"Traces," at Maryland Art Place, manages to be a success in spite of its ho-hum theme exploring the connections between drawing and sculpture.
"Art no longer follows established rules," curator John Beardsley writes, "and whatever predictable relationship might once have existed between sculpture and drawing no longer has the force of universal law."
In other words, artists once used drawings as studies for sculptures. Now they use the two more freely -- sculpture first and drawing later, or sculpture and drawing combined in the same work. That's not especially exciting. But the show is saved by the quality of most (although not all) of its works, and the sculpture/drawing theme makes an easy if bland context.
Some artists combine drawing and sculpture in the same work. For his drawing "Susanna in Her Garden," Tex Andrews created a wood and metal frame that plays a supportive but also integral role: It allows the viewer to be completely surrounded by the drawing. Lois Hennessey's "Early Morning Wake Up" combines drawing, found objects and ceramic sculpture in a delightfully imaginative wall piece. Ellen Burchenal's wall drawing looks as if it's propelling the blue-painted wooden pieces next to it into orbit, creating a dynamic, funny image.
For other artists, the process of drawing as study for sculpture becomes reversed. John Ruppert's sculpture "Full Circle" came first, then the same bronze cast of what looks like a gear wheel was used to make the subsequent drawing. Looking at each enables you to understand the other better.
Foon Sham's sculpture "Sphere #1," a painted wooden ball resting on the floor, has the ominous look of a bomb about to explode. When he came to create the drawing "Sphere #2," Sham translated the sense of menace perfectly through the use of dark colors.
Joyce Scott always has an interesting take on things. Here, her well-known bead sculptures are accompanied by her beadwork instruction manuals in comic-strip form, which must make learning her form of beadwork fun.
One can identify vessel forms in both Rebecca Kamen's drawings and her sculptures, but the drawings are so delicately beautiful that they make the sculptures look a bit pedestrian.
Mara Adamitz Scrupe's three drawings reveal an artist of finesse. That's good, for we would be hard put to know what to make of her on the basis of her "sculpture" of fluorescent lights and wiring hanging from the ceiling. This piece of sheer self-indulgence has no place in a show whose art was mostly well chosen.
And speaking of self-indulgence, when I visited this show, three days after it opened to the public, not all of the works were labeled, the accompanying brochure had not arrived and the checklist was a mess of inaccuracies.
MAP is far too professional an organization to permit itself such sloppiness.
What: "Traces: Connecting Sculpture and Drawing"
Where: Maryland Art Place, 218 W. Saratoga St.
When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, through Aug. 19.
Call: (410) 962-8565.