Phew. Our weekend spent at Artscape was exhausting. Before the insanity began, a plethora of exhibitions opened in the week leading up to the festival (mostly on the westside of Downtown), and we only got a chance to breeze through a fraction of them. Here’s a very-briefly-annotated round-up of highlights:
Thursday night, Randall Scott Projects (216 w. Read St.) opened Untitled no. 6 (on view until August 8th), a group show featuring work by Stephanie Barber, Ryan Hoover, Sondheim finalist Benjamin Kelley, and Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann. The highlight here was “Horizon,” a washed-out video playing in the back room. It’s a composite of amateur vacation films from the midcentury edited by Stephanie Barber. The artist’s mother worked as a housekeeper for a wealthy family in the Hamptons where she found the films after the couple passed away. Overall, the piece has an eerie, dream-like quality—hints of canned experiences come in and out of focus as tourists cross a North-African dune on horseback, for example.
That same night, Young Blood (until August 22nd) opened at Maryland Art Place (218 W. Saratoga St.). The exhibition is an annual survey of recent graduates from Maryland MFA programs. This year had a strong selection, with work from Amanda Agricola, OluShola A. Cole, L. E. Doughtie, Alex Ebstein (who, deservedly, seems to have work/curatorial projects EVERYWHERE in Baltimore right now), Rob Hackett, Magali Hébert-Huot (also showing at Open Space), and Christine Wolfe Weller. Below are the highlights:
Can we reiterate how awesome these are? Alex Ebstein cuts up different-colored yoga mats and reassembles them into “paintings.” The more I think about these the more I like them—really, “spiritual” concerns aside, aren’t yoga and (acrylic) painting pretty much just about struggling to make our bodies less clumsy as they interact with a surface of complex hydrocarbon polymers?
Saturday night, I came back to the neighborhood to check out the many little galleries that have popped up around West Franklin Street. I discovered a new one! Rope (508 W. Franklin St.) doesn’t quite look like a gallery from the street—it was nearly pitch-black, with a tiny storefront lined in that grooved particleboard designed to hold retail display racks. Those grooves, on closer inspection, had been re-purposed as incense holders. Inside, a second tiny room just held this projection and a pile of rubble:
Out of the two or three people smoking outside, no one seemed to know who the artist was or how long the gallery had been open. I was into the mystery. The projection occasionally switched to a shot that I think I recognize as the basement of the gallery next door. After some digging, it turns out the show was a one-night piece by Elspeth Walker. I’m into it.
At Freddy (510 W. Franklin St.) there’s a mini-retrospective of Albert Mertz, the late Danish artist who spent the last two decades of his life living out “The Red-Blue Proposition.” Mertz systematically painted everything he interacted with half-red and half-blue. He was an interesting figure, but his artwork—at least here—isn’t really as interesting as his biography. Mertz is best known for abstract work or his pop treatment of iconography. These blocky portraits on paper don’t do much for me. I really respect the level of commitment evident in the gallery’s decision to paint that floor, though.
On the same block, Open Space (512 W. Franklin St.) had a reception for a really solid two person show: Because He by Magali Hébert-Huot and Zack Ingram (which is having a closing party Saturday from 1 p.m.-5). The two artists worked in tandem developing their respective bodies of work, and that paid off big-time. I think this was one of the cleanest (but least boring) two-person shows I’ve seen in a while.