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Fresh Horses

Galerie Françoise Corrals Local Talent

John Ellsberry’s glass-tile mosaic "Bromo Seltzer Tower"

By Mike Giuliano | Posted 8/16/2000

Stable Round Up

Galerie Françoise et ses fréres through Sept. 1

A summer group exhibit provides a gallery the chance to trot out its stable of artists as well as introduce newcomers you'll be seeing more of in the season ahead. That's certainly the case at Galerie Françoise in Lutherville, where much of the wall space is devoted to newcomer Allan Baillie, who is exhibiting seven untitled black-and-white photographs depicting floral and leafy closeups.

This Maryland Institute, College of Art alumnus may be new to the gallery, but his photographic approach falls solidly in the tradition of a modernist master such as Edward Weston, who realized that sharply shot, closely observed pictures of organic forms could be made to seem nearly abstract. Although Baillie's curvaceous, lustrously white flowers and deeply veined, X-ray-like leaves remain easily identifiable, his preference for isolating a single flower or leaf against an all-white or all-black background tends to make them seem like not-quite-familiar forms resting against otherwise blank spaces. Baillie's skillful compositions merit respect, but so many photographers have made similar photographs that he seems to be mining a modern tradition rather than extending it.

Another gallery newcomer, Alyson Weege, exhibits a large oil painting, "Equestrian Portrait," whose subject matter goes far beyond the image of a girl riding the titular horse. Exercising fine ability as a representational artist, Weege populates the painting with a boy on a rocking horse, a burning house, an artist making sketches, dogs, a bare-chested man posing against an old car, two men holding up enigmatically elaborate umbrellas, a man holding a bottle, a Halloween bag of goodies, and more. It's all set against a cacti-filled desert.

If there is a story threaded through this stuff, it'd take a lengthy novel to make the many narrative connections. In any event, you need to gaze awhile simply to tabulate everything littering the desert. This painting is so packed full of imagery that it's a bit funny, though less funny for verging on kitsch. This obviously is a matter of taste, but there's no denying Weege's technical talent.

Among other additions to the Galerie Françoise stable, two noteworthy artists are Leo Murphy and Jacqueline Slavney. Murphy has a couple of small oil paintings, "Head #1" and "Head #2," in which the physical distortions are so extreme that even the two subjects' gender is hard to pin down (though the pearl necklace on one figure seemingly makes her female). More comic than creepy, these heads are good for a smile. Slavney's eight color photographs of sand dunes have enough individual value in the way they call attention to the cloudy skies casting shadows against the rolling white dunes, but they're most effective hanging as a group. Your eyes can scroll across the grouped photos and chart the subtle changes in atmospheric conditions and topography.

Among artists who already belong to the Galerie Françoise stable, the ever-clever Leonard Streckfus is displaying several sculptural assemblages, including a "Horse" made from scrap metal and a dog, "Mixed Breed Offspring," which is mostly made from old wooden-furniture parts. Also noteworthy is City Paper contributor John Ellsberry's glass mosaic "Bromo Seltzer Tower." The small, variously hued glass tiles seem like a crazy riot of color when viewed from inches away, but pull back a few feet and the picture resolves into a gratifyingly evocative rendering of the distinctive downtown landmark. (Disclosure: Ellsberry's piece was commissioned by CP as the cover for a book-length collection of Charmed Life columns, to be published next month by Woodholme House. Its appearance in this show is unrelated to the book publication.)

Most of the other Galerie Françoise regulars please, as you'd expect them to. One who disappoints is Greg Otto, who is best known for crisply defined, brightly colored renderings of the Baltimore skyline. By way of a change of pace, here he has three small acrylic paintings offering blurry views of exit signs above Interstate 95 as it approaches downtown Baltimore.

Trading in his sharp, quasi-Pop art sensibility for a more muted palette, Otto has produced washed-out, hard-to-read scenes in which you can barely make out the signs for things such as Fort McHenry and Camden Yards. Indeed, the scenes are so murky that it may explain why a highway sign for "Caton Avenue" is mistakenly listed as "Canton Avenue" in the gallery checklist. Otto's hazy urban scenes would be disastrous if you encountered such conditions while driving. Confronting these paintings in the gallery isn't dangerous, but it's not very interesting either.

Also exhibiting are A.P. Balder, James Condron, Nathan A. Danilowicz, Laura Wesley Ford, Sara Glik, Kristen Hogue, Larry Horowitz, Paul Hotvedt, Chevelle Makeba Moore Jones, Herman Maril, Vicki McCarthy, Debra Rubino, Bill Schmidt, Joyce J. Scott, and Elisabeth Stevens.

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