Extreme pleasures

ART

Exhibit: Wide-ranging Maryland Art Place show by Korean-American artists stirs the mind and the heart.

January 26, 1999|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,SUN ART CRITIC

With the recently opened "Sae Ba Ram," Maryland Art Place has one of the handsomest shows around.

Pronounced much the way it looks (Say Bah Rahm), the phrase means "New Wind" in Korean, and the show contains the work of Korean-American artists working in the Baltimore-Washington area. Sponsored by the Korean American Artists Association, and curated by MAP's executive director, Jack Rasmussen, it opened last month at Rockville Arts Place outside of Washington and moved to Baltimore last week.

Rasmussen chose accomplished, thought-provoking artists. Almost all were born in Korea, but most moved to this country as children and got their art education in the United States. One would almost certainly not guess their common Asian origins from the work alone.

But they do share certain characteristics, which Rasmussen sums up as a strong graphic element: superior draftsmanship and sense of design. To which can be added a total mastery of medium and a tight sense of control.

If it sounds like this art all looks alike, that's not at all the case. There are as many different visions and modes of expression as there are artists.

At one extreme are Taek Lee's minimalist, elegant painted wood panels, with their exquisite proportional relationships of part to part. At the other is Y. David Chung's huge (8-by-60-foot) drawing, based on African-American folk tales, that bombards the eye with its agitated (but never out of control) imagery.

Jean Sook Rah's wooden sculptures -- a column and two floor pieces -- consist of rectangular units lightly carved in different ways, with ridges, dimples, creases, undulations, here and there a depiction of a bird. The temptation to touch is almost irresistible (but do resist, please), for their surfaces, even though restrained, possess an almost erotic sensuousness.

Su Kwak's "Beyond Light #1-#15" consists of 15 painted collages of cut paper, cardboard and plaster. Occupying a place somewhere between painting and sculpture, the series is based on the Stations of the Cross. While completely abstract in its visual imagery, the progression of sizes, shapes and colors does give it a feeling of life, death and ascension to a higher plane.

Sung H. Kim's wall-sized "5,000 Horses" is an amazing tour-de-force line drawing that suggests, without specifically depicting, a huge horde of horses thundering across a landscape. It also fools the eye. From a distance of more than about 3 feet, it absolutely gives the impression of being three-dimensional; but it isn't.

This fine show should not be missed.

Maryland Art Place, at 218 Saratoga St., is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. The show runs through Feb. 20.

For information, call 410-962-8565.

Lost in translation

To think of traditional travel photographs is to think of the sights: pyramids, the Parthenon, Stonehenge and the Taj Mahal, for those who like the man-made. Or, for those who prefer nature, an Alp or a crystalline lake, sunrise on the Sahara or sunset over the Pacific.

More recently, some photographers traveling to foreign lands have tended to focus more on people and their lives, especially those in less fortunate countries. In the current show at Goucher College, however, two artists take travel photography in two other directions, with unfortunate results.

Laura Burns, a lecturer in art at Goucher, spent the first half of 1998 on a traveling fellowship in Mexico. One result is "Hotel Mexico 70," three dozen color photographs of run-down hotel rooms and the record left behind by people who have stayed in them: peeling paint, naked light bulbs, cracking floors, bare mattresses, hideous curtains and bedspreads, graffiti, lipstick smudges, trash on the floor.

Burns has impressive credentials, including a graduate degree from the Yale School of Art and work included in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And Ed Worteck, a Goucher faculty member and himself a fine photographer, contributes an essay to the show in which he writes of Burns' work as "a feast of color" and rich in narrative suggestion.

It is also possible, however, to find these photos largely lacking in aesthetic merit or social insight. Surely Burns must have more to show from her Mexican travels than this.

Sasha Bezzubov's "The Gringo Project," the other half of this show, consists of 14 large-scale color photographs of travelers in places where Bezzubov has traveled: Martin, from Switzerland, in India; Eva, from Germany, in Guatemala; Michelle, from Australia, in Thailand, etc.

Bezzubov's photographs are much handsomer than Burns'. But except for a couple of impressive backgrounds, they say nothing about the lands through which Bezzubov has traveled or the people who inhabit them. They even throw little light on the travelers Bezzubov has met and photographed.

Rosenberg Gallery at Goucher College, 1021 Dulaney Valley Road, Towson, is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and evenings and weekends of events in Kraushaar auditorium. The show runs through March 5. For information, call 410-337-6333.

Pub Date: 1/26/99

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