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Icons and minimalists

Dynamic exhibits at Maryland Art Place, C. Grimaldis Gallery

By Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun | October 6, 2011

Engaging, museum-level work fills two venues in Baltimore. Maryland Art Place has assembled a remarkable survey of minimalist painters from different areas and generations, while C. Grimaldis Gallery is offering a collection of pieces by five exceptional artists who produced work locally.

The Grimaldis show, "Five Maryland Icons," provides a richly varied experience — and, for those in the market, a fairly expensive one, with most of the pieces priced from $3,500 to $125,000.

Only one of the five "icons" included is still with us — Raoul Middleman, who started teaching at the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1961.

Middleman is represented here with several potent works, notably "Juliet of Eager Street," a large oil on canvas from 1982. The barefoot subject, attired in a 19th-century-style dress, stares rather blankly, her pose an intriguing contrast to the urban world behind her. The portrait makes quite a statement.

There is considerable communication as well in a group of landscapes by Middleman, whose bold brush strokes send fierce clouds rolling in "Impending Storm," an oil created this year. 

Quietly vibrant examples of the venerable landscape genre are among the works by Baltimore-born Herman Maril in the show. His soft-edged colors and flat surfaces, somewhat David Hockney-esque in mood, produce their own kind of energy. "The Picnic," an oil from 1970 with wispy trees and simply drawn figures playing croquet, is a fine example.

Landscapes by Eugene Leake range from folk art-like items of the 1940s to the richly atmospheric "Night Bridge" from 1991. A beguiling, untitled oil on paper from around 1990 consists of two impressionistic landscapes, one placed above the other; each is painted in swirls of color that produce a strong vertical motion.

Leake's large-scale "Red Nude with Green Background" from the early '60s has a visceral edge.

Speaking of visceral, there's "Metamorphosis," a striking abstract by Keith Martin from 1963, with something of a protozoic shape that recalls Roberto Matta's surreal images. The richly shaded watercolor "Siren Song" from 1959 also shows off Martin's persuasive style.

A collection of works by prominent Maryland artists would have to include pieces by Grace Hartigan, and she is a commanding presence here. Selections include two large oils on the subject of Joan of Arc (one from 1996, appropriately for this exhibit, has something of an icon look), and, more imposing still, "Pale Horse Pale Rider," a masterful symphony of color and technique from 1991 that would, by itself, be worth a trip to Grimaldis.

Then there is "Painting in Parts" at Maryland Art Place, which exerts its own pull. Put together by consulting curator Michael Klein, the show is a good fit for the spacious galley.

Minimalism in art, typically viewed as a reaction to the complexity of abstract expressionism, tends to provoke strong opinions. Same for minimalism in music (personified by Baltimore-born Philip Glass), which offers a contrast to knotty atonality.

The MAP exhibit makes it easy to absorb pieces by 11 artists who have produced works that involve multiple parts. A prime example is "Dracula" (1972) by Don Dudley, consisting of 24 long, thin aluminum panels hanging vertically, black ones above white ones (more suggestive, perhaps, of piano keys than a vampire's overbite).

An untitled Tadaaki Kuwayama from 2000 fills a wall with a straight line of small, gold-shaded anodized aluminum squares. Daniel Buren's "Three Light Boxes for One Wall" from 1989 subtly illuminates a series of stripes to compelling effect.

There is a purity to such straightforward repetitions of familiar shapes, allowing the eye to drink in the essence of form and color. The process is at its most basic in Alan Charlton's "Solent" from 1985 — 30 individual, silver-colored strips, 87 inches by 7 inches, placed closed together.

A more vibrant example comes from a younger-generation minimalist, Luke Frost. His triptych "Supervolts No. 4" from 2010 produces an uplifting effect from rectangular panels in muted shades, each with a thin, contrasting stripe in the middle.

In each room of the gallery, "Painting in Parts" effectively underlines the longevity and power of minimalism.

'Young Blood' flows through Maryland Art Place

'Young Blood' flows through Maryland Art Place

By Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun | June 30, 2011

Tucked in between restaurants and clubs at Power Plant Live is a nondescript corridor that leads to something very, well, descript — the always lively Maryland Art Place and its latest exhibit, "Young Blood."

This show, featuring works by nine recent Masters of Fine Arts degree recipients from the Baltimore area, provides a visual adventure that starts at the front door with a mixed-media installation. Sarah McNeil's "Manchine" reflects what she describes as "concepts of philosophical toys and psychological machines."

Resting on a pedestal is a small plastic model of a suburban house. A light glows in a front window; inside, a tiny midcentury-style kitchen table is piled with printed matter. At the back of the model, through open cellar doors, a stop-motion animation reveals a man in athletic shorts lifting one leg, exercising.

A short distance from this miniature installation is a full-sized, midcentury table, like the one in the model, also piled with printed matter — leaflets, magazines, ads — related to physical exercise.

And all of that comes just at the front door of the gallery.

"It's a good summer show," said MAP's program manager, Sofia Rutka. "It's fun."

