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Gallery Roundup: Elaine Fisher, tet[R]ad, and Chris Wilson

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Baltimore Art and Spirits

Baltimore galleries are back in full force and we are thrilled to see art in person! Here we present succinct reviews of three color saturated must-see solo exhibits to visit this weekend: Tiny assemblages by British artist Elaine Fisher at Project 1628, tet[R]ad: Cultivating Collaborative Creative Community at Maryland Art Place with Desmond Beach, David R. Modler, and Samuel H. Peck, and paintings by Chris Wilson at Julio Fine Arts Gallery at Loyola University in Baltimore.

 

Individual Ten Minute Sculptures by Elaine Fisher from Instagram

Elaine Fisher: Repartea at Project 1628
On exhibit through February 19, 2022
by Cara Ober

During the pandemic, Elaine Fisher challenged herself to make ten-minute sculptures out of household recyclables and posted them on Instagram (@elaineyfish #tenminutesculpture) as part of a daily studio practice. Under Fisher’s judicious eye, cardboard egg cartons and sardine tins and bits of wire were transformed into whimsical assemblages and intimate constructions reminiscent of vintage cartoon robots, arcane sea creatures, and children’s science experiments.

Over time, the improvisational forms expanded in complexity as the artist allowed more time for the formal concerns of color, texture, and scale to compete with brazen associations of material culture, otherwise known as rubbish. Replete with a wide range of associations, purposes, and past lives, Fisher’s tiny forms offer a wonky but clear reflection of its maker’s curiosity and also of late capitalism’s legacy.

Arranged on a long white tabletop at Project 1628, the front room of a grand Bolton Hill brownstone, the artist’s creations engage in witty banter with new audiences but also with each another in an ideal setting. Titled Repartea—a riff on “repartee,” a conversation or speech characterized by quick, clever comments or replies, and teatime—Fisher’s dinner party installation unites the tiny assemblages into individual place settings at a lavish feast for the eyes and mind. On the walls, two-dimensional portraits of Fisher’s works reflect a sincere approach to surrealism, where objects are personified into fantastical but approachable entities. Additional sculptures adorn the corners, staircase, and marble mantlepiece, along with a beautiful printed catalog and sets of coasters available for sale.

Fisher’s sculptures blithely remind us that the materials we consume on a daily basis have value and pleasing aesthetic qualities. They question the hierarchy of materials typically used to create art, proving that good design often accompanies detritus. They also demand us to reconsider our relationships with recycling, consumption, waste, and the looming environmental crisis we face. Writ large as an installation, Repartea draws us in with playful humor and primary color, then surrounds us with the overwhelming ubiquity of single-use plastics, our inefficient use of natural resources, and the probability that these items will remain on Earth long after humans are gone.

As the artist, a British citizen living in Baltimore for the past few years, plans to return to England this spring, this exhibit is a bittersweet farewell. Had Fisher lived in Baltimore during “normal” times and not during a pandemic, her work would have undoubtedly been more widely experienced and exhibited. Regardless, Repartea is a wild and tactile feast for the senses, as well as a springboard for important conversations about climate change and the roles artists can play in addressing legal and economic barriers through playful means.

Elaine Fisher: Repartea at Project 1628
Elaine Fisher: Repartea at Project 1628

Project 1628
1628 Bolton Street, Baltimore, MD 21217
Appointments available Monday to Friday through February 19. 
Open hours: Saturdays and Sundays, 2-5 p.m.
Closing reception with the artist on February 19 from 2-5 p.m.
For more information visit www.elainefisher.art and www.project1628.com.
 

 

Maryland Art Place galleries

tet[R]ad: Cultivating Collaborative Creative Community at Maryland Art Place
On exhibit through March 12, 2022
by Teri Henderson

It’s rare to enter a gallery and be invited to physically interact with the art. But at tet[R]ad: Cultivating Collaborative Creative Community, that is the whole point. Developed by a duo of artists/researchers, David R. Modler and Samuel H. Peck, tet[R]ad is an ongoing project that connects people through a visual diary/sketchbook exchange. For this exhibition, Modler and Peck worked with Baltimore-born artist Desmond Beach on an immersive installation that transforms Maryland Art Place’s gallery into a colorful collaborative classroom. Every surface is covered in neons and primary hues, beckoning visitors to contribute and converse with the artist-organizers. 

