Keesing paints drop by drop

ART

Colors line up in perfect geometric formation on canvas

April 12, 2005|By Glenn McNatt | Glenn McNatt,SUN ART CRITIC

Madeleine Keesing's newest drop paintings, on view at Goya Girl Contemporary (aka Goya Girl Press), leave no doubt that this artist has achieved a mature style of rare power and originality.

Keesing's technique of covering her canvases with thousands of individual drops of paint, each applied separately with a brush in rows of carefully selected hues, gives her works the appearance of a densely woven carpet when seen from a distance. Up close, they resolve into innumerable dots that resemble the silver grains of a black-and-white photograph.

Her large canvases can contain up to 30,000 individual drops of paint, each meticulously dabbed into place according to a rigid geometric pattern (the fineness of the pattern makes the visual effect of her paintings nearly impossible to reproduce on this page).

Over the years, Keesing has refined and expanded her technique to include layers of complementary or closely spaced hues laid on top of each other that pulsate and vibrate on the retina. In her most recent works, she breaks up the canvas itself into grids of two, four, six or eight separate panels.

These are magical paintings by an artist at the peak of her powers. A companion exhibition in the smaller gallery features a colorful series of inventive, skillfully executed prints by Diana Jacobs.

Both shows run through April 30. The gallery is at 3000 Chestnut Ave., Suite 210. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, noon to 5 p.m. Saturday. Call 410-366-2001 or visit www.goya girl.com.

Circle of influence

In one of those strange paradoxes of artistic influence, African art, which once stimulated early modernists like Picasso and Modigliani to incorporate new forms of abstraction into European art, is now itself being influenced by the modernist tradition it helped inspire.

While indigenous African arts such as carving, weaving and beadwork are still widely practiced, African artists in the post-colonial era are just as likely to take cubism or fauvism as a starting point as they are to base their works on traditional masks and textiles.

The abstract paintings of Chief Jimoh Buraimoh, a self-taught Nigerian artist whose works are on view at Coppin State University, meld elements of both cubism and traditional African beadwork.

In fact, Buraimoh's intricately constructed images actually represent at least three generations of artistic influence: Africa's original influence on European modernism, modernism's influence on African-American artists such as Aaron Douglas, Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden and Elizabeth Catlett, and finally the influence of these black American artists on the African artists of today.

Buraimoh's cubist-inspired compositions recall the mural-scale history paintings Douglas executed in the 1920s and '30s, for instance, as well as the jazz-inflected collages of Bearden from the 1960s. These colorful images seem to bring the various currents of European, American and African art of the last century full circle.

The show is in the Percy Julian Science Building and runs through May 9. Hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. There will be a panel discussion Thursday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Coppin State is at 2500 W. North Ave. Call 410-951-3371.

Photo exhibit in Philly

"The eagle flies on Friday, and Saturday I go out to play" is the way one verse of Stormy Monday, the classic blues tune, goes. "Sunday's church, I fall on my knees and pray."

The irreconcilable opposition of sin and salvation has been a recurring theme in African-American religion and folklore. Now it forms the unifying thread

of a stunning exhibition of more than 100 African-American photographers at the African American Museum in Philadelphia.

The show was curated by Deborah Willis, the award-winning author, artist, educator, art historian and curator who has been a tireless advocate for the visual culture of African-Americans preserved in photographs.

Willis, a professor in the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, is a former recipient of the MacArthur Foundation's "genius award" and one of this year's winners of the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship in photography.

The show brings together famous photojournalists like Gordon Parks and Chester Higgins Jr. along with less-well-known photographers -- among them Wendell A. White of New Jersey; Michael Platt, Roland L. Freeman and Harlee Little of Washington; and Baltimore artists Carl Clark and Linda Day Clark -- all of whose work has contributed significantly to the African-American photographic tradition. The show's subjects range from Saturday night revelers to Sunday church congregants, and the locales span the country from New York to Los Angeles.

In particular, White's luminous photographs of the people and landmarks of the Southern New Jersey townships founded by ex-slaves shortly after the Civil War are especially sensitive documentary records of a little-known episode in American history.

The exhibition, which opened last year at the Leica Gallery in New York, will travel around the country, but Philadelphia is the closest it will come to Baltimore -- therefore, a trip to see it in the City of Brotherly Love is well worth it.

The show runs through Sept. 17. The museum is at 701 Arch St. in Philadelphia. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Call 215-574-0380.

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