporary issues, but these delicately colored pictures of fruit, ceramic vessels and drapery arranged on and around marble mantelpieces do raise a time-related question: Is it better to be alive like fruit, which means inevitably to be in the process of death, or an inanimate object like marble that goes on forever? It's a question answered by the photos' own beauty and serenity, which only the living consciousness can appreciate. And their soft-voiced subtlety seems quite French.

Acharya's tiny paintings of people, buildings, flora and fauna all floating around in an indeterminate space owe something to traditional Indian painting, but they also recall surrealism and the fantasies of Marc Chagall. Upon acquaintance, they offer more pleasure than they at first appear to promise.

This is an auspicious beginning for Gomez's new venture. Congratulations to all.

Art gallery

What: Works by Juan Logan, Susan Fenton and Dhruvi Acharya

Where: Gomez Gallery, 3600 Clipper Mill Road

When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m. Sundays, through July 5

Call: 410-662-9510

Note: The Gomez Gallery will hold an inaugural reception Saturday from 5 to 7 p.m., and at 7 p.m. Joyce Scott, Laure Drogoul and Tony Tsendeas will perform at the Axis Theatre. Tickets for the performance are $25, with the proceeds going to Axis Theatre.

Pub Date: 6/10/98

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