Different approaches to watery sites subject of Goucher College exhibit


Neal Gallico and James Sherwood don't dip their toes into the same bodies of water. Sharing an exhibition at Goucher College, they seem only to have watery settings in common.

When painter Gallico goes to the beach, he sees how the ocean, sand and sunbathing women all seem to merge in one bright vision. When photographer Sherwood goes to the pool, he sees how the masses of humanity congregate.

The semi-tropical fervor of Gallico's paintings comes through even before one learns the title of this series, "Southern Light." If sunshine seems to suffuse these paintings, with the sun itself but an implied presence, it is not the only reason for the blurring of figure and ground. Like many other contemporary artists, Gallico renders his human subjects in fragmentary fashion: a back turned to us, or an isolated limb with no body to claim it. Typically, facial features are blurred. Gallico's non-psychological figuration looks on the human form as just that: form.

What sets him apart in terms of his technique, however, is the manner in which flecks of hot colors dance -- or splash -- across the canvas. Also, his paint application is thin enough that the paint does not -- pardon the pun -- form pools or other too-cleanly defined color concentrations.

What sets Gallico apart in terms of his approach to figuration is how these partially seen human subjects rise out of and then again blend into the swirling colors around them. The lounging couple in "Afternoon" may be discerned because of the energized pinks and yellows used to indicate their figures. They merge into the even more energized colors behind them so thoroughly that the traditional distinction between figure and ground gets rather, umm, swampy.

Although this viewer sometimes wished for a keener sense of exactly how figurative lines break down and disappear once they make watery contact, Gallico would probably find that too descriptive an approach.

James Sherwood's sharply defined color photographs were taken in the wave pool of the Wild World amusement park in Largo. Packed together to have fun, this democratic assortment of people just goes to prove that we do indeed come in all !B shapes, sizes and colors. Because Sherwood and his camera are placed in the thick of the action, rather than being elevated or at a distance, we really do see up close how these individuals present themselves at a public pool and also how they bond in social groupings.

There is no shortage of vibrant color to engage the eye in this BTC wild and watery world: The bathing suits are jolting design exercises in striped and dotted patterns; there are immense orange inner tubes in and around the pool; beach towels display cartoon characters; and the poolside awnings and artificial grass are a backdrop for it all.

Sherwood must work quickly so that his subjects do not become overly conscious of his presence and pose for him. Even so, he has a few pictures of formal interest that give the impression he was able to set up long enough to really compose the shot. There is one photograph in which the picture plane is bisected by a diving board. We only see the life guard's feet atop the board. It is hardly a spartan image, though, because in the background we do see all the human activity that makes a summertime pool the least quiet place on the planet.

Neal Gallico and James Sherwood exhibit at Goucher College through Dec. 21. For details, call 337-6116.

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