Raoul Middleman's paintings can galvanize an art show, with their scudding clouds, flashes of light and active brush strokes that communicate the intensity of feeling behind them.
In the C. Grimaldis Gallery's impressive exhibit "The Painterly Landscape," one meets Middleman's "Corner of the Barn" just inside the door. It's impossible not to respond to trees so energetically painted that they appear to rush up from the ground toward the squiggle of light that peeks out beneath the stormy clouds.
His "Susquehanna Flats" is almost all movement of water and sky across the canvas, and one can almost feel the cold water rushing around one's ankles.
In this well-selected group show, seeing different artists' use of similar subject matter brings out contrasts in their approaches. Middleman here appears especially expressionist, his canvases filled with emotion -- not angst, but the joy of being alive and able to create.
Eugene Leake looks somewhat impressionist, but with a difference. His paintings appear to present the scene as the eye receives it, rather than with every leaf in place. But instead of impressionist dazzle, Leake's pictures tend toward the monumental and ruminative. Even though the fence in "Fence" can be seen to be brush strokes, it looks more solid than the real thing. His trees are embodiments of dignity.
Jules Olitski's watercolors, though they contain references to the natural world, become more abstract the more one looks at them. His "Everglade Solstice" is as much a series of horizontal bands of color and light as a representation of nature. There's romanticism in these works, too. In "Beginning" and "Distant Cloud," the world almost dissolves in brilliant light, much as it does in late paintings by the 19th-century romantic landscapist J. M. W. Turner.
Henry Coe is the realist here, the artist closest to showing the landscape as it actually is, and there's something of an academic flavor in his carefully worked out compositions. In "North West Wind," trees and sky form two complementary triangles. In "The Range," the triangle of land and water below and the triangle of sky above recede in the distance until they meet at the midpoint of the canvas.
In this company, Karl Connolly's six tiny (4 1/2 -by-4 1/2 -inch) oils and one larger one look somewhat surrealist. Unpopulated, eerily quiet and vaguely unsettling, these scenes might be glimpses from a dream, in which one has lost one's way and senses something about to happen that may be menacing.
The show also contains works by David Brewster, Robert Dash, Neil Welliver and one diminutive oil by Fairfield Porter.
'The Painterly Landscape'
Where: C. Grimaldis Gallery, 523 N. Charles St.
When: 10 a.m. to 5: 30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays; through May 31
' Call: 410-539-1080
Pub Date: 5/08/98