One exhibit experiments with size, another with material


Super-sized photos, industrial sculpture part of shows at two local art galleries

October 12, 2004|By Glenn McNatt | Glenn McNatt,SUN ART CRITIC

The hottest contemporary photography is big, colorful and - did I say big already? - well, I'll say it again: really, really BIG. And it's in town now in a terrific show at the Thomas Segal Gallery.

The show's star is German photographer Candida Hofer, whose outsized, precisely rendered images of libraries, schools and other public buildings have made her one of the most recognizable figures in the school of German and Northern European photographers that includes Andreas Gursky, Thomas Struth and Thomas Ruff, among others.

Hofer's stunning, large-scale color photograph of the Palazzo Ducale in Venice, for example, is surely one of her most captivating images. It records a huge expanse of the duke's chambers decorated with dozens of ornamental, mural-scale paintings created by the city's greatest artists.

Hofer is also represented here by an exquisite shot of the Austrian National Library in Vienna and by a photograph of the University of Oslo in Norway. All three pictures have a preternatural clarity that makes one feel as if one had been literally transported to the scene.

Elger Esser, like Hofer, a student of the pioneering husband-and-wife team of Bernd and Hilla Becher, but a generation younger, works on the same humongous scale but apparently confines himself mostly to images of France.

His photograph of the Ile du Guesclin in Brittany is a magical evocation of an island sanctuary surrounded by placid waters. Another photograph of the French countryside traces the gently rolling contours of the land with the loving attention to detail of a Barbizon landscape.

The show also features James Casebere's enormous, out-of-scale photographs of architectural models that, because of the skillful lighting and camera placement, look like the real thing. The largest one, the phantasmagoric Blue Hallway, measures nearly 6 feet by 9 feet.

There's also a terrific, film noir-inspired tableau by Philip-Lorca diCorcia of an Allentown, Pa., laundromat and a small, totally characteristic black-and-white ink jet print by the inimitable Robert Rauschenberg.

This is a show of rare quality and importance. There will be an opening reception tomorrow from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., and the exhibition runs through January. The gallery is at 4 W. University Parkway in the business center of the Colonnade. Hours are by appointment. Call 410-235-1500.

Industrial art

This month, Gallery International, which over the years has debuted many artists from Europe, Asia and Latin America in Baltimore, is presenting its first solo show by a local artist, sculptor James Long Jr.

Long, who originally hails from Pennsylvania and relocated to Baltimore after stints in the Peace Corps in West Africa and as a public school art teacher in New York City, creates quirky, conceptually based works out of such industrial materials as lead, glass, copper, steel and aluminum.

Father and Son, for example, consists of two wall-mounted lead panels, each about three-quarters of an inch thick, into which the artist and his father fired several dozen small-caliber pistol slugs, which left the panels pockmarked by tiny craters reminiscent of a lunar landscape.

The piece is partly about the traditions, like hunting and fishing, that are handed down from father to son, but it's also about process: For several years, Long has been exploring the idea of shaping metal using gunshots rather than more traditional casting or cutting techniques.

As it happened, Father and Son was completed before the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, which Long witnessed while he was living in New York. But later, he created another work, Trophy, in response to the event.

Trophy consists of a laminated cube of aluminum sheets into which the artist fired bullets from a 30.06-caliber high-powered hunting rifle (the material is so strong, pistol shots barely dented it).

Rather than mounting it on the wall, however, Long decided to put the sculpture at eye level atop a steel pedestal. The result is a piece that resembles a tower whose bullet-riddled summit hauntingly evokes the tragedy of the twin towers.

In addition to sculpture, Long is exhibiting paintings inspired by the drawings of his New York City schoolchildren and by those of homeless children in India with whom he worked while on a fellowship.

The show runs through Oct. 28. The gallery is at 523 N. Charles St. Hours are noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Call 410-230-0561.

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