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Sculpting mixed medium metaphors at HCC

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The two artists who have separate exhibits at Howard Community College are artists-in-residence at Baltimore Clayworks. Although their exhibited sculptural objects incorporate ceramics, as you would expect, these are mixed medium creations whose materials also include wood and metal.

Of the two, Kyle Bauer literally pushes further into space and into combining various materials. His exhibit in HCC's Rouse Company Foundation Gallery, "Aberrant," prompts you to ponder his unusual combinations. These mixed medium sculptures encourage assorted thematic possibilities without settling on a single explanation.

As Bauer observes in an artist statement, his work is "an exploration that combines a metaphorical reference to maritime navigation with sculptural forms that convey balance, tension and control."

Looking at his brightly colored, often-angular sculptures, it's possible to start thinking about them as abstracted allusions to buoys and other flotation devices. In "P.F.D./Throwables," for instance, a wood frame supports sculptural elements including five identically sized objects that look like either juggling pins suitable for throwing or flotation devices suitable for, er, floating. The pins are painted in such assertive shades of blue, yellow, red, orange and green that they loudly announce their presence to any viewer or boater.

It might be best not to push the nautical associations too far, however, because these sculptures do not want to be reduced to a literal-minded interpretation. They're about the relationships between forms and colors as much as they're about any nautical meaning. With its red-and-white-striped base that supports rows of black and white capsules, "Relative Position" uses its simple forms and repeating color patterns to harmonious effect. There is no need of the sea to see that.

Whether mounted on the wall or resting on the floor, Bauer's sculptures claim the gallery space via their box shapes and angular extensions. "Cynosure I" and several of the other sculptures also incorporate bicycle-style wheels resting on the floor, making it seem as if they're capable of really pushing farther into space.

In HCC's second gallery space, Ben Freund has an exhibit titled "Remnants" in the Art Department Gallery. Walking into his show, you may feel as if you have come upon a display of fossils still embedded in the rock in which they were found. Freund's roughly textured ceramic sculptures resemble slices of rock in which encased pieces of metal seem like rather odd fossils.

Freund encourages that sort of interpretation. As he notes in his artist statement: "All of my work arises in the thrill of discovery, not only in the way an archaeologist unearths an artifact, as many of my pieces appear to be, but also in the way a child discovers a shark's tooth or an arrowhead. In many ways, I'm not creating sculpture as much as I am discovering my own relics."

Most of Freund's nearly flat ceramic slices have a sandstone-type appearance, but he also has some mini-boulder-evocative pieces whose glistening black surface makes them seem like volcanic rocks with fossils peeking out.

And Freund also has some rather different-looking pieces that essentially resemble metal wheels suitable for showcasing in a museum of ancient transportation history.

Kyle Bauer and Ben Freund exhibits through Sept. 29 at Howard Community College, 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway in Columbia. There is a reception Sept. 21, 5-7 p.m. Go to http://www.howardcc.edu.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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