Blending darkroom with digital

All-photo show a Sassafras first

Art Reviews

March 08, 2003|By Glenn McNatt | Glenn McNatt,SUN ART CRITIC

The group show at Sassafras in Waverly is the gallery's first exhibition devoted solely to photography, which is surely something to celebrate.

And it's entirely fitting that the show is entitled Lightroom/Darkroom, a shorthand reference to the digital imaging revolution that is fast replacing traditional chemical processing of films and prints.

The Sassafras show features the work of 14 area artists whose disparate styles are held together by the fact that they all love photography and all work in the time-honored medium of black-and-white.

I particularly liked the work of Peggy Fox, Bob Houston, Paula Gately Tillman, Michela Caudill and husband-and-wife photographers Seth and Rachel Scharon.

Fox uses the computer's ability to seamlessly alter images to give a surreal twist to her pictures of street scenes and famous landmarks. In Tilt, she makes the Leaning Tower of Pisa seem to spin like a top, while in Prego the silhouette of a man balancing on a bicycle seems to be exactly replicated in the pattern of peeling paint on the wall behind him.

Houston's sensitive portraits of African-Americans are rooted in the humanistic tradition of Roy DeCarava, whose luscious dark tones inspired a new visual aesthetic in the portrayal of black people.

Michela Caudill's serene landscapes of the Homeland community hark back to the Pictorialist tradition of Gertrude Kasebier and Clarence White, while Tillman's beautifully printed pictures of 1980s punk culture -- including an amazing shot of superstar transvestite Ru Paul before he became famous -- perfectly capture the edgy ethos of the era.

The exhibition, curated by Harold McCray, was conceived not only as a showcase for local talent, but also as the nucleus of future efforts to create a permanent exhibition space for photography in Baltimore, something the area has lacked since the demise last year of Photo Works, the darkroom and digital imaging center in Hampden.

Given that lack, this show seems especially welcome in a town that's obviously chock-a-block with first-rate photographers, both amateur and professional.

Lightroom/Darkroom runs through April 12. The gallery is at 3200 Barclay St. Hours are Friday 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to noon, or by appointment. Call 410-366-6467 or visit the Web site at www. sassyart@hotmail.com.

At Gomez

In the 15th century, the imperial kilns of China's Ming dynasty produced a stunning copper-red glazed porcelain intended for the exclusive use of the ruling nobility and priestly class.

The most famous china of the Ming period are the beautiful blue-and-white pieces known as underglaze porcelain. But the less well-known, red-glazed porcelains played a important role in religious ceremonies and sacrificial rites -- and their appearance is even more stunning than the blue-and-white porcelains.

Through an accident of history, the formula for making red-glazed porcelain was lost centuries ago. It was not rediscovered until the 20th century, when Western ceramic artists painstakingly reconstituted this lost art.

Fance Franck, an American-born ceramic artist whose Ming-inspired porcelains are at Gomez Gallery through March 15, has been in the forefront of the revival of this ancient technique, which produces fabulous hues distinguished by their delicate tonal gradations.

Franck's pieces are prized by collectors for their clear forms and exquisite finishes, which make them seem like works of art rather than household utensils.

Also at Gomez through March 15 are pop-art-inspired paintings by Russian artist Alexander Kaletski, whose haunting images of half-eaten or abandoned breakfasts are poignant visual metaphors for the sudden disruption of Americans' sense of security and normality that occurred on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

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

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