Jim and Suzie Hill are an admirable collecting duo -- they collect with modest means and for the love of art. He teaches English at Towson State, she's head librarian at Catonsville Community College, and since the 1960s they have been collecting in the field of contemporary art -- mainly prints, drawings and other works on paper.
They buy but don't sell, and their small Baltimore house is crammed with art, filling up the walls and sitting on the floors. The collection includes well-known names such as Alexander Calder, Chuck Close, Grace Hartigan, Alex Katz, Bruce Nauman and Robert Mapplethorpe. But the Hills buy what they like, not what they think will appreciate in value, and they have works they've bought for $25 or $50 by artists who are anything but household names.
They like sharing their works with others, as they're doing right now with the show of 44 works now on view at Towson State. It's a successful exhibit first and foremost because it contains good art. Installed in one rank around the gallery's walls, there's not a dull work among them. There's the added interest of seeing a few artists in some depth, with three or more works -- among them Hartigan, Katz, Connie Imboden, Leonard Baskin and Sue Coe.
This is a wonderful teaching tool for a university with an art school, especially for students of the print. It shows, for instance, the different effects that can be achieved with lithograph in the hands of various artists including Coe (dark and fluid), Louis Lozowick (grainy, like an old photograph) Calder (bright and flat) and Leonard Koscianski (extraordinary detail).
It shows how the same artist can get different effects with different media. Coe's lithograph of "Insurrection" (on the subject of hog slaughtering) emphasizes a viscous liquidity, so you think of the blood, while her etching of the same subject emphasizes jagged line, so you think of the stabbing knife.
It shows, on the other hand, how another artist can achieve remarkably similar effects with different media. From a glance at four of Katz's heads of women, you'd never guess that they were done in four different media -- screen print, lithograph, woodcut and aquatint.
And since the Hills concentrate on figural work, it shows the wide range of such work currently being done, from Hartigan's commanding portraits to Connie Imboden's psychological/surreal photographs to Coe's and Paul Marcus' socio-political pictures.
While the show represents a good teaching tool, it's also a rare opportunity to see a selection from one of the area's fine collections.
"THE HILL COLLECTION"
Where: Holtzman Gallery, Fine Arts Building, Osler and Cross Campus drives, Towson State University
When: Noon to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, through April 29
Call: (410) 830-2787.