Beach holds an MFA from MICA’s Rinehart School of Sculpture and focuses his mixed-media artistic practice on African storytelling and the legacy of the African Diaspora. For the installation, Beach created several life-sized drawings: sloping, graphite outlines of Black women and men. At first, I thought the buckets of markers and crayons surrounding the drawings were sculptural elements, until I was told that the drawings had recently traveled to a classroom in Baltimore where a group of students colored them in. I was floored and hesitant to know that I could color and add to the drawings. I felt a bit nervous, so I didn’t add anything then—the opportunity to physically add to the art was new to me. I’ve found myself feeling increasingly plugged into the matrix lately, and this was a chance to disengage from the digital and re-ground myself with the analog. I’m excited by the possibility of adding my own marks before the show closes.

There was nearly too much for me to take in on my first visit: outlines of smiling faces, seemingly spray-painted, walls containing shelves of journals that can be borrowed and returned. Stories everywhere, layered like paint on a canvas. Ephemera, photographs, small journals full of stickers and drawings, layers of paper and cardboard covered with markings—these things that traveled from other variations of the project are displayed alongside Beach’s drawings.

Nearly every moment of the exhibition offers the viewer a chance to create something. Tet[R]ad reimagines the traditionally passive gallery-going experience into one that is dynamic, bright, and encouraging. By removing preconceived notions of what it means to make and view art, it invites visitors to engage with the work of all involved: the curators, artists, and each other. The show was invigorating, allowing me to reimagine what forms an exhibition can take and reminding me that art can be fun.

Maryland Art Place
218 West Saratoga Street, Baltimore, MD 21218
On exhibit through March 12. Artist in Residence February 21-25.
Gallery hours: Tuesday-Saturday, noon-4 p.m.
Closing Reception Thursday, February 24, 6-9 p.m.
For more information visit www.drawandplayhere.com, www.desmondbeach.com, and www.mdartplace.org

 

 

Mama’s Boys, acrylic, aerosol, & fabric on canvas, 72 x 96 inches

Chris Wilson: Allegory, Artist & Society at Julio Fine Arts Gallery
On exhibit through February 21, 2022
by Cara Ober

All great art is autobiographical, whether it appears to be or not. In Chris Wilson’s radiant body of narrative painting, it is difficult to separate the artist’s personal journey from the images on his large canvases. Perhaps this is the way it should be, because his story is so quintessentially American and compelling that it makes an immediate impact—and art is never created in a vacuum.

If you have read Wilson’s memoir, The Master Plan: My Journey from Life in Prison to a Life of Purpose, you are familiar with his experience. At age seventeen, Wilson killed a man in self-defense and was sentenced to life in prison without parole. After a few years of intense depression, he decided to change his life. He made a list of goals he wanted to accomplish in prison with all the steps required, and over the next decade and a half, he accomplished each one. In 2006, a judge decided to reduce Wilson’s sentence based on what he had achieved while incarcerated and he was released from prison. He went on to write the book, become an artist, and serve as an advocate and mentor for other incarcerated and returning citizens.

Incarcerated Firefighters, acrylic & aerosol on canvas, 36 x 86 inches

At Julio Fine Arts Gallery, Wilson experiments with a variety of painting styles, choosing a rich assortment of techniques to tell stories from divergent perspectives that center around his own lived experiences. Wilson’s use of vibrant color and generous paint application is paramount to the way he builds accumulative tableaux of information where figures, patterns, abstract forms, words, painterly gestures, and mixed-media collage merge into dense compositions that resemble graffiti at times and abstracted Francis Bacon-esque figures in others.

Symbols of America creep into these works, with red, white, and blue compositions functioning as backgrounds and context for personal memories, dreams, and observations. Wilson keeps the reading on these emblems open-ended to invite questions, rather than obviously celebrating or condemning them. This allows him to offer nuanced details about freedom, as well as his identity as a Black man and a “returned citizen,” emphasizing conflicting depictions of rage, tragedy, and triumph. Overall, these paintings communicate an internal dialogue where Wilson invites us into his thinking, specifically considering the power artists have to assign meaning, transcend society’s barriers, change hearts and minds, and own what it means to make serious mistakes and then give one’s life to making amends.

Chris Wilson: Allegory, Artist & Society at Julio Fine Arts, Loyola University of MD
Chris Wilson: Allegory, Artist & Society at Julio Fine Arts, Loyola University of MD

Julio Fine Arts Gallery at the Loyola University of Maryland
4501 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21210
Gallery hours: Monday-Wednesday and Friday 10 a.m.–4 p.m., Thursday 10 a.m.–8 p.m., Saturday-Sunday noon-4 p.m.

 

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