Out of the barn, onto the walls

Critic's Corner//Art

Previously unseen works part of Leake retrospective

Art Column

October 11, 2006|By Glenn McNatt | Glenn McNatt,Sun Art Critic

Eugene Leake, who died last year at age 93, is practically synonymous with Maryland landscape painting. He refined his art over the course of more than four decades in innumerable affectionate depictions of the area around his modest Monkton farm.

Now Leake is the subject of a lovely retrospective exhibition at C. Grimaldis Gallery, the artist's longtime dealer and champion. The show presents about three dozen of Leake's landscapes from the 1960s to the late 1990s and includes both paintings and works on paper.

Many of the works on display have never been exhibited publicly. At his death, Leake left behind scores of paintings that, in some cases, had sat undisturbed for decades inside the large barn on his property that served as his studio.

Costas Grimaldis, the gallery owner, recently had several of these previously ne-glected works professionally cleaned and restored, and they are among the highlights of this magical show.

Meadow with Cow, for example, a work that dates to 1980, is classic Leake: an expanse of forest and field populated by a single white cow beside a meandering stream.

The brushwork is lush yet restrained, the palette richly earth-toned and the figure of the cow is a brilliant improvisation of grays, golds and whites conjured up by an artist who painted what he loved.

The show also includes half a dozen of Leake's "dark" painting and watercolors, an autumnal series whose somber yet strangely luminous surfaces contrast sharply with the artist's usual sunny mood.

Most of these works were painted during the last decade of Leake's life, and in the context of this retrospective, at least, it's hard not to see them as gentle premonitions of the moment a beloved master would finally lay down his paints and brushes.

Eugene Leake: 1911-2005 runs through Oct. 28 at C. Grimaldis Gallery, 523 N. Charles St. Call 410-539-1080 or visit cgrimaldisgallery.com.

Baltimore photographer

The ebullient style of street photography pioneered by the New York innovators of the 1930s, '40s and '50s -- Sid Grossman, Louis Faurer, Ted Croner, Diane Arbus and Weegee, among others -- has by now been adopted as a pictorial lingua franca by artists the world over.

Baltimore photographer Ben Cricchi, whose finely observed, compelling portraits of young people in the city's Edmondson Village neighborhood are on display at the recently opened Sowebo Arts Gallery in Southwest Baltimore, is an obvious heir to the New York School tradition.

All the pictures were shot over the span of a week or so at an outdoor community festival this summer. Like many of the New York School photographers, Cricchi is less concerned with the aesthetics of the perfect print than with capturing the edgy flavor of daily life in a gritty metropolis. Yet his black-and-white portraits also have a sweetness and unfeigned innocence that announce his subjects' unconditional acceptance of the camera's presence.

The show also includes harrowing color photographs of water-damaged homes by Ryan "RaRah" Stevenson that document the continuing tragedy of New Orleans a year after Hurricane Katrina, as well as soulful shots of mean streets by Frank Klein and graffiti art by Adam Stab.

The Photography Graffiti Show runs through Oct. 29 at the Sowebo Arts Gallery, 1111 Hollins St. Call 410-244-5707 or visit soweboarts.org.

Detail-oriented

Photography buffs will also want to check out Bernard Cohen's richly toned black-and-white architectural views from England, France, China and the Czech Republic, on view at the Creative Alliance in Highlandtown.

Cohen's pictures of neo-classical architectural details and building facades have the luminous stillness of Atget's turn-of-the-century Parisian cityscapes, yet they feel utterly of the moment. Some styles never go out of fashion, and Cohen's enchanting photographs persuasively argue that, in his case, that's not a bad thing at all.

Bernard Cohen: Documents runs through Saturday in the Amalie Rothschild Gallery at the Creative Alliance, 3134 Eastern Ave. Call 410-276-1651 or visit creativealliance.org.

glenn.mcnatt@baltsun.com

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