Fun with Baltimore's architecture

Art Review


The Pop movement of the 1960s made art fun because it drew inspiration from the ubiquitous mass media of films, television and advertising, a ready-made visual language that anyone could understand.

Pop had its serious side, of course, but for the most part, it celebrated the ordinary and monumentalized the commonplace in a spirit of wry good humor.

Greg Otto's exuberant cityscapes in the gallery at the Peggy and Yale Gordon Center for Performing Arts in Owings Mills similarly transfigure Baltimore's architectural landmarks for the delight of eye, mind and heart.

In Otto's vision of the austere atrium at the Walters Art Museum, for example, the facade connecting the 1904 gallery and the 1974 Centre Street building is ablaze with colors that recall the painted temple pediments of classical Greece and Rome.

Baltimore's Basilica gets a drenching with bright primary and secondary hues that lend its dignified structure a festive lightheartedness, while Mount Vernon's Washington Monument is a candy-colored stalk of granite thrusting upward to touch a Kodachrome blue sky.

The show includes a half-dozen monumentally scaled paintings of office towers as well as smaller-scale works on paper depicting innumerable urban nooks and crannies - rowhouses, alleys and the like.

It's an admittedly picturesque, tourist's-eye view of city life, but not a naive one; Otto is a master draftsman and his often vertiginous, oblique views of buildings and streets have an irresistible animal vitality that gives Baltimore a sparkling majesty worthy of its grand architectural heritage.

The show runs through Dec. 18. Hours are by appointment. The center is at 3506 Gwynnbrook Ave. Call 410-356-7469.

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