Turmoil and calm are juxtaposed at MissionSpace

Artist felt consumed by divorce, and it shows

Arts: museums, literature

December 18, 2003|By Sarah Schaffer | Sarah Schaffer,SUN STAFF

The creative process reveals both commonplace and catastrophic scenes in the new two-artist show at the MissionSpace Gallery.

William Schaff's black and white scratchboard works, mixed media drawings and paper collages are similar to C.W. Roelle's wire sculptures in both their labor-intensive quality and meticulous construction.

But the friends and former Baltimoreans' works differ vastly in purpose and subject matter.

Schaff, who created most of the series while enduring a bitter divorce, uses precise crosshatching and line work to create dark pieces that deal with lust, greed, helplessness and betrayal, while Roelle molds intricate wire constructions into depictions of everyday scenes that possess considerably less violent and macabre tones.

Many of Schaff's compositions abound with skeleton-like figures that crawl or ooze from inside the human form, while other works, such as "I Can't Believe My Ring is Gone," a pen and ink drawing of a slouched, lovelorn man seeking shelter under an umbrella as tiny figures rain down from the sky, depict the emaciated creatures as they attack or stalk their melancholy subject.

The imagery in the large-scale work, Schaff said, is a representation of his guilt for being consumed and absorbed by feelings of scorn and sadness -- emotions that detached him from harsher global realities.

"I'm sure at the time I was getting divorced, there were people in other countries ... getting killed and raped all over the place," he noted.

But at the time, the typically world-conscious artist could only think about -- and depict through drawing -- his own feelings of grief.

Schaff's all-consuming gloom and the dramatic and morbid nature of his works is contrasted by the calm moods present in Roelle's pieces.

Surrounded by yet more wire in the form of a constructed frame, Roelle's sculptures are very much like detailed drawings or the film stills he uses for creative inspiration.

From a distance, the filamentous and intricately styled wires appear to the viewer as formally framed paper works.

The everyday scenes of men and women at play and rest -- homey, mundane and serene -- appear to be part of an untouched paint-by-numbers series, the fluid black threads of metal creating the compositional details, from flowered wallpaper and fabric folds to curly hairstyles and wooden floorboards.

Whereas Schaff's work serves to echo the artist's sense of vulnerability, Roelle's pieces are created to display control.

The wire "drawings," Roelle said, stemmed from his desire to be more in command of the peaceful forms he chose to depict.

While studying art at the Maryland Institute College of Art, the New York native began to feel that traditional model drawing had become too removed for his hands-on style.

The wire sculptures were the product of his frustration and have since been a medium that, Roelle believes, allows, for more precise results.

"I want to touch the lines. I feel like I have more control that way."

C.W. Roelle & William Schaff will be on view through Jan. 9.

The MissionSpace Gallery is at 338 N. Charles St., second floor. Hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, noon-4 p.m. Saturdays and by appointment. For more information, call 410-752-8950 or visit www.missionmedia.net/space.

For more art events, see Page 44.

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