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29.11.03

Paintings by Mark Barry

Mark Barry, Pool Side, 2002, image thanks to Steven Scott GallerySome time ago, in a post on August 11, I mentioned the paintings of Mark Barry. I liked what I saw of Mark's paintings from his Web site, and he has been interested by my postings on Matisse, Gauguin, and Constable, among others. Mark's paintings have been on display at the Steven Scott Gallery outside Baltimore since October 1, but the show comes down this evening. Fortunately, I was able to see the show this past Wednesday, with the gracious guidance of Steven Scott who showed me the paintings of Mark Barry and the other artists he represents. (Mr. Scott's gallery was on Charles Street in downtown Baltimore until last year, when he moved it to its present location in Owings Mills, just off the Baltimore beltway.)

I liked the pictures I was able to see over the Internet, and that was reinforced when I saw them in person. Mark's style is colorful and direct, with perspective that is often distorted or just simplified and figures who are rendered in a somewhat primitive or naive manner. (This "faux-naive style," Mr. Scott made a point of saying, is intentional and certainly not the result of a lack of academic training.) What strikes me about Mark's work is its happy warmth, revealed in his focus on domestic scenes like parties and activities like reading, bathing, and cooking. There is little darkness in the works I saw, but plenty of grace and vivacious color and pleasing curves. Prominent themes include jazz musicians and the sound of jazz (Night Life, 1998; and the ceramic vases), flowers (The Caller, 2003; March Morning, 2003), fabric patterns on furniture and curtains (The New Dress, 2003; Her Favorite Spot, 1998; The Makeover, 2003), and still life, especially of crabs and other Maryland cuisine (The Crab House, 2002). One of the paintings I liked best in the show was Pool Side (2002), which is shown at right, and I came back to it the most. Rather than providing a portrait of one particular day by a pool, the composition reduces the subject to its essentials: a stand of flowers in a garden, a woman reclining on a lounger, and the water of the pool. The pool, a simple and fairly small rectangle, stands like a mirror in the background, and the flowers hover about the woman's feet and over the water. I admired another painting in the show, Special Spot (2003; see image here), for many of the same reasons. The specific scene, a particular room in Barry's house, is lost in a wash of blue that mingles with the sunny sky seen through the window. Only a vase of red flowers on a slanting side table and the back of a yellow chair create the sense of what makes the dog think this spot is special. You can see several more of Mark's paintings here at his Web site, which he is updating at the time of this writing. There will hopefully be more images of old and new work, as there were in the old version of his site.

You will be able to see some of Mark Barry's paintings in Steven Scott's next show, from December 2 to February 28, called "Regarding Nature." This will feature recent works by many of the artists who show at the gallery, including Robert Andriulli, Mark Barry, Gary Bukovnik, Anne Marie Fleming, Patricia Tobacco Forrester, Carla Golembe, Amy Lamb, Annie Leibovitz, Michael H. Lewis, Katja Oxman, Mark Poss, Tracie Taylor, Frank Trefny, and Karen Vornov. The beautiful flower photographs of Amy Lamb, the cloud study landscapes of Robert Andriulli, the precise still lifes of Frank Trefny, and the urban landscapes of Sam Robinson (especially one of a parking lot in Ocean City) were other works I saw on my visit that are worth a trip to Owings Mills.

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