Ripened fruits of seven sabbaticals Art: Maryland Institute, College of Art faculty members have returned from extended leaves to share works they produced while away

Fine Arts

September 01, 1998|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,SUN ART CRITIC

Every year several faculty members at the Maryland Institute, College of Art take a sabbatical, and when they come back, they show what they've done. This year's "Sabbatical Exhibition" in the Decker Gallery includes seven artists and neatly divides itself into three groups of two, plus one.

James Hennessey and Mark Karnes are the traditional painters in the group, and when the painting's this good, there's no condescension intended in the word traditional.

Of Hennessey's paintings, the finest is "Mignotta," in which he caresses his seated woman with light and balances her figure with a group of lines that suggest neither architecture nor psychological commentary but just a strikingly appropriate visual complement to the figure. He's also represented by two fine drawings, especially the beautifully composed "Rochefort."

Karnes' small paintings, executed in series of three, show the effects of light's changes on color and mood. In his three "Dormer" paintings, each showing only a window, a patch of wall and floor and a radiator, the light and the mood shift from warm to cool. His three "Golf Balls" paintings impart a sense of quiet elation.

Photographer Tom Baird and painter Michael Economos are the environmentalists in this group. Baird records the environs of Centralia, Pa., where an underground coal fire has been burning out of control for more than 30 years. The smoke seeping out of the ground, the dead trees, the cracks in the road as if made by an earthquake, attest to the destructive power of this insidious disease of the land.

Economos' strong paintings focus on a swimming hole with a junked car half-submerged in it. His attitude's revealed by his depiction of the stupid people who swim, dive and otherwise enjoy themselves around this example of environmental blight, rather than do something about cleaning up a once-pristine spot. If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.

Timothy App and Jo Smail are the two abstractionists, but with quite different approaches. App's big, bold, geometric shapes have an architectural solidity, and his asymmetrical compositions create a satisfying sense of tension in the viewer. These tailored-looking works convey a sense of satisfaction gained from the rigors of creation.

Smail's vague shapes, painted in pinks and whites with an occasional yellow, possess barely contained emotion. They reflect a desire to express the ineffable.

Quentin Moseley has grown fascinated with prehistoric carved stones on the coast of southern Brittany in France. His prints and wall-hung sculptures (some incorporating neon) make use of the markings, which he believes were an attempt to express a search for humankind's place in the larger scheme of things. The symbols in this group of works do look like an attempt to form a system of communication incorporating elements of writing and visual art. They have a certain mystery, better captured in the prints than the sculptures.

The Institute's Decker Gallery, in the Mount Royal Station building at Cathedral Street and Mount Royal Avenue, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays (to 9 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays) and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. The show runs through Sept. 20. For information, call 410-225-2300.

On loan from Baltimore

Two of Baltimore's major museums have shows taken from their permanent collections traveling the state at the moment.

A selection of 44 works from the Baltimore Museum of Art's Lucas collection of 19th-century art is on view at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown. It includes four works by the French animal sculptor Antoine-Louis Barye; landscapes by mid-19th-century Barbizon artists, including Theodore Rousseau and Charles-Francois Daubigny; prints by Whistler and Mary Cassatt; and some works that exhibit gorgeous color, including Antoine Vollon's "Still Life with Flowers and Fruit," Albert Pasini's "In the Marketplace" and Norbert Goeneutte's "Girl in a Rocking Chair.

The Washington County Museum of Fine Arts at 91 Key St., City Park, Hagerstown, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. Admission is free; donations appreciated. The Lucas exhibit runs through Sept. 27. For information, call 301-739-5727.

A selection of works of art with a floral theme, from the Walters Art Gallery, will open Friday at Strathmore Hall Arts Center in Bethesda. Called "Botanical Delights," the show contains 32 works including paintings and decorative arts. Highlights include Jean-Leon Gerome's "Tulip Folly," Leon Bonvin's "Still life, Daisies and Violets" and paintings by Jules Breton and Simon Saint Jean. Decorative arts include a pair of Sevres porcelain vases decorated by Henri-Lucien Lambert and an example of American Art Nouveau glass by Louis Comfort Tiffany.

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