Come closer to see smaller sculptures

Art: At Grimaldis, 18 works show that bigger is not always better.

January 12, 1999|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,SUN ART CRITIC

Small-scale sculpture, meant for a tabletop or a pedestal, may not at first glance seem as "important" as more monumentally-sized work. But that's largely a false impression. Good artists create good work whatever the size. And small scale works have certain advantages over their bigger cousins. They're often more intimate and approachable, and one can imagine living closely with them.

That's the case with the show of small-scale sculptures now at Grimaldis, which includes 18 sculptures by 10 artists. They cover a wide chronological range from Michael Lekakis' "Stele V" of 1955 to Jon Isherwood's "Origins and Circumstances" of 1998-1999, but almost all are largely or wholly abstract, so the show offers a range of approaches.

In a show of mostly understated work, Anthony Caro's "Writing Piece Blue Slate," with its architectural form, its multiple sections and its fragmentation of space, looks baroque and dramatic. Although certainly not figural, Bruno Romeda's "Untitled circle," with its rough bronze surface, recalls the expressive, attenuated figures of Alberto Giacometti; there's a lot of emotion in this circle.

Daithi O'Glaisain's combinations of burned and unburned wood, called "Memory" and "Remnant," have a host of implications for the harmonious interaction of opposites, whether the subject is age, gender, race, religion or any of the other differences that separate people. John Ruppert's "Ocean Rock," combining a real rock and one cast of stainless steel, has much the same implications for the natural and man-made worlds, and has an extremely handsome appearance as well.

Dimitri Hadzi's two bronzes on granite bases, "Pharos" and "Primavera," have the ageless look of classic abstraction; they will have as much quiet dignity in a century as they do now.

In the gallery's rear space, Neil A. Meyerhoff's "Photographs from Four Continents" remind his audience of the artist's strength and versatility. Meyerhoff idealizes what he sees, whether the subject is architecture, wildlife or landscape. Surely zebras never looked more zebra-like than they do in Meyerhoff's "Zebras in a Pool, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania," and this ability to capture the essence of the subject requires a sacrifice of artistic ego.

The C. Grimaldis Gallery, at 523 North Charles Street, is open 10 a.m. to 5: 30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays. The exhibit runs through Jan. 31. For information call 410-539-1080.

`Making It Up' at JCC

The three-artist show at the Jewish Community Center has the title "Making It Up" because, according to gallery director Claudine Davison, each of the artists has a story to tell and each one to some extent develops a medium appropriate to the work's content or theme.

Penny Harris uses a pinhole camera and multiple exposures to create her series about the pluses and minuses of family life. Alan Soffer combines several media including painting, monotype and collage to create his images about the state of civilization. In creating his computer digital prints, Jon Meyer incorporates photography, historical imagery such as a 19th century locomotive, and areas of abstract color.

Harris' family scenes (under the umbrella title "Domestic Landscape") assert that family life can be a haven but also a limitation. Transparent "ghost" figures cohabit the pictures with solid figures; in one photo, a woman sleeps in the embrace of the ghost image of another woman. This suggests that even absent family members are always with one in spirit, exerting influence. Sometimes one person is shown in duplicate, looking both toward and away from another, as if unsure whether to seek the comfort of family or liberation from it. Harris' theme is not new -- indeed one might say it's thoroughly familiar -- but she states it effectively in the most successful presentation of the show.

Some of Soffer's mixed media images are vague or confused, others make their point clearly. Of the latter, a duo called "Progress" and "America," both filled with crumbling architecture and urban debris, assert that the nation is falling apart and perhaps that America is presiding over the destruction of the world as well. Here again the point is not original, but at least these two works make it with some impact.

Meyer's surrealist imagery, populated with gorillas and monkeys, icebergs and mountains, expanses of water and sky, flowers and bananas floating through the air, impart more of a sense of fertile imagination than of specific meaning.

The most effective works are the least abstract, including "Banana Railroad" with its bananas flying in formation and its multicolored gorillas pulled by a charming locomotive. There may be a satirical point here about the un-progress of evolution, but Meyer's works in this vein principally delight for their humor and luscious color.

The art gallery of the Jewish Community Center, at 5700 Park Heights Avenue, is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays, 3 to 5 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, Noon to 2: 30 p.m. Fridays and Noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. The show runs through Feb. 15. For information call 410-542-4900.

Artscape entries sought

The Mayor's Advisory Committee on Art and Culture and Baltimore's Festival of the Arts Inc. have announced calls for entry for the 18th annual Artscape, to be held July 9-11. The 1999 arts extravaganza will include, as usual, a potpourri of visual, performing and literary arts. Individual artists and arts organizations may apply.

The deadline for applications for visual arts exhibitions and visual arts market is 4 p.m. January 22. The deadline for literary arts awards is 4 p.m. February 5, and the deadline for literary arts market is 4 p.m. March 11. Information and applications are available by calling 410-396-4575 and on the Internet at http: //www.artscape.org.

Pub Date: 1/12/99

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