"The Universe and the Side of My Body," a huge study in red oil on wood by Kim Manfredi, is not just an eye-catcher in the new show at C. Grimaldis Gallery. It's deeply provocative.
A couple of sagging globs of paint on the upper portion of the four, 96-inch-square panels seem to be on the verge of shifting downward, threatening to invade two circular images formed by the perforation of tiny holes with a drill. Those orbs simultaneously suggest microscopic cells and planets adrift in a blood-dense sky.
The piece is representative of the intriguing premise of "Sublime Structure," an exhibit that features several Maryland Institute College of Art alumni.
The various objects reference "invisible structures, including microscopic organisms, chemical formulations, analogue images, and cosmological formations," as Virginia Adams, a faculty member at MICA, writes in the show catalog. Adams also makes a point of defining "sublime" here as something emotionally intense, even painful or frightening, not necessarily beautiful or transcendent.
Gallery owner Costas Grimaldis started planning the show last spring, using as a starting point Effie Halivopoulou, whose work he has long admired. "She deals with the image of code, whether DNA or linguistic," Grimaldis says. "From there, I wanted to see what else would work with her [art]. It wasn't particularly easy."
But it was productive. The result is a diverse, yet complementary, collection.
Halivopoulou's bold, large-scale abstracts, which combine acrylic, resin and photographs into statements animated by allusions to the human body, form a major part of the exhibit.
She also offers a short digital video, "Transgenic Trauma," that delves deeply into the concept of what lies underneath the "structure" of the human body. The artist is first seen in a silent scream. The camera then seems to push its way down her throat and into the esophagus, where a sharp object begins digging into tissue, before the fanciful visual animation evolves into a Dali-esque sequence.
In addition to the red painting, Manfredi is represented by other works that fuse her interest in the cosmic and minute. "Mars Phenom" explores her interest in the expressive possibilities of spherical objects, here achieved simply and starkly; "For Franz West," a set of four wood panels drenched in soothing Pepto-Bismol pink, gets its character from subtle variations in the application of the paint.
A couple of large, sculptural pieces hanging from the ceiling, "Vertebrae: Grouping" and "Origins Unknown" by Rachel Schmidt, make quite a statement. Composed of wire and thread, they could be the insides of alien beings, with enough tissue and sinew left on the bone to be refleshed and animated at any moment. Schmidt's fabric and wood object, "You Get What You Pay For," is a red dress with a jumble of human hands grafted onto the skirt portion, reaching out, as if in pain or supplication.
Schmidt's mixed-media cluster of little wooden boxes, "Dr. Schmerlinger's Wunderkammer," uses discarded material from various other projects to create a haunting curio cabinet.
Lu Zhang's fascinating pieces in the show are white panels animated by minuscule dots of black tar gel forming intricate shapes and clusters that, like mysterious protozoans observed under a microscope, seem to swim across the surface.
The diptychs of Christopher Myers offer, on one side, female bodies shot in black and white with almost religious lighting; on the other, color close-ups of the digital code from the photos. The act of translating a human body into an incomprehensible numerical language - a photographic DNA - provides its own distinctive structure and beauty, its own take on the "sublime."
If you go
"Sublime Structure" will be on exhibit through Oct. 3 at C. Grimaldis Gallery, 523 N. Charles St. There will be a panel discussion with the artists at 3 p.m. Sept. 12. Call 410-539-1080 or go to cgrimaldisgallery.com.