Paintings draw on varied cultural influences

October 13, 2001|By Glenn McNatt | Glenn McNatt,SUN ART CRITIC

Salvador Bru is a Spanish-born painter whose works have been exhibited in Baltimore three times over the last decade, most recently at the Gomez Gallery, where his latest thought-provoking show runs through the end of the month.

Bru is around the same age as the second-generation abstract expressionists who came to prominence in New York during the 1950s and '60s, and like theirs, his work is characterized by figurative motifs included in mural-size "all-over" paintings that treat every part of the canvas as equal in importance.

Many paintings in this show are inspired by Spanish poetry and Greek myth. In Ulysses, for example, the figures of the great warrior and his horse seem to dominate the composition, even though all that can clearly be made out are fragments of the hero's broad sword and plumed helmet.

Creation of Woman is another large-scale work that draws on the imagery of fragmented nudes and dismembered body parts of the surrealist art of the 1920s and '30s. American abstract expressionism was deeply influenced by European (and especially Spanish) surrealism, so here we have a case of a Spanish painter appropriating an American style to portray the European forms that inspired it.

In recent years, surrealism has been re-evaluated in terms of its obsession with female nudes, and the covert misogyny of its practitioners. Bru's painting recalls the aggression and brutal formal distortions surrealism inflicted on women's bodies, but in his case, the results seem more whimsical than malicious.

In addition to the mural works, there are several smaller works on paper, most of them untitled, some of them outstanding for their strong sense of color and design. This is an intriguing show, even if it doesn't really break new ground.

Gomez Gallery is at 3600 Clipper Mill Road. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call 410-662-9510.

Inglhaut at Sassafras

Sassafras, a relatively new gallery in Waverly, is presenting an interesting exhibit by Kurt Inglhaut, whose mosaic-like works are based on the reflective qualities of such materials as lacquered stainless steel and fiber board.

Inglhaut's pieces are predominantly figurative in character, mostly depicting hands and faces, and their surfaces, though created by hand, have the gleaming perfection of machine-made artifacts.

Perhaps this is why the artist has devoted one series of works solely to depictions of the hand that appear in outline below the lacquered surfaces. They're almost a talisman reminding viewers that these artworks, however sleek, still were made the old-fashioned way.

Another series depicts faces. They are drawn realistically, but are defined by minute gradations in the reflectivity of the colored lacquer surfaces. These differing degrees of absorption act like small gradations in the colors of pigments -- except that the medium through which the image emerges is light, not paint.

The effect created by this technique is startling. Instead of appearing fixed in time and space, the outlines of Inglhaut's forms seem to shimmer and dissipate when seen from different angles, sometimes appearing as tangible, volumetric shapes and sometimes vanishing from view altogether.

The gallery also is displaying a large reflective pool installation by the artist which, alas, I was unable to view during my visit.

Sassafras is at 3200 Barclay St. Hours are Saturday 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., and by appointment. For information, call 410-366-6467.

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