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Grimaldis @ Area 405

It's a long way from from its perch on Charles Street, and culture shock comes to mind when thinking of the C. Grimaldis Gallery teaming with Area 405 to stage a sculpture exhibit. Grimaldis, consistently one of Baltimore's best galleries, is known for its high-end stable of artists, clean white walls, and polished wood floors. They made a bold move by choosing to stage an exhibit at Area 405, a down and out former factory, in a neighborhood known more for the flashing blue lights of police surveillance cameras and stray bullets than art galleries. That said, it's one of my favorite art spaces in town, with a buzz of studio activity and very cool living spaces, an art fortress in East Baltimore.

In conversations with gallery owner Costas Grimaldis over the past few years I got the feeling he was thinking more about retirement than pushing boundaries and expanding his roster of artists, but he's gotten a second wind and lucky us. Grimaldis @ Area 405, a selection of large-scale sculpture from gallery artists, is as close to a perfect fit as a show could be.

I've seen several exhibits at 405 in the past few years. The space, for several reasons, is challenging at best to display most work in, but it has met its match: with generous spacing and a tactical use of spot lighting these large-scale works by eight artists inhabit the space organically, as with John Ruppert's tall slender cast wood Lightning Strike Series, freezing the mysterious remnants of natural disaster. Jene Highstein's carved wood form, similar to an enormous shovel handle, has a striking ghost-like presence. Next to it is another Ruppert, one of his formed chain link orbs, which sits among his cast stones. I thought of the recent NASA probe landing on Mars, scooping up soil samples. (The piece has a video component that wasn't working at the time.)

Jon Isherwood's stunning black granite obelisks, standing side by side and titled Both and Between, passionately explore the material and as always are precisely executed, the work of a true master craftsman. The Isherwood relates nicely with Christina Iglesias's large steel, glass, and plaster pieces in the front gallery. Maren Hassinger bundles wire roping like Van Gogh painted wheat bales, an agrarian in a factory setting.

John Van Alstine's mixture of stone and steel would be amazing on a huge scale. I'm going to get my wish when his piece Rings of Unity -- Circles Of Inclusion is unveiled at the Beijing Olympic Park -- very cool, John. Sir Anthony Caro, probably the most noted sculptor in the group, is represented by small welded ribbons of rusted steel, propped on a pristine plywood display, titled Table Piece CCL.

The biggest surprise and attention-getter at the opening reception was Chul-Hyun Ahn's dazzling Mirror Tunnel. I'm still trying to figure out how he created this Alice in Wonderland illusion, but as with a good magician, I really don't want to know -- just do more!

Here's to more collaborations at 405: maybe the Walters or the BMA could be next? More pictures on Flickr.

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