sculptor Jerome B. Meadows -- is having his first solo at Midtown Gallery. Remember the name. Though the show has its ups and downs, it brings to light a very good artist just on the brink of maturity.
A wood and stone carver with several commissions already under his belt, Meadows has been teaching at the University of Maryland and at the Baltimore School for the Arts for several years, evolving an abstract language of his own. These wood sculptures are typical: a happy if unlikely marriage between sleek biomorphic forms and those of primitive art. It is a union also used to high advantage by Martin Puryear, whose influence as a teacher at Maryland still pervades some of the best work coming out of the art department there. Meadows' sculpture is his own, but it echoes Puryear's goals.
There are several anthropomorphic three-legged works standing around on the floor, some centered with suspended, planet-like globes carved from laminated wood -- a format that has worked better on a larger scale. (One such piece was the highlight of a group show at the Martin Luther King Library last year.)
It is the smaller, wall-hung works -- which have the presence of African masks -- that are the stars of this show. Curvaceously carved from raw woods of various colors, they also incorporate bits of stone -- some minimally carved, some left in their natural state -- adding texture and tone. The womb-like "Seed-Song," for example (carved from mahogany and walnut), cradles a natural, round stone at its center, the whole seeming pinned together with dartlike bits of wood. The most beautiful piece, called "Kah Species," has a shape and outline that evokes an iris, an insect or a helmet. Its magic is in the fact that it resists becoming any of them. Meadows here set out to invent his own visual equivalent of an organic species, and he has done it.
Also a musician and poet, Meadows is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and the University of Maryland. His show will continue at Midtown, 1630 Connecticut Ave. NW, through March 28. Several calligraphic abstractions in pastel and acrylic by Jaime Romano are also on view. Photographic Still Lifes
Not all photographers are concerned with the fleeting moment, or life in its natural state. Since the first camera was aimed at a still life, photographers have been arranging their subject matter, and very carefully at that. "The Constructed Image," now at Jones Troyer Gallery, focuses upon three contemporary photographers who currently follow that path -- something of a minority in this era of the street photographer. They make an intriguing group.
For one thing, all are highly accomplished not only in the art of picture taking, but as painters and sculptors as well. Reed Estabrook, who teaches photography in San Jose, Calif., actually builds abstract, geometric collages from old pieces of wood and corrugated cardboard, and then spray-paints them to get the nonphotographic colors he wants. He then photographs them close up and from above -- often with artificial light -- to exploit and toy with the element of shadow, and the fact that the camera flattens and confuses depth.
Some of his shadows, in fact, are painted ones, designed to fool the eye. And measuring sticks are often included (sometimes placed at an angle) to confuse the sense of scale. These "Exercises in Solid Geometry," as they are called, are in fact exercises in photographic perception. But there is a central problem: striking as they are, they look a bit too much like those old-fashioned close-ups of painted walls, imitating abstract paintings.
John Divola is more involved with mood than with intellect. A resident of Venice, Calif., he has previously made two series in color, titled "Vandalism" and "Forced Entry," that dealt with beat-up houses. So does this present series, titled "Zuma," which deals with a Zuma Beach house in Malibu that he first found and photographed in a dilapidated state. When the local fire department wanted it for practice, Divola decorated bits of it -- such as an interior wall painted with black and silver squiggles -- and photographed it before and after the fire department burned it down. Usually centered by a window overlooking a sunset, or some other seaside idyll, these images are odd and mystical amalgams of beauty and beastliness. Most memorable is a charred doorway that -- one gradually figures out -- has been painted silver to heighten its shimmering quality.
Olivia Parker, though better known for her large color Polaroids, is showing the black-and-white photographs on view: poetic still lifes in the Joseph Cornell tradition, arranged from fragments of old books, prints and ancient pottery, and incorporating prisms, shadows and images of birds. All photographed from collages meticulously arranged on the floor, these split-toned contact prints take on sepia color in the shadowed areas, heightening the sense of aged paper. This show of masterfully crafted work will continue at 1614 20th St. NW through March 30. Hours are 11 to 5, Wednesdays through Saturdays. More Photographs
There is a rash of good photography shows in town at the moment, including several in city museums. But a tiny one that might go unnoticed is made up of early prints by well-known Philadelphia innovator Ray Metzker, whose moody, velvety-black urban images from the late '50s and '60s foretell his more recent "City Whispers": shadowy everyman figures seemingly imprisoned in the downtown urban environment. These and work by other interesting contemporary photographers -- notably Bruce Davidson -- are now on view at the Chevy Chase home/gallery of private dealer Sandra Berler through March. Hours are 1 to 5, Saturdays through Tuesdays at 7002 Connecticut Ave.