Two cool summertime art exhibits located in different neighborhoods, and very much in different financial brackets, provide welcome diversion from the heat.
C. Grimaldis Gallery in Mount Vernon offers a show that brings together several notable artists who have long been associated with the gallery, including Grace Hartigan, Eugene Leake and Anthony Caro. The price tags: $1,500 to $90,000.
School 33 in Federal Hill has the diverse "Magically Suspicious" show on one floor, and two spaces devoted to individual artists upstairs. Here, the prices start at $150 and top out in the low four figures.
No overriding theme holds the 33 items in the Grimaldis exhibit together, but interrelationships develop along the way.
One of these connections starts with Neil Meyerhoff's large, vibrant color photo of Machu Picchu, the Incan site in Peru. The stone walls of the ruins provide a link to the small, earthen bricks contained within abstract steel structures by Madeleine Dietz.
It's then an easy transition from the Dietz pieces to Christopher Saah's "electro-cinemagraphs" — deserted landscapes where earth, dry or muddy, is the dominant image, offset by evidence of rude carbon footprints.
In a pair of wry, photo-based, Warhol-resonant works by John Waters, "Shoplifting" and "Alley Cat," a woman who seems ever so related to Divine is captured in multiple images of suspicious looks and actions.
That's a great segue into a quartet of Raoul Middleman's ink-on-paper drawings of bare ladies and leering men. Those drawings, in turn, transition to "Chaplin Mauer," a photographic work from the Berlin Wall Series of Leland Rice — a kinetic burst of graffiti containing references to Charlie Chaplin.
The show also offers terrific examples of Chul Hyun Ahn's meticulous sculptures that use mirrors and fluorescent lights to reveal hypnotic voids. "Wallpiece," of concrete and tinted Plexiglas, complements the Ahn works beautifully.
Meyerhoff's panoramic "Ganges, Varanasi, India," teeming with activity and subtle hues, makes an effective point of entry for the show, and delivers an extra kick for fans of "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel."
The exhibits at School 33 offer an eclectic experience. There are some easily forgettable pieces, as well as striking achievements, especially "Subtext," a sound installation by Carrie Fucile in a dark, curtained room upstairs.
The presentation is a little gimmicky — visitors are asked to remove their shoes and sit on bean bags — but the aural component delivers. Fucile recorded friends singing a song of their choice, then edited out everything but inhaling or other sounds made in between notes. The artist manipulated those sounds to create a wordless, rhythmically alive language.
Jowita Wyszomirska's solo show, "Geographies," finds the artist focused on intricately connected conical and geometric shapes that have a beguiling momentum.
The "Magically Suspicious" exhibit, curated by Adam Lister, features more than a dozen artists from the region. A show that includes paintings of unicorns is a little hard to take seriously, but there are inviting items here.
Lister's mixed media pieces using magnets to create a kind of suspended-animation sculpture are fun. Greg Minah's large acrylic abstracts, with their engaging bursts of almost DayGlo colors, have a funky energy.
And for sheer whimsy, there's "Miss Scarlet, in the Dining Room, with the Knife," a mixed media piece by the single-named Jamin. A diptych silhouette of a buxom woman (think mud flaps) is divided by a splatter of red paint on the wall. The edges of the painting contain codes that can be read by smart phones, revealing droll bits of poetry — art inspired by a board game turns into another game.
If you go
"Summer 2012" continues through Aug. 18 at C. Grimaldis Gallery, 523 N. Charles St. Call 410-539-1080, or go to cgrimaldisgallery.com. "Magically Suspicious" and the other exhibits run through Aug. 18 at School 33, 1427 Light St. Call 443-263-4350 or go to school33.org.