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Home Turf

Artscape's Exhibitions Have the City Covered, Inside and Out

Note to Self: Donald Antoine Tyson lets it all hang out in his contribution to MICA's notebook show.

By Mike Giuliano | Posted 7/23/2003

On the grounds of this year's Artscape festival, near the Maryland Institute College of Art, sits the "M&T Bank Model Home," a 2,000-square-foot building constructed on the median strip of the 1200 block of Mount Royal Avenue. Curator Gary Kachadourian and the artists who filled it with installations raise some questions about residential design, but also about ideas of home. The front wood steps, for instance, have been covered with artificial turf by artist Tabatha Tucker. Of course, plenty of real Baltimore rowhouses have just such fake grass covering their steps. It's a fitting start for a tour of Artscape's signature exhibits.

Just a matter of yards from the model home, an outdoor sculpture exhibit curated by John Ruppert has been installed along Mount Royal Avenue and Cathedral Street. One piece possessing true brute integrity is Chris Duncan's "Tropes and Tricks," in which upright steel bars support chunks of concrete; the steel and concrete are so closely wedded that this upwardly thrusting sculpture is more beautifully cohesive than its roughly worked materials might lead you to expect.

Heading indoors at the festival grounds, the Juried Exhibition, curated by Darsie Alexander, in the Decker Gallery of MICA's Station Building features pieces made from other, equally mundane materials. Adam Dougherty's "My House" is a large dollhouse made of cardboard; Traudis Kennedy's canvas "Aluminum Painting #16" resembles a crumpled sheet of aluminum as much as a colorfield painting; and Crisley McCarson's "Ring Toss" uses an arrangement of 49 dowels as pegs on which each hangs an acrylic-painted Styrofoam ring, riffing on what might be termed the "ordered accident" procedure of tossing paint on a wall.

Among the off-site exhibits, one that taps especially well into pop culture is Looking Backwards, curated by Talia Greene in Gallery 2 at the Creative Alliance's Patterson Center for the Arts. James Rieck's oil painting "Permapressed" depicts two guys who look like they're out of a 1950s advertisement, while Jennifer McBrien Dixon's paintings rely on similar retro references. Aimee Shapiro's wall-mounted dog heads add to the kitsch count. And Alesha Fiandaca's resin-encased floral-patterned fabric forever preserves ordinary cloth.

The Artscape exhibits elsewhere around town make for quite an assortment, but they mostly prove worth the drive. An untitled group exhibit at the James E. Lewis Museum of Art at Morgan State University is an eclectic show highlighted by Beverly Ress (also in the MICA juried show). Ress' mixed-media "Cara" includes three sheets of plain paper casually tacked to the wall; a taxidermied cardinal, accompanied by a colored-pencil drawing of it; and an arcing line drawn across the paper and onto the wall itself. The physicality of objects, the ways in which they're represented, and the relationship between a work of art and its environment are among the complex issues deftly dealt with here.

In The Weight of a Moment, in the Rosenberg Gallery at Goucher College, curator Pam Thompson has assembled a group show about the awareness of time. It's a first-rate show that includes Andrea Hackman's color photograph "Going West," presenting the view out an airplane window; two photographs of birds by Jeffrey Springer that capture them in eternally frozen motion; and Diane Sipple's triptych painting "Suite of Three," an underwater view of swimming kids that makes time and place seem as fluid as the water itself.

Much less successful is the group show Media Hype?, curated by Jeffrey Kent, in the City Hall Courtyard Galleries. Some individual pieces impress here, including Elizabeth Burger's copper-and-clay "Copper House," Bill Tamburrino's oil painting "The Demolition of Memorial Stadium," and Morgan Monceaux's installation incorporating headless baby dolls, "Cost of Not Preventing Crack Babies." Overall, however, this show touches on so many subjects--AIDS, African-American religious services, the war in Iraq--that it seems like a blur of topical references rather than anything meaningfully planned.

Those interested in tracking the creative process will want to check out "Notebook," featuring sketchbook pages from 172 artists and writers, in the Pinkard Gallery of MICA's Bunting Center. Some of the artists featured here doodle, others make careful preparatory sketches, and yet others carry out finished works on the page. One of the most pleasingly autobiographical is by Mark Barry, whose watercolor depicts a Paris room, accompanied by written notations and a collaged airplane boarding pass.

Also letting you in on the process end of things is Declaring Space: Recent Drawings by Baltimore Artists, at the School 33 Art Center. Curated by Peter Dubeau, the show includes three untitled charcoal drawings by Ann Rentschler in which the formal structure of a grid supports spontaneous squiggled lines; and by way of highly finished work, James Rieck's triptych charcoal drawing "3 Rings" depicts tightly cropped images of engagement rings.

Other shows running beyond the festival weekend include the Charmopolis group show at Maryland Art Place; curator Ryan Mahon's selection of paintings and sculptures by Lania D'Agostino and drawings by Jackie Milad at Theatre Project's John Fonda Gallery; Essence: structure/substance, a five-artist show curated by Diane DiSalvo at Villa Julie College Gallery; and "Constants and Variables," featuring artists Marc Ganzglass and John E. Penny, at one of the city's newer galleries, Area 405.

For more information, call (877) 225-8466 or visit www.artscape.org.

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