This is the fourth annual "Young Blood" exhibit, chosen by MAP's program advisory committee. The artists earned their MFAs within the past year at the Maryland Institute College of Art, Towson University, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Maryland, College Park.

A bit of a house theme runs through the show. A large sculpture by Adam Junior called "Nowhere Else to Go" involves plaster homes spread across the top of the piece, supported by an intricate, lattice-like structure of balsa wood — a telling metaphor for what Junior describes as the "precarious structure of relationships" supporting the human race.

If the McNeil and Junior items take a micro approach to houses, Robert Guevara goes macro. His "Precipice and Void," filling up a sizable portion of one gallery room, uses drywall, wood, steel, tubing and an electric blower.

The huge apparatus breathes — a wireless motion sensor triggers the blower, which sends air beneath the installation's tarp-covered sections. The expanding materials seem to be reliving memories of past usage, or perhaps straining toward some future purpose.

If there's something of a haunted element in Guevara's work, it's even more pronounced in the other pieces sharing the room.

"if you could," a found-object sculpture by Jesse Burrowes, consists of three battered musical instrument cases balanced atop shovels anchored in cement. From the bottoms of the cases sprout little alligator feet, which seem to be in motion, trying to flee.

Memory and loss, as well as humor, animate a group of painted "Still Lives" by Katie Taylor, filled with transitory images — variously filled honey bear jars, 17-year cicadas, browning banana peels, used tea bags.

Pieces by Wun Ting Wendy Tai also address issues of time and mortality. "The Measurement of Mourning," a subtle, backlit wall-mounted sculpture of acrylic, aluminum and glass, consists of small medical vials in neat rows, like pieces of a game that is over.

Tai's "Salt Water — No. 2" employs three identical funnel-like vessels suspended over piles of rock salt; water will slowly drip from the containers, changing the consistency of the salt, throughout the exhibit's run.

Amy Boone-McCreesh's prismatic items made from paper and other found objects, Jill Fannon's playful "performance photographs" and Linling Lu's elegant recycled-material "Gentle Shields" fill out the prismatic, multi-sensory show.

Young Blood: MAP Showcases Top MFA Grads

By B. Boyd, Baltimore Fishbowl | June 15, 2011

Mark your calendar with a capital A for art: Wednesday evening, June 29th, from 6 to 8, Young Blood, Maryland Art Place’s annual MFA grad show—one of the organization’s most popular events, now in its fourth year—features painting, sculpture, video, drawing, and interactive performance by recent grads with talent to burn. We are so there.

Curated by the MAP Program Advisory Committee, which is chaired by artist, writer, and teacher Cara Ober, the exhibition provides recent MFA grads an opportunity to make connections with other artists and arts professionals, and to nurture their early artistic careers.

“After achieving their master's, the next most important step for young artists is their professional debut in a reputable professional gallery,” Ober says.

Engaging event meanwhile provides you, gallery-goer, the opportunity to tour and purchase new art by gifted young people of powerful creative vision, their names not currently household, but we’d wager might well soon be. Show will include emerging artists from the Maryland Institute College of Art, the University of Maryland at College Park, Towson University, and the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

We can’t wait to check out work by Amy Boone-McCreesh, who earned her MFA in painting from Towson—Amy builds ultra-abundant, confetti-colorful installations from found objects, secondhand fabrics, and celebratory ephemera. All artists convey unique themes. Wun Ting Wendy Tai, a new MFA from MICA’s Rinehart School of Sculpture, is a mixed-media artist whose work references post-colonialism and multiculturalism—she “attempts to address the effects of cultural and social hybridity in a poetic and ephemeral manner.” Jill Fannon, armed with an MFA in imaging and digital art from UMBC, creates her bold images with the aid of new technology. MICA grad Adam Junior, a sculptor from Long Island, says he’s preoccupied with building structures that are at once contained and impenetrable alongside those that are vulnerable and codependent. We definitely dig his piece, “Nowhere Else to Go,” which assembles numerous small white houses that seem at once ready to house a human family or a searching flock of birds. Linling Lu (MFA, MICA Hoffberger School of Painting) recently completed a series of paintings, which allow her to “embrace the beauty in various chances [or nuanced moments] of solitary mediation.” Her gentle works likewise beckon the viewer to a most meditative place.

Emerging wunderkinds Katie Taylor, Jesse Burrows, Sarah McNeil and Rob Guevara also to display recent work.

"MAP is very excited about the fourth installment of Young Blood,” says Sofia Rutka, MAP program manager. “The nine artists in this year’s exhibition were selected based on the strength of their work, exemplary of the recent MFA graduates in the Baltimore area."

So, see you there Wednesday, June 29, 6-8, for opening reception and artist talks. Show runs until August 27.

Our Mission

Maryland Art Place (MAP) inspires, supports, and encourages artistic expression through innovative programming, exhibitions, and educational opportunities while recognizing the powerful impact art can have on our community. MAP creates a dynamic environment for artists of our time to engage the public by nurturing and promoting new ideas. MAP has served as a critical resource for contemporary art in the Mid-Atlantic since 1981.

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