What: "Crosscurrents '93: Linda Bills and Kristine Yuki Aono"
Where: Art Gallery of the University of Maryland at College Park, Art-Sociology Building
When: Noon to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays (until 9 p.m. on Wednesdays), 1 to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays
Call: (301) 405-2763 It's always nice to see a good curator at work, and Angela Adams fills the bill. A visit to "Crosscurrents '93," a new series of annual regional exhibits at the Art Gallery of the University of Maryland at College Park, gives an idea of her talents.
She has chosen two challenging artists whose concerns are different but whose work is complementary enough to make a handsome, well-integrated show. She has allowed both artists to be shown in depth. She has used the gallery space extremely well. And she has written a well-thought-out essay on each.
The artists are Linda Bills and Kristine Yuki Aono. Both sculptors use non-traditional materials and make objects that incorporate elements of craft and fine arts.
Aono, a third-generation Japanese-American, makes kimonos, but not traditional ones. Made of plaster and wire mesh, both free-standing and hanging, they express the artist's concerns with the conflict between assimilation and retention of cultural identity. The kimonos in this exhibit appear to lead to different conclusions about the subject, suggesting that there are no easy solutions.
A set of four free-standing plaster kimonos represent successive generations of the immigrant and her descendants. They are imposing as purely visual objects, and they reflect a struggle between opposing forces which appears to culminate in a proud assertion of loyalty to heredity. A contrasting set of wire mesh kimonos, hanging from the ceiling, reach the other conclusion if read so that they end with the kimono painted in the colors of the American flag. Of two wall-mounted series, one suggests mourning over the inevitable loss of identity, while the other suggests the pragmatism of coming to terms with a difficult situation. There are certainly other possible interpretations; Aono's works are ambiguous enough to imply more than one conclusion, which constitutes part of their appeal.
Bills uses twigs, twine, chicken wire, linen thread and other materials to fashion sculptures that speak both of the integrity of their materials and of how they can be transformed. "Above Below," for instance, is a wall-mounted sculpture consisting of two graceful apple twigs mounted end to end above which floats a pillow of wire mesh wrapped in linen thread. The twigs, without ever losing their identity as twigs, become also the wings of a bird soaring lyrically on the air.
Two "Celestial" works (I and II) are nothing more than a series of twigs, leaning against the wall, to which bits of wire have been added in various 0hapes -- a circle, a zig-zag and so on -- but in their delicate vulnerability they are almost painfully beautiful. In a way these are Bills' simplest pieces here, but they are the high point of her achievement in this show.