Variety is hallmark
of Glenview Mansion's worthy show
Sep. 20, 2000
Mansion Gallery of Rockville has begun its fall season with three
solo shows by three very different artists. John B. Mors is a
sculptor who draws his inspiration from ancient architecture,
seeing it not only as abstract sculptural form but also, anthropologically,
as the embodiment of culture. His corten steel surfaces reflect
the strength of these still extant buildings even in their miniaturized
format while their warm brown hues add life to an otherwise rigid
exercise in geometry.
John Mors' steel conglomerate captures the purpose of
the pyramids' invulnerability: to protect the dead within.
Ostia" is a 20-inch-high block that is pierced through the center
by a circular cutout. The opening extends through to the top
of the piece, splitting it neatly into two small seating areas.
This is an elegant form, a sculpture worthy of the moniker "minimalist."
But it was chosen by the artist not only for its abstract simplicity
but for its historical resonance. These benches are still present
in the town of Ostia, but in ancient Rome they were designated
for use only by men and therefore become artifacts of a culture
in which the inequality of the sexes extended even to seating
Mors' work is captivating whether it deals with mundane outdoor
seating or with spiritual quests embodied in pyramids and basilica.
In "Pyramid Inversion, Old Kingdom, Egypt" Mors has combined
the exterior of the massive Cheops pyramid with the recessed
doorway to the inner burial chamber of the pyramid at Unas.
Mors' steel conglomerate has captured the purpose of the pyramids'
invulnerability: to protect the dead within. The perfectly scaled
geometric interior exudes a sense of mystery, holiness and permanent
shelter aided by the no-frills reductionism of his harmonic
Christine Fendley is a skilled painter who has taken her compositional
cues from the cropped imagery of film and photography (as did
earlier masters, such as Degas); her romanticism from the tete
a tete of 19th-century novels; her shorthand descriptions of
human form and her use of pigment to color the space in her
paintings from 20th century abstract colorists like Milton Avery.
Much of Fendley's work seems like vignettes in a novel. A significant
moment is highlighted that, were it not portrayed, would pass
Boxtop" allows us to spy on a couple, a sharp-jawed, hatted
woman garbed in black and seated on the floor with her back
against a pink wall. The young man she faces is silhouetted,
his back to us. The partially opened green box between them
has no obvious significance. It is the moment, the contact,
the electricity between the two spanning the warm pink space,
that is the true subject of the painting.
Similarly, "Will She Bite" has three subjects: a woman seated
on the floor and barely squeezed into the confines of the left
side of the painting; a dog on the right side of the canvas,
held taut by a thin leash; and the space between them as they
make eye contact. The dog seems friendly but questioning; she
seems wary. Both figures watch and wait while the gray air between
them bears the psychological burden of their locked gazes and
their tenuous separation. One wonders who is asking "will she
bite" -- the woman or the dog.
with Dolls" by Joan Z. Rough is a series of large manipulated
photographs portraying a twilight zone distortion of dolls'
heads. They are nightmares in which the human, false and plastic,
is threatened by sublimation in an unpleasant environment of
swirling color. In one print four heads are distorted and their
bodies obscured by a crawling pink atmosphere that threatens
to drown them. The largest doll's eyes are popped wide open
in a horrified gaze.
Two portraits seem to use not a doll but a real human head in
that the skin surface seems fleshy. An acid blue and white sea
surrounds the form, etches out the eyes and mouth and is closing
in quickly to dissolve the rest. All of Rough's work prompts
similar feelings and, after the first shock, one wonders why.
by Mors, Fendley and Rough will continue at the Glenview Mansion
Art Gallery through Sept. 26. The gallery is located in Rockville
Civic Center Park, 603 Edmonston Drive. For information, call
301-309-3001 or 301-309-3354.