Lively works bursting with joyfulness Art: Mark Barry's paintings are filled with bright color and a sense of the gift of time.

December 15, 1998|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,SUN ART CRITIC

Anybody out there who's down in the dumps and needs a lift should go see the paintings of Mark Barry at Steven Scott Gallery. Barry's that rare creature, a creator of upbeat, happy paintings that are not trivial but really good.

He has a first-rate sense of color and uses it to capture the mood and the tone of the work. While his colors are always bright, in "Page Turner," the blues and yellows and whites constitute a soothing palette, in tune with the quiet act of reading.

In "Night Life," on the other hand, the blue and red dresses pulse with the energy and life of the jazz being played in the nightspot Barry depicts.

His compositions are well thought out and carefully balanced, whether the scene is relatively unpopulated, like "Page Turner," or crowded, like "Night Life."

And Barry manipulates space to reinforce the subject matter. He may push the image up close to the picture plane, so the viewer's in intimate contact with the scene, as in "Love Reclined," in which two people kiss.

Or he may deepen his space and arrange people on both sides of the image with an open space between to give a ritual, processional feel, as with "The Wedding." Elsewhere, in a picture such as "Learning to Play," he tilts the floor to make it look like everybody's about to spill out of the picture, in keeping with the playful subject and the upside-down position of the girl on the chair.

Barry's greatest gift, however, is the happiness with which he endows his images. This is not a mindless, silly happiness, but springs from a deep appreciation of life.

Whatever Barry's people do -- cook soft crabs, play with the dog, read quietly, have a night out, kiss one another, take a bath -- Barry has them do it with a loving sense of the gift of time.

With some exceptions, bigger Barrys are better than smaller ones, more fully developed with greater vitality and more emotion. Whatever the scale, Barry's work communicates optimism and affirmation, qualities it's hard to get too much of in today's world.

Steven Scott Gallery, at 515 N. Charles St., is open noon to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. The show runs through Jan. 30. For information, call 410-752-6218.

Brewster at Grimaldis

In David Brewster's small landscapes of the farms and countryside of New England, at the C. Grimaldis Gallery, the liquid-looking, loosely handled paint works much better in some cases than others.

When buildings and farm machinery punctuate Brewster's landscapes, they give focus to the images, for he depicts them more explicitly than he does land or sky, and they act to give his pictures much-needed structure. But his handling of the paint's still fairly loose.

"Blue Tractor," one of the few interiors and one of the most successful paintings in the show, exists on the border between representational image and geometric abstraction precisely because Brewster indicates his objects without closely defining

them.

Elsewhere, though, especially when Brewster deals with sky and land, some passages appear more confused than resolved. In the lower right side of "Center Chimney Cape," it's hard to tell what Brewster depicts.

With "Chesterfield Hills," the centerpiece of this show, the image falls into place when seen from the other end of the long gallery, but the viewer does not have the luxury of so much distance in the rest of the show.

Some of these pictures achieve remarkable light, such as "Chesterfield Valley," "Westmoreland House" and "Hay and Blue Tarp." And the composition of "Hubbard Brothers Excavator," though somewhat self-conscious, works well anyway.

Brewster's strengths make him an artist to watch, though some of his paintings look as if they need more working out than he has given them.

C. Grimaldis Gallery, at 523 N. Charles St., is open 10 a.m. to 5: 30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. The show runs through Jan. 2. For information, call 410-539-1080.

Classes for children

School 33 Art Center will have a spring program of art classes for children and teens beginning Feb. 6 and running through April 10. It includes "Adventures in Art" for ages 6 to 10, "Adventures in Clay" for ages 11 to 15 and "Techniques of Painting for Teens" for ages 13 to 15.

For information and a brochure, call 410-396-4641.

Pub Date: 12/15/98

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