Landscapes, stone sculpture make solid exhibits




Anne Griffith's charming landscape paintings at Gallery G in Mount Washington are executed with impeccable technique and an eye for the mysterious qualities of light and color seen through mist and fog.

The paintings possess great intensity and passion despite their diminutive proportions, and the best of them, such as Griffith's scene of a road enveloped in an early morning fog, are both beautiful and moving.

A companion exhibition of stone sculpture by Brigitte Pierrette Davis rounds off the gallery's offerings.

The show runs through Friday. Gallery G is at 5616 Newbury St. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Call 410-664-5700.

Provoking conversation

If one of the purposes of art is to provoke contemplation, then (Re)living Democracy, on view at the Contemporary Museum, should provide plenty of food for thought.

The museum has taken a leaf from the German-born post-conceptual artist Hans Haacke, who, in 1971, created a project intended to be exhibited at the Guggenheim Museum in New York about the slum properties owned by one of the museum's trustees.

When the Guggenheim learned the nature of the artist's project, Haacke's show was promptly canceled. Yet reports of the dispute helped make Shapollsky et al. Manhattan Real Estate Holdings, a Real-Time Social System, Haacke's title for the work, an instant classic of politically engaged art-making.

The Contemporary show is a work of installation art that takes as its subject the huge urban renewal project now unfolding in East Baltimore, in which thousands of residents will be relocated in order to make way for new office buildings, apartments and shopping.

The show is a collaboration among four artists, Scott Berzofsky, Lasse Lau, Nicholas Petr and Nicholas Wisniewski, whom the museum commissioned to create an exhibition examining the process of urban renewal in Baltimore and who benefits from it.

The artists spent two months interviewing East Baltimore residents and community leaders and researching documents relating to the planned demolition of hundreds of buildings in the neighborhood.

The installation is a mixed-work that, like Haacke's, combines photographs, public records and organizational charts in a display that looks more like the offices of a struggling nonprofit association in a depressed neighborhood than an example of high contemporary art.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, the artists ultimately came to the view expressed in a news release, that "corporations and private developers are using the law for private profit at the expense of low-income, predominantly African-American families in East Baltimore."

To which one might respond: So what? You don't have to be a rocket scientist - or an artist - to realize that the powerful prey upon the powerless. It is not an original discovery, but a very old story.

It is so old, in fact, that most people forget about it entirely, as long as it doesn't affect them directly. But, of course, it always does, sooner or later.

The artists have given us all a heads-up about what people about to lose their houses undoubtedly will view as looming catastophe, and rich developers will see as windfall profits.

That's something most people aren't used to thinking about in an art museum, but it needs thinking about nevertheless. In our self-absorbed age, art may be one of the few things that can provoke that kind of contemplation, and if it now has to happen in the museum, so be it.

The show runs through Jan. 14. The museum is at 100 W. Centre St. Hours are Thursday through Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. and by appointment. Call 410-783-5720.

2 shows at Grimaldis

Painter Henry Coe, whose lushly realistic views of Maryland countryside are on view at C. Grimaldis Gallery, is surely one of the state's most enchanting landscape artists and a worthy successor to the late Eugene Leake.

Coe's affectionate visions of farmland, rural buildings and lonely country roads have a totally unforced naturalism that almost makes them picture-postcard pretty, yet they also have a certain grave dignity that prevents them from crossing the line into kitsch.

These are pictures anyone can understand, done with such consummate mastery that the artist's formidable painterly technique disappears like a transparent pane of window glass, through which we survey the scene with no sense of anything between it and us.

In the rear gallery, Chul-Hyun Ahn unveils the newest versions of his amazing mirrored light-box sculptures, one of which, a well-like installation of seemingly infinite depth, makes you feel as if you are literally standing on the edge of the world.

The Coe show runs through Dec. 31; Ahn through Saturday. The gallery is at 523 N. Charles St. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Call 410-539-1080.

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