An apparently irresistible urge to immediately exhibit every sketch, doodle, pencil smudge and curlicue that pop into an artist's brain seems epidemic in Baltimore, which may or may not be a good thing.
Consider s'Lottery, the current show at Maryland Art Place that runs through Feb. 7. The exhibition presents works by 15 artists chosen at random without, the organizers proclaim, benefit of "selection panels, jurors, curators, rules, regulations or restrictions."
What is amazing about this experiment in democracy is how well it seems to work despite some uneven patches. Each of the artists, who range from students to mid-career pros, was given about 200 square feet of wall space - also allotted at random - and simply told to have at it.
The result is a testament to the rich vein of talent that runs through this town at all levels. Some of the most arresting pieces in the exhibition include a series of graphic, theater-of-cruelty drawings by Shannon Oliverio; autobiographical panel paintings by Angela Wheeler; highly enigmatic but expressive abstract oils-on-canvas by Julianna Dail and exuberantly over-the-top, soft-porn fantasies by photographer Sam Holden.
I was also struck by Margaret Boozer's quiet, meditative sculpture of found objects - a dead tree limb perfectly inscribed within the circle of an antique wagon wheel - which made as profound a statement about the transient character of existence as any philosopher's tome.
Not all the pieces worked as well, however, especially those by some of the beginners, whose offerings were in many cases - well, jejune. Which raises a question: Should the opportunity to exhibit, even before one is completely ready, outweigh the risks of premature public exposure?
The issue relates not just to the unevenness that results from lumping together artists of varying levels of experience - which might not necessarily bother viewers - but to the future prospects of the younger artists.
There's a danger that showing too soon, and being congratulated for it, could stunt artistic development, as the artist focuses not on further creative growth but on repackaging a formula for adulation and short-term ego gratification. This is a hazard that, it seems to me, too often is underestimated by both artists and curators.
Lotteries are great, be the prize instant money or fame. And it can be terribly hard for artists to turn down an opportunity to exhibit, no matter how unwise.
But as in all serious matters, there really are no shortcuts - and what looks like a fantastic break might be only an illusion of success. Mastering the discipline of patience ought to be as important as the training of young artists as learning to draw or paint.
The gallery is at 8 Market Place, Suite 100, in the Port Discovery Plaza. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Call 410-962-8565 or visit www.mdart place.org.
The eight photographers' works on view at C. Grimaldis gallery this month run the gamut from big, splashy German-style color pictures to small, exquisite, black-and-white images that, in a relentlessly digitizing age, already are beginning to exude the nostalgic aura of antiques.
The big show-stoppers are Dimitra Lazaridou's spectacular night views of an oil refinery, whose electric-green and yellow lights lend rigidly geometrical structures an almost Satanic ferocity, and Wim Wenders' beautiful cityscape depicting a postmodernist pastiche of architectural styles that honor I.M. Pei and Edward Hopper.
Both these artists have learned to use complementary colors with the facility of painters and chiaroscuro with the unerring accuracy of black-and-white photography's Old Masters - Kertesz, Cartier-Bresson, Weston and Strand. Even their shadows are deepened by opposite hues of blue and rust.
The show also includes works by James Dusel, Christopher Myers, Alexey Titarenko, Neil Meyerhoff, Leland Rice and the Cuban emigre artist known as Gory.
The gallery is at 523 N. Charles St. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Call 410-539-1080.
Also noteworthy this month is Dan Brown's show of realist painting at Craig Flinner Gallery.
There's something about Brown's genre scenes, interiors and unpretentious architecture that seems deeply redolent of Baltimore, though viewers may find themselves hard pressed to say exactly what it is. It just looks familiar and, for the most part, friendly enough to be home.
The gallery is at 505 N. Charles St. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday. Call 410-727-1863.