We'll get around to "Elements," the show in the main gallery space at School 33, but first let us now praise "Los Desaparecidos" by A. Scott Harmon in the upstairs installation space. Too much of today's socio-political art is so essentially superficial that it doesn't make the viewer feel anything about the subject in question.
Harmon's installation sure does. The title translates as "The Disappeared," and it's about the people in the world we (and our government) try to relegate (with too much success) to invisibility: political prisoners, victims of torture and killing, and of wars, and now the growing legions with AIDS.
So Harmon tells us with an angry introductory statement. Words alone do not make a work of visual art, however. Harmon has transformed the installation space into an interrogation room in a prison. Enter it and you are overcome by a sense of doom: the hideously splattered walls, the doors leading only to the darkness of unlighted cells, the chair in which you're about to be interrogated and probably tortured before being sent back to your cell once more in a never-ending nightmare that's all too true. In my experience, this is definitely the best use to which this space has ever been put.
Downstairs, the three sculptors' works that make up "Elements" don't pack quite the same punch, but the show has moments. Carol Shuford's group of works is billed as an installation, but billing doesn't make it so and they remain discrete if not entirely unrelated. The most interesting is the largest, an "Eroding Pyramid" made largely of junk that ascends to an icon-like framed as
semblage consisting of a baby carriage filled with more junk. The work suggests that in a materialistic world our gods and our offspring (made in their image) are all junk, a depressing indictment of modern society.
James McFarland's sculptures are quite different. Handsome and quiet, if not always particularly deep, they're about such visual interrelationships as space, volume and textures. In "Mas du Wasp" he positions a geometricized clay wasp's nest inside an open steel structure that echoes the nest's outline. In the hanging "Echo" there are more shapes, making the relationships among them more complex, but at the same time this work
comes off as less substantial (in both senses of the word) than a piece such as "Arch Form" or "Sledge."
Eleanor White's sculptures are more obscure than the others here, but not without their intriguing aspects. "Nipple Mace" is a mace with three heads instead of one hanging from its club, only it's all made of soft material and in place of spikes the heads are dotted with baby-bottle nipples. This may be saying that masculinity was a bluff all along, or it may be saying that the female is the more humane of the species, or both or neither. Whether or not a work made of moldy pieces of bread in individual cages has to do with moral rot behind transparent facades, it's certainly an original image.
Where: School 33 Art Center, 1427 Light St.
When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, through Dec. 4.
Call: (410) 396-4641.