Friday Gallery Roundup: Three Short Reviews

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This week: Make Studio’s ninth anniversary show responds generously to the theme of “cloud nine,” Anuj Malla and Emily Wallmueller play with logic and found objects at St. Charles Projects, and Beverly McIver explores the power of masks and identity at the C. Grimaldis Gallery.

The Friday Gallery Roundup is a curated compilation of three short reviews of three current exhibitions worth your time and consideration. There’s so much to see and do in this town every day—check out our calendar and weekly picks for even more options—but here’s a doable list of shows you can check out this weekend. (Ed. note: Okay, the St. Charles show might only be viewable Monday through Friday. Sorry.)

Photos by Rebekah Kirkman

Cloud 9, on display through March 12
Make Studio, Schwing Art Center, 3326 Keswick Road, Baltimore 21211
Weekend gallery hours: 10:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m. Saturday, and by appointment

Celebrating Make Studio’s ninth year of existence, Cloud 9 presents dozens of drawings, paintings, and sculptures by 30 resident artists, whose work mines the everyday, the inner being, TV and film fandom, magical girl anime characters, and so much more. Accompanying each artist’s work is a short bio of the artist and statement about their work, which is often lovely—like Katelynn Herty’s meditative painted stones, arranged semi-triangularly on a plinth: “I see rocks as individuals and I treat them as such when I paint them, I respond to the cracks and surfaces of the rocks.” (My favorite rock: the one that’s painted to look like a rock, with earth colors and rough strokes in varied tones to enhance the rock’s contours.)

One of Tony Labate’s tall and thin paintings portrays the three original Mr. Freezes from Batman with Adam West, each Mr. Freeze lined up behind the other; the other painting shows two blocky, white-haired, black-suited, nearly identical men, the actors Eddie Albert and Eddie Bracken, who Tony considers his “guardian angels.” Zach Manuel’s comics are a delight but so are his landscapes, one of which here features a semi-abstracted pond framed by a bare tree and grassy knoll, interrupted by lines to illustrate the dimensionality of the space. Also: Jerry Williams’ three-dimensional, three-tiered Star Trek chess set; Erika Clark’s wispy, breathing “Bonsai Forest” ink drawing; Margie Smeller’s maximalist painting “Hot Dog World.” (Rebekah Kirkman)

Anuj Malla and Emily Wallmueller (Photos by Rebekah Kirkman)

Now and Never, through March 31
St. Charles Projects, 2701 N. Charles St., Baltimore 21218
Gallery hours: 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday–Friday 

A shoehorn attached to a pipe/leg-of-sorts appears to have dragged its heel elegantly and selectively through street-yellow paint, across the top of a wall and down over a gray board leaning ramp-like between wall and floor, and then down onto the floor itself. Opposite the shoe, a few feet away on the floor, a broken coffee pot appears to have generated that street-yellow line of paint. Or maybe it was the shoe, having dragged across the ground and the wall, down the ramp and on the floor again, skipping beats here and there. As I stand and contemplate who dun it, a smearing pile of cerulean sand looks up at me with both eyes, like a flounder.

Baltimore artists Anuj Malla and Emily Wallmuller’s collaborative installation abounds with material and visual improvisation and no shortage of humor or wonder, directing the visitors’ eyes and bodies around the space through legible, fungible logic. A green playground slide spans the height of the wall, landing on a silver starburst as if in celebration of the implied human or object that could be sent down the slide. In the corner, a red glove emerges from a silver rain-gutter/forearm; in the glove’s palm, a button with the word “tickle” makes me impulsively close my hands for protection. A puddle of purple paint almost blends with the floor, and then I realize it’s seeping from a tin of paint-water, in which floats a glow-in-the-dark-green key or cube with a question mark on it. ?, indeed. (RK)

Beverly McIver at C. Grimaldis Gallery (photos by Cara Ober)

Beverly McIver, Souls of Mine, through April 6
C. Grimaldis Gallery, 523 N. Charles St., Baltimore 21201

Weekend Hours: Saturday, 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m.

Recently returned from a year’s fellowship at the American Academy in Rome, painter Beverly McIver has produced a new body of work that is both tender and provocative, uncomfortably revealing at times and also playful. Her third solo exhibition at the C. Grimaldis Gallery is an opportunity to witness an evolution from previous depictions of herself in white and black face paint into subtler types of masks that consider Black female identity in a variety of ways.

In “Blinding Light, Whatever May Rise I,” McIver’s eyes are closed and her face is transformed into graphic stripes, presumably from light filtering through Venetian blinds. In other self-portraits, her eyes are closed or obscured by reflective sunglasses, praying hands, and a bouquet of flowers, inviting the viewer in closer without a visual confrontation. This show includes several paintings of McIver’s father with downcast eyes, and one standout figure painting that depicts a nude woman whose body is covered in painted flowers. The exhibit also includes several monumental still lives of racially insensitive toys that are powerful, but come off as obvious in context with the mysterious and understated portraits. One other outlier is a portrait of a white man wearing blackface, painted in 2018, and it’s shockingly prescient, given the absurd, recent parade of Virginia politicians in blackface.

McIver is a master painter and her medium-sized canvases beckon and flirt, offering lush, expressionistic swooshes of pigment consistent with past bodies of work where color and surface are constructed for sensual impact. Her strategic exploration of masked faces in conjunction with the visibility of Black women in the art historical cannon raises universal and compelling questions, offering opportunities for conversation, communion, and healing in a country sorely divided. (Cara Ober)

Header Image Compilation: Image of Anuj Malla and Emily Wallmueller courtesy of St. Charles Projects, Beverly McIver “Warmth,” 2018 detail photo by Cara Ober, and photo of Louis Middleton’s sculpture in the featured image by Jill Fannon

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