Artscape: a feast for all appetites

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Artscape isn't all visual art, of course. It's Baltimore's midsummer weekend extravaganza, including everything from music to poetry readings to children's workshops and, of course, food, food, food.

If it's music you're interested in, there will be African music and dance, rhythm and blues, calypso, jazz, rock and more. If it's literary arts, there will be readings, discussions and illustrated talks. If it's children's activities, you'll find puppets, storytellers, ethnic dancing, short movies, building with blocks. If it's food, you'll find Indian, Cajun, Greek, Chinese, Italian and even American.

Then there's visual art -- four major shows plus arts and crafts marketplaces -- and this is a good year for visual arts at Artscape. The exhibitions are serious and solid; they're not uniformly successful, but they have lots to offer.

Some of the best news of 1993 comes from the outdoor sculpture show, an important component of Artscape because it's all the art that some of this weekend's crowd will see. Distributed in the Mount Royal corridor, right in the middle of everything, it can't be missed.

This year's curator, Richard T. Ellsberry, has for the most part chosen his artists wisely; most of the sixteen works in "The Shadow of the Moon" are well-conceived and well-constructed, though some of them relate only tangentially if at all to the overall theme of the study of the universe.

Among the most successful is Dick S. Martin's "Waiting for the Man in the Moon," a wooden sphinx 28 feet long and 14 feet wide that can actually be walked through. Tex Andrews' "Aerial Reservoir" consists of four extension ladders shooting straight up into the air with buckets on top of them. One is reminded more of small-town water towers than of the universe, but this piece has a graceful purity.

Laure Drogoul's "Tower of Babel/A Chance Encounter and a Lot of Yakity Yak and Blah Blah" has a talky title worthy of its subject matter. This five-story tower covered with toothy mouths will have a talking component -- you'll be able to enter the first level and listen to recordings of the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel in several languages.

Annalisa Gojmerac's "Moonhenge" most closely relates to the theme, being modeled on Stonehenge, that English prehistoric arrangement of stones thought to have been astronomical and religious in nature. Tom Dixon's "there was a beacon . . ." is a handsome-looking yellow tower that may be even better looking at night when illuminated from within.

This having been declared (by Congress no less) "The Year of the American Craft," the Mount Royal Station building's Decker Gallery is home to "Ornament: Interior, Exterior, Personal." The gimmick behind this show was to have not just a craft exhibit but an architectural component. So five architects or teams designed "environments" for these crafts, with mixed results.

"Less is more," that slogan of modern architecture, was never more justified than with Sondra Banfield's and Elmore Rountree's simple fabric panels hanging tent-like over an arrangement of pedestals surrounded by wood chips; it gently suggests nature, as it's supposed to, and if it looks a bit like a display area from Bloomingdale's, hey -- showing off stuff is what these environments are about, and that's the business of department stores. David Bachrach's woven copper sculptures, Patti Tronolone's curly cherry desk, Mark Cherry's stick furniture, Catherine Roseberry/COLORATURA's painted screens, Mary Lou Deal's ceramics, Carla Starkey's baskets all look smashing in this setting.

Steve Ziger's big dark box that you enter by two doors shows off one piece, Laurel Quarberg's "In Memory," which seems a bit exclusive; but it does its job all right. Quarberg's piece is a copper wire frame in the shape of a dining table. Ziger put some lights inside this frame, and over it he placed a chandelier hanging from a real, upside-down dining table, thus creating an installation that's much more effective than Quarberg's piece alone would be.

The other environments here are considerably less successful, especially Barbara Wilks', John Finnecy's and Jillian Storms' overproduced creation -- more is definitely less in this case -- which gets in the way of what it's supposed to be showing. But here and elsewhere are more good-looking pieces, by Maman Rikin, Maurice Beane, Anthony Corradetti, Thomas K. Seiler, Gordon McVay, Steven Glass and Mary Holland, among others. As part of this exhibit, there will be fashion shows tomorrow and Sunday at 7 p.m. in the Decker auditorium (also in Mount Royal Station building).

The big fine-arts exhibit, squeezed into the Fox Building's Meyerhoff Gallery, has as its theme "Realism" -- but the real meaning is the more vague and general term representationalism. The show's divided into three parts, psychological, social and lyrical, and each had a separate curator: Susan Waters-Eller, Carl Clark and Ronald X. Roberson, respectively.

VTC The installation integrated the parts. Had they been hung separately, we might get a better idea of each curator's concept; on the other hand, that way the show would look even more uneven than it does. Waters-Eller gets credit for the best choices, with strong and often haunting works by Jan Pierce Stinchcomb, Connie Imboden, Andrea Burchette, Joan Erbe, Abby Sangiamo and others. Even when one has seen a good number of Burchette's big drawings of threatening but vulnerable birds, her "Bird Boat" stands out here, as does Sangiamo's "Couple," this couple actually being two aspects of one person.

Roberson's lyricism category is not quite as consistent, but he has chosen some good works by artists including Mary Atherton, Sukey Bryan, Bill Tamburrino, Joseph Hyde, Billy Pappas and Robert Salazar. Salazar's photograph "Untitled Portrait" is one of his most commanding, and Pappas' pencil drawing "Visiting Earth" is surely one of the most beautiful works here.

Too many of Carl Clark's selections in the social category are black and white photographs that think they mean more than they do; and at times one wonders how Clark defines social realism, as when he includes Nathaniel K. Gibbs' sentimental "Fall Afternoon." But a few of his images connect. Children with guns, in Barbara Traub's "Village Vice" and Doug McDonough's "Untitled," are a horrifying sight. And Arvie Smith's painting on the subject of race, "You Better Dance Now, if You Gwinter Dance A Tall" is one of the strongest works in this show, if perhaps a little too familiar to those who have just seen it in his School 33 show.

"Gods and Saints," in the Fox building's Thesis Gallery, was a good idea -- a show on the theme of religious and spiritual art. It includes some interesting art, such as Cathy Leaycraft's "Hiding from the Light," Richard Cleaver's "Marcell and Senett on the Stage 1917" and Katarina Wong's "100 Burnt Boxes." But as a whole it's less effective than it might have been; in fact, it's a bit dull.

Despite flaws, however, this Artscape's visual arts component is one of the strongest of recent years.

Artscape

Where: Mount Royal Avenue and Cathedral Street, between Lafayette Avenue and Preston Street; Maryland Institute's Fox and Mount Royal Station buildings; Lyric Opera House.

When: 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. today; noon to 10:30 p.m. tomorrow and Sunday; visual arts exhibitions continue through Aug. 8 (outdoor) and Aug. 15 (indoor).

Call: (410) 225-2283 during festival hours; (410) 396-4575 all other times.

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