Photographic images communicate subtleties of the human condition


Art Review

What: Works of Mark D. Clark and James von Minor

Where: Nye Gomez Gallery, 836 Leadenhall St.

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, through Aug. 7

Call: (410) 752-2080

Mark D. Clark's art combines elements of photography, sculpture and painting to make human images that can have an extraordinary presence.

Clark photographs the human figure, then applies the photograph to a wooden backing (about an inch thick), which has often been cut out to fit the outlines of the figure photographed. He also uses paint and encaustic to give the image color and a feel of volume. These figures, often near life-size, look uncannily realistic.

Clark has more in mind, of course, than simply mixing media and disciplines, and more than merely a trompe l'oeil tour de force. Presumably he wants to say something about the human condition, and sometimes he does.

"Blood Landscape," the largest and best of all these works, is almost 8 feet long and consists of a single continuous image; but the left half is the upper half of a man and the right half the upper half of a woman. Both are depicted as if asleep, and their bodies join seamlessly, so that we have a sense of simultaneous unity and separation. As a physical object, they are one, but each retains its identity, which raises lots of thoughts -- about marriage, relations between the sexes, physical vs. mental intercourse, what's common and uncommon to us as humans.

"Building a Tower" shows the upper part of a man who holds a woman's head between his hands. Are we talking about the progress of evolution here, or about historical dominance of one sex by the other? Whatever the artist's intention, the work communicates.

Clark's most recent series, "Sons and Daughters," consists of individual, standing, cutout figures. He has described the series as looking "at the spiritual and physical resilience of humanity," but the spiritual component of these works makes less of an impression than the physical.

Nevertheless, Clark's work reflects his imaginative, original and skillful approach.

Nye Gomez also shows a group of James von Minor's recent sculptures. Von Minor's earlier constructions explored the relationship between painting and sculpture, but here, the painting component has been largely dropped, and the work is more geometric and architectural than before.

Von Minor says these pieces reflect process more than the earlier works, and he's right -- although I much preferred his painted constructions. They were more complex; they related in more ways to the history of 20th-century art; and, not incidentally, they were simply better looking. I suspect, however, that von Minor is in the process of transition, and that out of this period will come eventually a step forward. He is better than this work, and it will show.

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