Shared humanity lies at the core Art: Abstract works are thriving in Baltimore. Witness two shows, one at Maryland Art Place, and one at Goya Girl Press.

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

The reports of the death of abstract art have been greatly exaggerated. It is alive and kicking, and lives (among other places) in the Baltimore-Washington area. Two concurrent, complementary shows playing Baltimore just now under the umbrella title "Chance & Necessity" offer distinguished proof.

At Maryland Art Place, the show curated by abstract painter Power Boothe, contains 22 paintings by 20 artists, all living in this area. And at Goya Girl Press there's a show of 20 prints by the same artists. Both shows succeed because of the quality of the work, but also because Boothe has selected diverse artists within the common ground of abstraction.

At MAP, Ann Rentschler, Madeleine Keesing and Barbara Allen provide minimalist-oriented paintings, but each establishes its own character.

A group of works based in geometry range from Timothy App's hard-edge arcs and angles to Jo Smail's veiled, celebratory image that recalls American impressionist Childe Hassam's flag paintings. In Carol Miller Frost's and W.C. Richardson's paintings an enlivening irregularity violates an overall regimentation.

There's romanticism in the rich canvases of Steven Cushner and Paula Crawford, and a group of works that border on representation include Tom Green's stone wall, Michael Weiss' pumpkin, Wendy Roberts' landscape and William Willis' boats.

All, of course, have some relation to shared humanity. That's what Picasso probably meant when he said there is no such thing as abstract art -- you have to start from some human quality because art starts from the human need to communicate. That's certainly true here, whether it's Sam Gilliam's lyricism, Weiss' beauty, Green's grandeur or Cushner's humor.

It's interesting to see what these artists do with printmaking at Goya Girl, for some of them stick closely to the kind of images they create in painting (App, Christopher French), while others try for variety (Green, Crawford).

Maryland Art Place, at 218 West Saratoga Street, is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. For information call 410-962-8565. Goya Girl Press at the Mill Centre, 3000 Chestnut Avenue, is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays. Call 410-366-2001. Both shows run through Jan. 9.

Annual faculty show

Some things never change at the Maryland Institute, College of Art's annual faculty show. You're certain to get: a lot of good art; a few works that look really dumb; work that's technically strong; and not much that shocks or even surprises.

Many familiar artists appear, and one can too easily walk past thinking "Oh yes, so-and-so" when one should spend time appreciating how accomplished the work is: examples this year include Barry Nemett, Karl Connolly, Michael Economos, Sam Christian Holmes, Connie Imboden, Timothy App, Phyllis Plattner, Bill Schmidt, Abby Sangiamo, Howie Lee Weiss, James J. Hennessey, Quentin Moseley and Philip Koch.

Some familiar artists will of course do the unexpected. This year they include Dan Dudrow, who turns from stylized figures to landscape, an interesting development. And Susan Waters-Eller turns from her big, menacing pictures to a CD--ROM of moving images and aggressive sounds, a less interesting development.

Among works by less familiar artists, Maren Hassinger's "Touch the Earth" is much too easy to miss. I didn't know there was anything on that piece of wall until I happened to see the label. Then I saw light outline drawings of leaves climbing the wall and a few actual leaves hanging above them. Hassinger has created a quietly moving work reminiscent of Ellsworth Kelly's beautiful drawings of flowers and foliage.

Elsewhere, Lew Fifield contributes a crisply handsome paper work, "Shadow Catcher #1," that sets up a counterpoint between appearance and reality, as does Rich Lipscher's "Construction #6." Tonia Matthews achieves subtlety on a large scale in "Family Tree" and Carole A. Poppleton achieves subtlety on a small scale in "Imperfect Harmony." And "Dr. T.J. Eckleburg," Timothy Blum's big hanging sculpture of eyes in glasses that stare down at the visitor entering the Mount Royal Station building, manages to be confrontational but also inviting, like a billboard on Times Square.

The exhibit is in the Institute's Mount Royal Station Building at Mount Royal Avenue and Cathedral Street, and the Fox building at Mount Royal and Lafayette Avenues. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays (to 9 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays), Noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. The show runs through Dec. 13. For information call 410-225-2300.

Multiple museum sale

This weekend at the Evergreen House carriage house, 14 museums will have a combined holiday show and sale of items from their shops. They are the American Visionary Art Museum, the Babe Ruth Museum, the Baltimore Maritime Museum, the Baltimore Zoo, the B&O Railroad Museum, the Calvert Marine Museum, Evergreen House, Hampton Mansion, Homewood Museum, the Maryland Historical Society, the Montgomery County Historical Society, the National Aquarium in Baltimore, the St. Mary's City Commission, and the United States Capitol Historical Society.

The sale begins with a preview party (admission $10) from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday and continues from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at Evergreen House, 4545 North Charles Street. Call 410-516-0341.

Pub Date: 12/01/98

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