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Don't Let Their Titles Fool You--All Four of These Culture Workers Are Artists

WORKERS' WORKS: (from top) Jan Razauskas' "Primer"; a detail of Gary Kachadourian's "A Field of Dandelions"; Peter Dubeau's "Batting Cage"; and one pa

By Bret McCabe | Posted 1/16/2008

Artworkers: Peter DuBeau, Gary Kachadourian, Gerald Ross, Jan Razauskas

At Villa Julie College through Feb. 2

Gary Kachadourian's "Life Sized Print of a Light Pole" snakes up the wall of the Villa Julie College gallery space and doesn't even entirely fit. There's no better example of the purpose of this show than that very fact. Artworkers is a show spotlighting the works of four people who spend their days working in the culture industry that is the local and institutional art communities. These are the people who do--Peter DuBeau, associate dean of the Maryland Institute College of Art's Division of Continuing Studies; Jan Razauskas, an instructor at Frederick's Hood College; Gerald Ross, MICA's director of exhibitions; and Kachadourian, the visual arts coordinator for the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts. Kachadourian is the guy who always looks like he's on roller skates from about February through July as Artscape--and whatever institutions, galleries, and arts organizations he has corralled into doing shows in conjunction with the festival--ramps up and eventually launches. As people who work this intimately in the arts industry often are, they're all artists, too. You just might know them better for their day gigs than their own works.

As curated by artist/musician/worker Lyle Kissack, Artworkers devotes a wall to each of the artists, and the effect is a nice tasting sampler of the underseen works of these quite public or behind-the-scenes faces. Prior to MICA, DuBeau was the director of South Baltimore's School 33 Art Center, but he has shown fairly regularly in the area over the years. And anybody who caught his stately Off Shoot show at the College of Notre Dame last fall will recognize his hand in the subtle, elegant watercolors on view here. Splashes of gestural elegance appear in DuBeau's work like vermouth in a martini, but the real grace comes from almost haphazard washes of colors and accidental splotches that shape the refined moods of his works. DuBeau's works exude equal parts chance and control--not in conflict, but more in a symbiotic agreement to make the most out of what they're given.

The watercolors are austere without feeling cold, colorful--leaning toward jubilant reds and aqueous blues and greens--without feeling nostalgic. It's a tightrope walk DuBeau also pulls off in "Batting Cage," a large-scale charcoal-on-paper piece that looks through the chain-link fence of the titular locale and both flattens and whorls the perspective to yield something slightly off, as if looking through a round glass of water. The fence's poles and crisscrossing links appear level with the foliage/leaves entangled in their web. It's difficult to tell if the vegetation is growing on something in the background or fallen off limbs and wind-gathered against the fence; it's also difficult to tell if you're looking at it from the inside or out, or if you're looking up or looking down. It's a deft bit of perspective sleight of hand, where you can tell what you're looking at but can't pinpoint exactly where you're looking at it from.

Razauskas has a similar flair for ethereal representation. Her three pieces here--all on Mylar, which is a fun surface--all feel like ghost images, snapshots that haven't been left in the developing solution long enough for the full image to ripple to the surface. Both "Unknown" and "X's and Y's" feel this way--the latter a capillary road map of faint lines that you can barely discern when standing in front of it, the former a crenelated pink rhombus abutting a gray expanse in fuzzy focus.

The Mylar in both these instances is such a deft surface choice, as light so easily but diffusely passes through it that you almost feel as if you're looking at a translucent scrim and the artist's marks are floating in space. That's exactly the effect of the witty "Primer," in which Razauskas depicts an empty pail and an arc of water rushing to/fleeing from it.

Ross' 11 paintings here explore a different kind of push-and-pull dynamic. He applies a jagged color-collage vocabulary to quasi-representational imagery. "Talon" looks like the three-nail claw of some unknown beast whose skin is a camouflage of gun-metal blue, fatigues olive green, desert ochre, and battleship gray.

That militaristic hint doesn't run through all his paintings here, but it haunts his "Iraq Triptych." The three panels don't appear to represent anything at first glance; it's only with the title in mind that your brain starts image-searching through the mental Rolodex for just what sort of bombed-out, dusty, and elusive imagery to which these three panels might be referring. Nothing specific comes to mind--one may recall a partially destroyed bunker built into the earth--but the title's suggestion is enough to lend the engagingly nebulous imagery a whiff of unease.

Ross' works run right into Kachadourian's when moving clockwise around the gallery, and the effect is much like a totally discombobulating jump cut in a Jean-Luc Godard movie. Kachadourian's process-oriented works here are deft displays of end result completely trumping form and function. His photocopied "A Field of Dandelions (Book)" is on shelf right next to "A Field of Dandelions (Installation)," which takes the black and white drawings on the pages of the book and turns them into a blithe decorative wallpaper that you won't be finding at a froufrou design firm advertised in Urbanite. His other works here are also complementary exercises in an idea's plan and execution. "Drawing for Cut and Fold Portable Toilet" is just that--an isometric view of how to turn a flat sheet of illustrated paper into the mini port-a-potties seen in "Assembled Cut and Fold Portable Toilets." And then there's the "Life Size Print of a Light Pole," a sky-climbing rush of wit that doesn't stop being cheeky.

Artworkers offers a hearty reminder that no matter what artists have to do to pay the bills during business hours, at the end of the day it's still the making of art that turns their screws.

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