Pair exhibit landscapes and a subtle wit

ART

Jim Condron, Robert Jones at new Gallery Imperato

December 07, 2004|By Glenn McNatt | Glenn McNatt,SUN ART CRITIC

The paintings of Robert Jones and Jim Condron, who studied with renowned Baltimore artist Grace Hartigan at the Maryland Institute College of Art, both affirm and refute the old saw that the apple never falls far from the tree.

Condron's finely drawn, large-scale abstract landscape compositions, with their warm, earth-tone hues and strategically placed, expressive drips, seem like easy continuations of Hartigan's own quasi-figurative, all-over style, albeit by slightly different means.

Jones, by contrast, paints what at first appear to be ordinary naturalistic genre scenes, but which on closer inspection are seen to be undermined by all sorts of odd, quirky or unexpected twists - violently overturned houses, metal detectors instead of lawn mowers, etc.

Jones renders these unpretentious but mysterious scenes in the deep space of realistic perspective and with plenty of tonal shading. His "realism," however, is in fact the surrealism of dreams and the unconscious, and there's more than a hint of menace to his suburban utopias.

The artists' works are on view at Gallery Imperato, a newly opened art space in a former foundry in Locust Point.

Hartigan, who recently curated an exhibition at Maryland Art Place of five female artists she once mentored, is of course known for the great diversity of styles adopted by her students.

In the MAP show, for instance, her female proteges' styles ranged from uncomplicated realism to fantasy art to cutting-edge video installation.

Similarly, Condron and Jones have taken quite divergent paths, even though they are united by the Hartigan-inspired quest for a unique personal vision that all her students share.

I found Condron's landscape meditations on trees and water easy on the eye in many of the same ways that Hartigan's painted reflections on art history are.

They are abstract without being abstruse, and you don't have to labor very hard to uncover a recognizable image.

But Hartigan's images are also complex and layered, and one reads their meaning by peeling back the individual folds one at a time, like an onion.

Condron hasn't yet found a way to incorporate this kind of psychological depth into his work. He paints beautiful surfaces, but there's nothing underneath them. His works don't sustain a narrative.

Jones, for his part, has a wicked sense of humor that doesn't jump out at you all at once but rather percolates slowly in the mind like a misremembered name that's on the tip of your tongue.

The visual puns and unexpected juxtapositions that make Jones' pictures so odd are always out there in plain view, but the very ordinariness of his settings makes you overlook them at first glance.

As a result, his pictures possess a kind of hallucinatory disorderliness that is only partially masked by the deceptive blandness of his familiar and unremarkable mise-en-scenes.

This is an intriguing and thought-provoking show that has been beautifully installed by gallery director Jordan Faye Block.

The show runs through Dec. 23. The gallery is at 921 E. Fort Ave., Suite 120. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Call 443-257-4166.

BMA wants your slides

What to do with your piles of old color slides of family vacations, neighborhood picnics and holiday gatherings? Why not show them at the BMA?

The Baltimore Museum of Art is looking for contributors to a continuously running display of slide images from family scrapbooks to be featured in the exhibition SlideShow, which opens Feb. 27.

SlideShow is a major photography exhibition that will focus on the now nearly obsolete medium of color slide transparencies and slide projections in contemporary art.

It will include examples of the most significant slide works from the 1960s to the present, with 19 works by an international group of artists.

The show will also feature Project Yourself, a slide show of images submitted by the public that will run throughout the exhibition.

The deadline for submitting family slides or photos is Friday. Entries cannot be returned. Send one image per entry to Project Yourself, Division of Education & Interpretation, Baltimore Museum of Art, 10 Art Museum Drive, Baltimore 21218. For more information, call 410-396-6321 or visit the museum's Web site at www.art bma.org.

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