By Mike Giuliano
3:09 PM EDT, May 9, 2014
The Artists' Gallery exhibit "Birds, Beasts and Besides" is true to its intriguing title. Ken Beerbohm has small-scale, mixed medium sculptures depicting birds and animals; and Deborah Maklowski has colored pencil and gouache works on paper that essentially account for the "besides."
Maklowski generally places her emphasis on the built environment. These are unpeopled scenes in which you're prompted to think about architectural forms, and she also has an interest in how light plays across such places.
In "Side Street," for instance, a house gives you reason to contemplate it. Its slightly blue-hued walls frame a door that is painted an assertive shade of green. Moreover, there's also a green-and-white awning on the front of the house. In the foreground, a white picket fence underscores the sense that somebody lives what must be a very colorful life here.
The visual composition is relatively spare in "Side Street," which has the tendency to reduce the architecture to its basic and somewhat blocky components.
Most of Maklowski's other works in this show aren't quite so reductive in nature, but instead stress how light affects our perception of buildings, sidewalks and other aspects of the built environment.
In the tightly cropped "Side Steps," all we see of the outdoor setting are concrete steps and metal railings. They're such a familiar urban element that ordinarily you wouldn't give them much thought, but the close-up view does not give your eyes any other place to go. Also, there are so many shadows being cast here that "Side Steps" visually becomes a more complex composition.
Light also plays a crucial role in "Side Light," in which burnished yellow light pours through exterior windows into what appears to be an office building atrium. And "Side Effects II" has plenty of light bouncing around the glass display case in a cafe.
Besides these and similar works, Maklowski also has a few works such as "Side Spur." It depicts an old train engine that seems like it's posing for an industrial-age portrait. It would be nice if this rather small exhibit had a few more such pictures, because they would illustrate some of this artist's other pictorial concerns.
The second artist, Ken Beerbohm, has generally small sculptures that present birds in whimsical ways. One such grouping, "Stone Perchers," involves 11 mini-sculptures that each present a single bird perched atop a stone. There are slight variations in the birds' shape, and similarly their thin metal legs are bent in various ways.
Among the, er, stand-alone sculptures in an exhibit that's prone to punning titles, Beerbohm addresses feeding habits in "Early Bird," in which a bird perched on a simulated tree trunk bends over as if to devour a hapless worm emerging from a hole in the trunk. Similarly, in "First Course" a bird perched on a tree has a fish clutched in one claw.
Although this sculptor mostly has birds on view, other critters occasionally get represented. In "Zebra's Tea Break," a zebra is shown taking a bubble bath in an old-fashioned tub. It's a rather civilized scene, because this zebra is holding a cup of tea. Incidentally, a bird also figures into this sculptural piece, because a tiny, toy-evocative duck floats in the tub.
Beerbohm usually presents birds or other animals, but occasionally he features the landscape itself. "On the Path" is a flat, earth-toned surface supporting a path, park bench and tree. Your imagination can supply the wildlife.
Ken Beerbohm and Deborah Maklowski exhibit through May 30 at the Artists' Gallery, in the American City Building at 10227 Wincopin Circle in Columbia. Call 410-740-8249 or go to http://www.artistsgallerycolumbia.com.