The group exhibit "HoCo Open 2017" has a lot of art filling a gallery at the Howard County Arts Council, so it's especially welcome that a sensitive installation helps to organize your own thoughts in terms of subject matter and style.
One of the most striking installational pairings features Mark Newpher Jr.'s pencil drawing "My Feet," with its sharp-angled downward look at the artist's feet. This is a gentle drawing with subtle gradations of black and white. Hanging next to it is Andrei Trach's graphite, ink and charcoal drawing "A Big Bang," depicting an outspread white hand. This is a vigorously executed drawing in which there are numerous dark squiggles on and around that hand. If Newpher's feet are quietly self-contained in the composition, Trach's hand seems to make a thematic connection between humanity and cosmological considerations.
Among an installational cluster of portraits and still-life arrangements, one picture that gets your attention is Kevin A. Richardson's oil painting "Self-Portrait on Cigar Box." It's a tightly cropped view of the artist's face and, yes, this compact portrait has been painted on a wall-mounted cigar box that projects a bit out from the wall. That box has been painted black, however, and so your attention remains fixed on the portrait and not on whatever commercial artwork presumably exists under that black paint.
Of the natural subject matter found throughout much of the show, a notable example is Carol Herren Foerster's pencil drawing "Frog." The artist impressively presents this creature in bumpy-skinned detail.
For a direct installational pairing of animal subjects, have a look at Jonathan Mann's acrylic painting "Ally's Sid." It depicts a white horse that does seem to be posing for its portrait; the somewhat obscured background seems to be the dimly lit interior of a barn. Hanging nearby in the gallery is Edward Charest's photograph "Horse in the Rain," in which a horse standing outside a barn is an exercise in stoic dignity.
As for representational depictions of inanimate objects, have a look at Dennis Smith's oil painting "Rust," in which a schematically rendered Chevy truck rests in a field defined by stridently vertical brown and green brush strokes. Hanging nearby is Douglas Hanewinckel's photograph "Red '39 Ford Truck," which provides a crisply defined close-up view of a headlight and a small section of the car's body.
For a very different sort of grouping, traditional Asian-artistic styles are featured in works by several artists. They include Yong Suk Yi's pigment on rice paper "Peony," in which the flowers and their leaves are sparely presented against a white background; and Sung Sook Shin's pigment on rice paper "Lotus," in which the flowers and leaves are supplemented by a couple of fish in the pond where that lotus is growing.
Not too far away on the gallery wall are non-Asian art floral pictures. Beatrice Hardy's watercolor "Blazing Zinnias" is a close-up, detail-enhancing view of the flowers and their leaves. There's also a purple-and-green backdrop. If the Asian art-influenced floral pictures rely on visually-reductive imagery and a lot of white space, Hardy's watercolor depiction of zinnias covers more of the pictorial surface with detail and color.
In an installational section with several abstract paintings, a really small picture may make the biggest appeal to your attention. Donald P. Velli Jr.'s oil painting "Colorscape" has loosely defined horizontal bands of red, orange and yellow that have associations with the horizon.
For a larger picture that opts for near-monochromatic, all-over abstraction, there is Julian Bennett's mixed medium painting "Creamsicle in Orange." Its orange-ish surface is mostly smooth in terms of the paint application, but the paint also covers some affixed pieces of mesh-textured cloth.
And for abstraction in another medium, exhibited sculptures include Brendan Robinson's limestone "Balanced." This small-scale sculpture is a slightly arcing piece of gray-white, smoothly polished limestone that touches down on the pedestal in two places. It's modest in scale and elegant in nature.
"HoCo Open 2017" runs through Feb. 24 in Gallery I at the Howard County Arts Council, 8510 High Ridge Road in Ellicott City. Running concurrently in Gallery II is "Phantasmagorical," a two-artist exhibit featuring Brad Blair and Barbara Marley. Call 410-313-2787 or go to www.hocoarts.org