Brent Crothers' sculptures, at Galerie Francoise, make their points quickly, simply and forcefully.
He takes a dead tree with a lot of little branches on it, makes it the handle of a shovel, stands it up against the wall and calls it "Digging Our Own Graves." Point: By deforesting the planet we're killing it, but we're also going to kill ourselves in the process.
He takes several old Reader's Digest Condensed Books, forms them into a bowl shape, burns the interior of the bowl, and calls it "Story Telling." Point: Death and lies; a lot of trees died to make those books, and they're not even the original books, so they're really not necessary at all. They also distort the original books by condensing them, and a distortion is a form of lie, or of telling a story.
He takes a bunch of tree stumps, covers them with copper, hangs this on the wall and calls it "Coppertype." Point: This one's a little more complicated, but judging by the wrinkly copper "skin" on the tree stumps, which resembles the sagging flesh of old people, he's saying something about people growing old when trees aren't allowed to grow old. Yet these trees, now that they've been immortalized as art, will outlive us all, won't they? There are all sorts of ironies in the world.
And a number of ironies in Crothers' work. Some of the tree-shovel handles have been cast in bronze. In order to make the bronze casting of the tree you have to reduce the tree to ash, or destroy it. Crothers works with dead trees, so it really doesn't matter. But nevertheless he's destroying something to make a point about destroying it.
The virtue of Crothers' sculptures doesn't lie solely in their message. Visually, they have presence and strength. One could wish for a bit more variety in this show, which consists mostly of a couple of condensed-book works and a bunch of tree-shovels. But Crothers has an important (if not entirely new) message and an effective way of getting it across.
From children's eyes
In the third floor thesis gallery of the Maryland Institute's Fox building (Mount Royal and Lafayette avenues), there's a United Nations Children's Fund show of drawings by children whose lives have been affected by violence in various parts of the world, including Iraq, Guatemala, Cambodia, Bosnia -- and the United States. Baltimore, in fact. The drawings from other parts of the world are about violence brought on by soldiers. The Baltimore drawings are about urban violence in a country that's supposedly at peace. Here are the subjects of the 13 Baltimore drawings: Drugs and alcohol; murder; murder; child abuse; murder; fights and drugs; guns; rape; murder; rape; murder; murder; murder. And right next to the last of these is a picture of Huoth Kim Ly, a young Cambodian refugee living in a camp in Thailand and dreaming of a new life in the United States.
The show, which only runs through Monday, is worth seeing. The gallery is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, (to 9 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays), Noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.
To the point
What: Brent Crothers Sculptures
Where: Galerie Francoise, Green Spring Station, Falls and Joppa roads
When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m . Tuesdays through Saturdays, through Oct. 31 Call: (410) 337-2787