Art educators grace their works with touches of whimsy

Art

Art Column

December 12, 2007|By Glenn McNatt | Glenn McNatt,Sun Art Critic

A meticulously rendered pencil drawing of a 25-foot-tall Baltimore street lamp blown up lifesize and pinned to the gallery wall. A charcoal image of a batting cage whose chain link fencing resembles a sticky spider's web. A graphite drawing of an empty tin pail and a fluid splash of startling blue that flies through the air.

These are among the magical images of Artworkers, a terrific exhibition at Villa Julie College that presents four dedicated artist-professionals - Gary Kachadourian, Peter Dubeau, Jan Razauskas and Gerald Ross - whose indispensable contributions in their day jobs have helped invigorate Baltimore's art scene.

Come every July, you're likely to see Kachadourian, with cell phone in one hand and bubble-level in the other, along the median strip of Mount Royal Avenue supervising the installation of Artscape, the city's annual outdoor festival of the arts.

It's one of the more visible roles Kachadourian plays as visual arts coordinator for the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts, a job he's held for more than 20 years and that combines the duties of impresario, exhibitor, mentor and friend to artists across the region.

But when he goes home, Kachadourian still finds time to make his own art, inspired by the mundane visual facts of the city he loves and by a quirky sense of humor that endows even its battered streetlights and weed-infested yards with heroic charm.

You can see it in Kachadourian's monumental installation A Field of Dandelions, a panoramic view of a grassy patch of North Baltimore flora whose intricate, twining motifs recall the minutely observed realism of Renaissance tapestries.

Kachadourian based the work on a series of pen-and-ink drawings made between 2005-2007 that he photocopied and turned into an artist book with 11-by-17-inch foldout leaves.

Kachadourian's work measures 16-by-8 feet and covers one gallery wall from floor to ceiling.

Similarly, Kachadourian's 8 1/2 -by-11-inch Drawing for Life Size Print of Light Pole served as the basis for the 25-foot-tall photocopy print that greets viewers entering the show. He had to fold the top 10 or so feet to make it fit under the 16-foot ceiling.

Dubeau, a former director of School 33 Art Center who is now associate dean of continuing studies at the Maryland Institute College of Art, and Ross, MICA's longtime exhibitions director, each weigh in with a dozen or so small but expressive abstract drawings and paintings.

Dubeau, whose image of a Little League-style batting cage casts an oddly unsettling aura of arachnid menace, seems to be exploring generalized feelings of anxiety, anticipation and dread in his densely layered paintings.

Ross, by contrast, is explicit about the sources of his unease in works like Iraq Triptych, whose abstract images of a pock-marked wall may be a metaphor for the alienation and isolation stemming from America's unhappy involvement in that nation's civil war.

Razauskas, who currently teaches at Hood College in Frederick, was for many years exhibitions coordinator at School 33, where she brought a sharp and fearless wit to the task of championing the city's most adventurous art and artists.

I thought Primer, her expansive drawing of an empty pail and floating liquid, was one of the show's most delightful images, a piece of imaginative whimsy carried off with great style and impeccable draftsmanship.

Artworkers runs through Feb. 2 in The Gallery at Villa Julie College, 1529 Greenspring Valley Road in Stevenson. Call 410-486-7000 or go to vjc.edu.

glenn.mcnatt@baltsun.com

More shows

These exhibits will be up through the holiday season.

Grace Hartigan at C. Grimaldis Gallery,

523 N. Charles St. Baltimore's beloved abstract-expressionist master brings her signature style to bear on portraits of women from Shakespeare, the Old Masters and pop culture. Through Jan. 5. Call 410-539-1080 or go to cgrimaldisgallery.com.

Soledad Salame at Goya Contemporary,

3000 Chestnut Ave. Salame's works are hauntingly beautiful evocations of water as the universal fluid. Through Jan. 26. Call 410-366-2001 or go to goyacontemporary.com.

The Document at Sub-Basement Artist Studios,

118 N. Howard St. A quartet of breakdancing hip-hop artists paint the canvas with incredibly fast footwork and lots of verve. Through Dec. 29. Call 410-659-6950 or go to subbasementartiststudios.com.

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