The Common Object is an exhibition of over 60 still life paintings created by 31 Zeuxis artists and their associates. It is now on display at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Zeuxis (named after a prominent painter in ancient Greece) is a group of painters work to continue to explore still life painting as many contemporary artists disregard it. The Common Object is on tour and the fourth and last stop is here in Baltimore. It originally opened at the Prince Street Gallery in New York City in October 2010.
The “common object” that this exhibition is based on is the ordinary kitchen towel. A single blue and white dishtowel is displayed on a pedestal in the first room of the exhibition, as if inviting viewers to compare the paintings to the real thing. While the subject may seem mundane, there is quite a bit of variety in these paintings. Some artists use the towel as a bit of drapery or as a backdrop, but others use it as a prominent compositional element. In Composition with Checkered Cloth Robert Jessel uses the cool blue and green colors of the towel stripes to surround and highlight the warm colors of the still life objects. Bevin Engman’s Orange, Black and Coil shows the rolled towel as one bold element in a group of geometric objects.
While the dishtowels themselves have bright red or blue stripes, the artists showed versatility in color and painting style. With Light Bulb, Mark Karnes plays down the colors of the towel and the muted striped grid contrasts with the spiral of the modern light bulb. On the brighter end, Martha Armstrong’s Tiger Lilies uses the vivid blue stripes of the towel to bring out the wild orange of the flowers. Playing with a Red Dishtowel by Penny Kronegold explores the gesture of the towel with vigorous colorful strokes.
The Common Object runs through March 11, 2012 and is at the Myerhoff Gallery in MICA’s Fox building (1303 W. Mount Royal Avenue). The exhibit is free and open during the times the Fox building is open: Monday – Saturday 10AM to 5PM and on Sunday 12-5PM. The building is closed on major holidays.