'Conflagration' exhibit at Grimaldis

Exhibit of Baltimore-centric works by David Brewster

May 07, 2010|By Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun

Who knew Baltimore's devastating fire of 1904 could look so cool? Not that artist David Brewster intended such an effect. But his large, strikingly colored works depicting that event, displayed in the "Conflagration" exhibit at C. Grimaldis Gallery, entertain the eye as much as they capture history.

The bold orange and brown strokes of oil in the epic-sized "Spectacular Destruction/Great Baltimore Fire: View Southeast from Continental Trust Building (1904)" make a particularly compelling impression. From the consumed buildings in the foreground to the distant image of smokestacks on a factory, the work is alive with power and import.

Other items done in charcoal and liquefied pastel provide close-up views, where firefighters can be glimpsed doing battle with the blaze at such locations as the old Sun Building, Banking House of Alex. Brown and Sons and the B & O Building. In "Night Scene," a lone steam engine stands defiant against the odds.

In addition to the fire pieces, the exhibit includes other intriguing examples of what the Baltimore-born, Vermont-based Brewster describes as "re-enactments executed with a contemporary sensibility." Scenes of 18th- and 19th-century Baltimore spring to life in unexpected ways. A vivid example is "Moonlight: Jones Falls Under Mr. Pennington's Footbridge," created from whirls of yellow and gray.

"Conflagration" is an intriguing, even surprising show. It runs through May 22 at C. Grimaldis Gallery, 523 N. Charles St. For more information, call 410-539-1080 or go to cgrimaldisgallery.com.

-- Tim Smith

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