Hindu festival photos light up Gomez


Night shots present an `eye-popping' view of an Indian tradition


March 25, 2003|By Glenn McNatt | Glenn McNatt,SUN ART CRITIC

Who says there are no more Renaissance men? Giraud Foster, whose panoramic night photographs of India are on view at Gomez Gallery through April 17, has been a physician, biochemist medical researcher and ethnologist as well as a photographer in both black-and-white and color.

Here Foster, whose previous work includes a book of stunning abstract color photographs of billion-year-old fossils, takes as his subject India's annual Hindu festival of Divali, or Festival of Light, a holiday comparable to the Western Christmas, during which families get together and many buildings are decorated with festive lights.

Divali is an ancient ritual that is celebrated across India during the months of October and November and that commemorates the victory of light over darkness.

Foster's crisply toned black-and-white photographs are taken with the Hasselblad XP, a small, handy 35mm camera with an extreme wide-angle field of view that produces eye-popping panoramic views. When mounted on a tripod and loaded with fine-grain, medium-speed film, the camera can capture the decorative lights that illuminate India's streets on festival nights with amazing clarity.

One can't look at these pictures without thinking of the famous night photographs of Paris taken by the Hungarian emigre Brassai during the 1920s and '30s, which set a standard for night street photography that has never been surpassed.

But in contrast to Brassai's moody, atmospheric pictures, which deliberately set out to portray Paris' after-hours demimonde of petty criminals, gamblers and prostitutes, Foster's photographs seem almost sunny by comparison.

Though occasionally a sense of menace does creep into his frame (especially in the shots of India's Muslim regions, where anti-American feeling runs high), for the most part this is an essay of gay, whirling lights and the bright streaks left by passing car headlamps, which are surreally elongated by the slow shutter speeds - from six seconds up to 10 minutes - that Foster employs.

The smaller gallery in Gomez's new renovated space displays the jewel-like paintings of Sylvia Hommert, whose abstract canvases are ornamented with such materials as oil, beeswax, pava shells, silver leaf and resin.

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

Other shows

Resurgam Gallery presents a lovely group show this month featuring artists Ruth Pettus, M. Jordan Tierney and Randy Whitlock.

Pettus' finely wrought abstract paintings are a continuation of the figurative and landscape themes she has explored in previous shows. There are also a couple of wonderfully enigmatic works on equestrian subjects completed several years ago that may come as a surprise to viewers familiar with Pettus' more recent work.

Tierney has explored collage for several years. Here she shows off her inventiveness with a series of ingenious mixed-media works that combine sewing patterns and other found objects on painted tin roofing purchased from a construction supply house. Meanwhile, Whitlock's elegant stone sculptures perfectly complement the paintings in the show.

The show runs through March 30. The gallery is at 910 S. Charles St. Hours are Thursday through Saturday noon to 6 p.m., and by appointment. Call 410-962-0513.

Across the street at Montage Gallery, abstract paintings by Joan Marie Giampa are on view through April 27.

Giampa, a former computer graphic designer who teaches at Prince George's Community College, has created a series of surrealistic paintings around the theme of the tiny acorn that grows into the mighty oak.

Many of the works exploit qualities of visual tension and balance the artist is able to convey through deft composition and framing.

However, the work also seems to have deeper philosophical meanings, which are at least implied in the show's title, Swing and Retention. Unfortunately, these meanings apparently are couched in a private symbolic language that, alas, does not seem readily accessible to the uninitiated viewer.

The gallery is at 925 S. Charles St. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call 410-725-1125.

Gallery International has been in business just over a year and during that time, gallery owner Hai-ou Hou has managed to bring one intriguing show after another to town. This month, the gallery presents Territories of Anonymity, a rich but somewhat-mixed bag of works by Hispanic artists curated by Barcelona gallery owner Miguel Angel Sanchez.

I'm not sure all the pieces hang together, but there are many lovely individual works.

I was especially impressed by Luciana Crepaldi's nudes created by digitally scanning parts of the figure and then reassembling an image of the entire body in a grid, and by Sergio Fernandez's luminous photographs of industrial interiors, which clearly owe their sleek surfaces to the inspiration of contemporary German and Northern European photography.

The gallery is 523 N. Charles St. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday noon to 5 p.m. Call 410-230-0561.

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