College of Art show well-served by limits


A little change has made a big difference to this year's faculty exhibit at the Maryland Institute, College of Art. In previous years, each eligible faculty member had a 6-foot wall space limit and could put in as many works as would fit that limit. This year, the limit was changed to one work per artist. The result is that the jumble of former years (if memory serves me) has given way to a cleaner look in which individual works stand out and the

show as a whole leaves a much stronger impression.

It's possible to draw a few general conclusions. As in previous years, the technical ability of these artists as a group is beyond question. Painting stands out, while sculpture appears underrepresented. Above all, in a time of engagement with social issues these artists on the whole seem disengaged, pursuing more personal visions -- which is not necessarily bad. Trying to force an interest one doesn't really possess would inevitably result in bad art.

As always in a show of this kind, however, individual works come across much more strongly than collective impressions. An exception to disengagement is James J. Hennessey's "Charm City Still Life." Its message about violence is clear enough, even somewhat heavy-handed, but it's especially interesting for the way its composition, its surface texture and its restrained palette all contribute to the overall effect of a work that, instead of screaming blood and gore, whispers the silence of death.

The swirling water, stormy weather and panorama of mountains and sea in David Krueger's big painting "The Barbless Hook" add up to what is both a romantic statement about man and nature and a scene of emotional catharsis. Rich Lipscher's elegantly wrought wooden sculpture "A Cache of Memory" is as interesting for its counterpoint of geometric and organic forms as for its surrealist exploration of the past.

Philip Koch pleases, as usual, with "Edward Hopper's Rooms by the Sea II," and it is daring of him -- to say the least -- to invite comparison with one of the century's great masters. Dan Dudrow's "Eros/Lagos" shows him moving away from his heavily stylized, somewhat deco-ish paintings, and although this work appears transitional it is always rewarding to see an artist make the leap from safety into the unknown.

Christine Neill's "Gloriana," with its strong light and its air of quiet mystery, is one of the best of this artist's pictures I've seen in a long time. Michael Economos' "Loyalty" grabs you with its energetic brushwork. Norman Carlberg's photograph "Column" appears to me to make a postmodernist point (surprising for this artist) about the relative merits of the modern and the traditional, but it's also notable for its sheer visual dynamic.

And Raoul Middleman's "Thea" is a striking painting of a woman in which everything -- from her stockings to her eyes -- adds up to a living whole. There's somebody in there, no doubt about that.

Others works could be mentioned, given space, among them ones by Stephen Heaver, Power Boothe, Barry Nemett, Phyllis Plattner, Michelle La Perriere and Gwen Fabricant.


What: Faculty Exhibition

Where: Decker and Meyerhoff Galleries, Maryland Institute, College of Ar.

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays (to 9 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays), noon to 5 p.m. Sundays

Call: (410) 225-2300

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