Modern works show respect for tradition

Sculptures: Dimitri Hadzi's pieces have primitive energy of Picasso, but the etches and embossing suggest ancient religious rites.

Fine Arts

May 22, 2001|By Glenn McNatt | Glenn McNatt,SUN ART CRITIC

There is something reassuringly traditional about Dimitri Hadzi's sculptures, though at first glance it's hard to say exactly what it is. Part of it undoubtedly has to do with the fact that Hadzi works in the time-honored sculptor's materials of bronze and stone, which lend his pieces an unmistakable gravitas despite their modest scale.

Part of it also is because the finely finished surfaces of his works clearly bear the imprint of an artist's hand, so unlike the machine-made perfection of minimalist sculpture. Hadzi's works are scored, etched and embossed with runic markings and cryptic emblems that suggest ancient religious rites. His forms have the primitive energy and starkness of a drawing by Picasso.

This is an art that eludes easy categorization, though the artist has expressed his indebtedness to Moore, Brancusi, Marini and Lipchitz - as well as Picasso. For example, Hadzi's "Gilgamesh" consists of two irregularly shaped columns supporting a horizontal member whose highly worked surfaces have the texture of metal and stone.

The title is taken from the name of an ancient Babylonian king who figured in a collection of mythic tales, one of which told of a flood that covered the earth. The artist clearly wants us to associate this work with an architectural and sculptural tradition that stretches into the antediluvian past, and this piece has, for all its abstractness, the tragic dignity of a temple ruin.

Hadzi has a modernist's concern for exploring the properties of his materials and forms, but he often does so by mimicking the texture of one medium in another, and by combining textures of different media in a single work. For instance, "Gilgamesh," though cast entirely in bronze, contains elements that have the look of wood, stone and metal.

The effect vaguely recalls the postmodernist strategy of pastiche - of conspicuous imitation and a hodgepodge of incongruous parts - but without postmodernism's ironic or satiric intent. And, while postmodernism tries to undermine tradition, Hadzi's pieces rely on a certain respect for that heritage - a sense that art has a historical continuity that is valuable and ought to be preserved. The wonder is that he manages to express that conviction through works of solidity that nevertheless evoke the incredible lightness of a fragment of a memory of a dream.

Hadzi's work is on display at C. Grimaldis Gallery, 523 N. Charles St., through June 2. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and by appointment. Call 410-539-1080.

Exhibits

Here are other interesting exhibits around town:

At Galerie Francoise et Ses Freres, "Part of the Mix," a photography exhibit curated by John S. Bainbridge Jr. on the theme of the people and the environment, presents the works of mostly local and regional photographers, including David Harp, Sun photographer Jed Kirschbaum, Amy Deputy, Arthur Valk and Mary Hayes.

All the pictures are in the traditional mode of straight journalistic photography, and much of the subject matter is close to home as well, with many pleasant views of the Chesapeake Bay and Eastern Shore. Deputy, a former Sun photographer, strays a bit further afield with an essay on rural poverty in Kentucky, while Allan Bruce Zee weighs in with some appealing pictures taken in Italy.

Robert Noonan, Kirschbaum, Valk and Harp work in color, and their elegant compositions suggest the new level of control made possible by recent advances in computer printing technologies. Some of the most striking pictures in the show are Noonan's aerial views of coastal New Jersey and of a factory in New Mexico. Both are digital prints whose rich blues, greens and ochers possess great depth while appearing perfectly natural.

The show runs through this month at the gallery in Greenspring Station, 2630 W. Joppa Road in Lutherville. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday noon to 4 p.m. Call 410-337-ARTS.

Ashley Gallery in Fells Point presents paintings by Carol M. Dupre on the theme of youth and identity. Dupre's works depict young people symbolically undergoing transitions and passages to adulthood. There's imagery of dolls and adolescent fantasy, as well as references to art history.

The show runs through August at the gallery, second floor, 1704 Eastern Ave., Baltimore. Hours are Wednesday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call 410-905-5503.

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