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Abstract exhibit takes form at Howard County Arts Council

The four artists in the exhibit "Intertwined Expressions" are linked by their devotion to abstraction. Similarities in how they use coiling lines and densely layered colors make for a cohesive show at the Howard County Arts Council.

These linkages are most clearly seen in the works by Peter Gordon and Allison Long-Hardy. For both artists, circular and oval shapes help anchor compositions that otherwise feature enough floating forms to verge on being formless.

Gordon intensively uses pencil and crayon to almost completely cover the paper surface in such works as "Early Morning, Autumn." Although the numerous small circles drawn on that surface do not comprise any sort of rigorous patterning, the simple act of repeating them provides a measure of structure to a composition that's a tangle of curving and straight lines.

"Early Morning, Autumn" and Gordon's other six drawings in the show all reference that season through their titles and also through a range of subdued colors. Even the prevailing shades of black are toned down in such a way that these abstract drawings emotionally evoke a quiet day in late autumn.

In her colored pencil-enhanced print "Rise," Long-Hardy deploys tightly packed ovals that bear at least some resemblance to what Gordon is doing. Although her composition is darker and denser than Gordon's approach, they have in common a quasi-organic quality. The assorted hues of green, black and deep purple in "Rise," for instance, might prompt you to think about either a forest floor, a pond or perhaps where they meet. Another one of her seven prints, "Decay," also resembles an overgrown marsh.

Greg Minah does not directly suggest images of nature in his seven acrylic paintings, but he does seem to be contemplating how natural matter is held together. There are assertively colorful zones in his paintings, but they're irregularly shaped and seemingly arranged haphazardly; however, these distinct forms typically emit webs of delicate lines that skip across the canvas and more or less link up with other forms.

Minah's best painting in the show, "certain truths," has a measure of organizational structure in the arrangement of the colored zones and surrounding weblike lines, but this structure is so loosely defined that there's also a floating quality.

If these three artists all have amorphous tendencies, the fourth artist, Allyson Block, is more solidly oriented. Indeed, this sculptor constructs wall-hanging pieces from wood, plastic, yarn and other materials.

A typical Block sculpture relies upon several vertically or diagonally oriented wood slats affixed to the wall at eye level. Pull up close and you'll see how that wood has been painted, covered with multi-colored yarn, and sometimes even with buttons. Several sculptures also make use of coiling plastic tubes, which ensure that the sculptures won't become too rigorously angular. It's telling that her seven exhibited sculptures are all from a series titled "Balance," because she does achieve a balancing act between straight and curving lines.

And it's also telling that each of these four artists has seven works in the exhibit. They're individually given an equal amount of wall space to collectively make an abstract case.

If the artists in Gallery I are drawing upon stylistic influences from late-20th-century American abstract art, the three artists exhibiting in an exhibit in Gallery II, "Transformations of Ink and Brush," draw upon Asian art traditions to make decidedly contemporary work.

Most of Freda Lee-McCann's mixed media works on paper cover that surface with collaged pages from the telephone book. You can read actual names and numbers in that tiny print, but the black type on white paper mainly is used as a sympathetic support for ink drawings alluding to traditional Chinese landscapes.

In-soon Shin's work includes the three hanging panels comprising "Elusive Universe," in which she applies ink to Korean mulberry paper. The pale gray splashes and white lines are closer to abstraction than to calligraphy, and there are also black and white orbs that have planetary associations.

For actual ink on rice paper calligraphy, Kit-Keung Kan has four hanging scrolls in "Eternal Love." The artist also tweaks tradition, though, in "Ancient Airs on Rocks," in which there are calligraphic ink markings on 10 small rice paper-wrapped rocks resting on the gallery floor.

"Intertwined Expressions" and "Transformations of Ink and Brush" run through Feb. 24 at the Howard County Arts Council, at 8510 High Ridge Road in Ellicott City. There is a reception Friday, Jan. 27, 6- 8 p.m. Call 410-313-2787 or go to

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