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One by one, teachers play it safe


There is consistency in the annual Maryland Institute faculty shows. From year to year, they show many of the same artists, and from year to year they also leave somewhat the same impression.

On the positive side, this show is the product of a highly skilled, thoroughly professional group of artists. That they're good at their chosen disciplines can be taken for granted, given that they work for one of the finest art colleges in the country. For the BTC most part, they don't let us down; their ability comes through loud and clear.

But maybe the reason that comes through is that not enough else is coming through. With some exceptions, the work here doesn't take a lot of chances, doesn't engage us strongly, doesn't hit hard. Too much of it looks safe, and apparently satisfied to be safe.

The one-work-per-artist format is bad for these shows because most artists can't make as strong an impression with one work as when seen in depth. Such a show leaves too many little impressions, too few big ones.

One change from earlier years is an increase in the number of works that involve computers. There are seven two-dimensional, computer-generated images and three works on computers that involve viewer participation. Most of them are not very interesting, but there's an exception: Jack Wilgus' funny, computer-generated "The Tower of Technology" uses the technology to satirize what computers may do to art education. He creates a photograph of the institute's main building that makes it a skyscraper -- a tower of technology -- and combines it with a postcard from a future time when the "Maryland Institute of Cybernetic Art" has an all-computer-construct faculty and 2,000,000 students on the World Wide Web.

Other works of interest include David Krueger's big painting, "The Norseman," an allegory of fishing and the sea that implies all seafarers are children of the Norsemen. Jan Pierce Stinchcomb's "Untitled" is a cigarette machine painted with a landscape and offering bits of nature -- a bird, a flower, a tree -- instead of packs of cigarettes. The implication is enormous: Suppose all the money spent on cigarettes in this country were spent on the environment. Awesome, isn't it?

Rex Stevens' "The Moneylender and His Wife" at first looks like a Grace Hartigan imitation, and in fact it is strongly influenced by Hartigan, but at the same time it's a lovely watercolor, particularly notable for the richness of its color. Philip Koch weighs in with one of his Edward Hopper-like paintings, "Morning, Truro Studio, II."

Joe Shannon's "City on the Country: The Reception" says a lot about art audiences and the fear of controversy today. Jyung Mee Park's paper sculpture, "Untitled," may be the most beautiful work in the show. Laurie S. Snyder's book, "Apples and Houses," is a haunting evocation of the past (hers, but also ours). Michael Economos' "February Night," with its brooding atmosphere, is one of the show's most powerful works. But it has a rival in Tonia Matthews' big, abstract intaglio print, "Two Miles Off Highway 20."

Faculty exhibit

What: Maryland Institute, College of Art Faculty Exhibition

Where: Fox Building, Mount Royal and Lafayette avenues, and Mount Royal Station Building, Mount Royal Avenue and Cathedral Street

.' When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday

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