One of the best things a critic can experience is walking into a show so alive with creativity that it's hard to settle down and concentrate on one work at a time. That's the case with "Ceramica Puertorriquena Hoy/Today," a show that brings the work of 22 Puerto Rican ceramics artists to Baltimore's School for the Arts.
A lot of the show's energy derives from the fact that there doesn't seem to be any dominant influence or style at work here. A few of the pieces are at least theoretically functional, but all exist primarily as sculpture, and no artist's work looks like that of any other.
Ivonne M. Colom's vessel-shaped pieces could certainly hold things, but they function primarily as reflections of art's past. In their balance of symmetry and asymmetry, the two elements that form "The Yes and No of Each Day" recall art's classical and romantic impulses, while Colom's two "Brown Vessel" forms resemble bronzes from an ancient culture. And Aileen Castaneda's "Cone with Sphere" forms could conceivably be used as goblets to carry some nectar to the lips, but they're really meant to carry the happy marriage of form and color to the eye.
Most of the other artists here work more completely in the sculptural realm, and their concerns range from the religious to the socio-political to the purely aesthetic. In the last category belong Gretchen Haeussler's rows of oversized green pears and green and red apples. Their sheer sensuous beauty more than justifies their existence.
The three forms of Susana Espinosa's "Animalia of a Lone Summer," with their tree-like legs, animal bodies and human facial features, act as reminders of the interconnectedness of living beings. Mari Gamundi's box opens to reveal candles and bowls flanking a hand whose fingers end in tiny statuettes, presumably of saints. It's a sort of portable shrine, suggesting that religion, to survive, must be flexible enough to move with the times.
Franklin Rodriguez Graulau's "See How the Fish Drink in the River" trumpets its environmental message loud and clear. A group of fish, out of water, circle a sink where water trickles down the drain, indicating that if the world doesn't stop misusing water it may not have any fish left. In Yvette Cabrera-Vega's "Bureaucracy," the show's funniest work, human figures rise from the mouths of other human figures, each successively smaller than the mouth from which it's emerging. Bureaucracy, it suggests, promotes smaller and smaller minds up the chain of command.
Organized by two Philadelphia groups, brought here by Baltimore Clayworks and Education-Based Latino Outreach, and shown at the Alcazar Gallery of the Baltimore School for the Arts, this show exhilarates with its vital originality.
The Alcazar Gallery of the Baltimore School for the Arts, at 712 Cathedral St., is open 9: 30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. The show runs through Dec. 20. For information, call 410-396-8401.
At Gomez Gallery
In British photographer Dave McKean's surrealist art, now at hTC Gomez Gallery, the human body undergoes metamorphoses resulting in imagery that at first seems to lie in the realm of sheer fantasy. But the works are more relevant than that, for they have historical and psychological connotations.
In "Rock No. 5," the upper torso of a man becomes, at about midpoint, the ruin of a marble statue with one leg missing, and his arms turn into a bird's wings. This mutant, imprisoned in a chamber with only a window at the top, both recalls the Icarus myth and suggests the inevitability of each civilization's demise. On a more psychological level, it also suggests that even the flight that the wings imply would not provide freedom from inner turmoil.
In "Moth 1," a group of moths metamorphose into a human arm and hand, about to flick off the light around which the moths cluster. Will the moths then disperse, undoing the task of forming a man on which they had seemed to be embarked? Is this a metaphor for human self-destruction? Possibly, as "Self I," a picture of a man's head with a goldfish bowl for a brain, may be a metaphor for the transparency of most human actions and motivations.
Other works refer to religion and literature; McKean's fertile imagination takes him in many directions.
Gomez this month also offers "Metals National: Invitational '98," a group show of jewelry and related works curated by Shana Kroiz, director of the jewelry center of the Maryland Institute, College of Art. Kroiz has assembled works by a dozen artists from all over the country, much of it imaginative and beautiful. I especially liked the industry-based jewelry of Zack Peabody, pieces that resemble a bridge's superstructure or a turbine engine. They sound weird, but they're quite handsome.
Gomez Gallery, in Meadow Mill at 3600 Clipper Mill Road, is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. The show runs through Dec. 27. For information, call 410-662-9510.
Pub Date: 12/08/98