Finding larger meaning in the everyday

Art: 12 artists in the latest School 33 exhibition display work that is original and well-executed, though the show is uneven

Fine Arts

February 02, 1999|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,SUN ART CRITIC

The current edition of School 33's annual juried exhibition has an engaging theme. The art, by the 12 selected artists, is quite uneven but, at best, original and well-executed. And the show as an entity holds the viewer's attention and rewards a visit.

The curator was Steven Beyer, co-director of the Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia. In his essay accompanying the show, he writes that the artists are notable in their diversity but have in common an effort to find larger meaning in the objects and activities of everyday life.

Among the best of this group, Lance Goldsmith's accomplished paintings put characters in surrealistic situations to show how the mind distorts and alters experience. In "Pajama Game" elements of day (light), night (dark) and landscape (a field) form a dreamlike background in which space (and by implication time) are warped, and the pajama-clad figure turns this way and that trying to make sense of it all. Oddly enough, Goldsmith's work is amusing where one might expect to find it frightening.

Sarah Schrift's small paintings, such as "Adam's Roof," show that one's ordinary surroundings can be more complex and absorbing than expected. Travis Childers uses graph paper to make tiny tanks -- hundreds of them neatly organized in ranks on the gallery floor. They may mean that the science of war makes statistics of people, cannon fodder as anonymous and alike in death as these rows of tanks.

Mary Walker's "Civil Trilogy: Adjust Accommodate Support" combines wood, concrete and words associated with the compromises of life. These reflect the interrelationships of the natural and man-made worlds, and of the individual and society. Donna Livingston-Smith's sculptures that relate to the body incorporate items such as kitchen whisks and plastic hooks; they remind the viewer that he's usually more conscious of the functions these humble items perform than of the thousands of functions the body performs every minute.

Nathan Japel's two series of small paintings, called "Eat" and "Smoke," focus in tight on faces engaged in those activities. The repetition brings home how vital or mortal consumption can be, depending on what gets consumed.

School 33 Art Center, at 1427 Light St., is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. The show runs through March 5. For information, call 410-396-4641.

`Collectors' at Evergreen

Evergreen House's "The Collectors Series" has made an auspicious debut. Built around the Garrett family of collectors who lived at Evergreen, each year's series will be devoted to a particular form of art and will offer historical and contemporary components. This year the subject is prints. Lectures and other programs took place last weekend, but the show of contemporary prints that opened on Thursday continues for two months.

Called "Narratives in Print," it contains 51 works by 14 artists, selected by Evergreen curator Cindy Kelly. As the first show in this series, it's a notable success. It has both virtues and flaws, but fortunately, the former outnumber the latter and are of greater consequence.

Kelly has selected artists consistent for the high caliber of their work, but diverse in media and content. These artists work in everything from the familiar etching, lithograph and woodcut to more esoteric methods, such as chine colle and mezzotint, and some work in several at once. And though all the works here possess some form of narrative, the subject matter's wide-ranging. It includes nature and the environment (explored by Soledad Salame and Christine Neill), urban life (Allegra Marquart), personal relations (Martha Macks), the psychology of the individual (Deborah Donelson, Chevelle Makeba Moore Jones), even science and technology (Hilary Lorenz, Helen Frederick).

And Kelly has produced an attractive and instructive booklet to accompany the current series, which contains her straightforward essay on the exhibit.

The show's installation has a couple of problems. Some artists' works are not grouped together, and the corridors Evergreen uses as a gallery don't have proper gallery lighting yet, though I understand that's coming.

And the selection of artists could be a little more adventurous. A good number are quite familiar to local gallery-goers. Five, including Nancy Scheinman, Joan Erbe and Christine Neill, have had exhibitions at Gomez Gallery in the past year. On the other hand, the show introduces to a Baltimore audience Tanja Softic, whose multi-media prints of natural forms are mysterious, beautiful and masterfully executed.

The exhibit at Evergreen House, 4545 N. Charles St., is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, through March 28. Admission is $3. Call 410-516-0341.

`Present Tense'

In conjunction with February as Black History Month, Rockville Arts Place outside Washington has an exhibit called "Present Tense," showing the work of three African-American artists from the Baltimore/Washington region: Linda Day Clark, Michael Platt and Joyce Wellman. Rockville Arts Place, at 100 E. Middle Lane in Rockville, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. The show runs through Feb. 27. For information, call 301-309-6900.

Pub Date: 2/02/99

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