Last Call for “Clippings and Curry”
As the holiday season ramps up, Kohl Gallery offers a serene escape with a thought-provoking exhibit of works by two Baltimore artists and friends, running through Dec. 9.
The latest exhibition in Kohl Gallery, “Clippings, Voids & Banana Curry,” features the work of painter and collage artist Jo Smail and painter and photographer Paul Jeanes.
Smail’s works are reminiscent of scrapbooks, recovered family keepsakes presented in collages of handwritten recipes, old news clippings, address labels and envelope scraps. Artfully torn paper reveals ads and other commentary on women’s domestic roles while the affront of ’50s and ’60s apartheid South Africa, Smail’s native country, claimed national attention. With such titles as “Mushroom and Meat Salad” alternating with “Contract Bridge/A Labour Crisis,” the pieces invite viewers to examine every detail, from instructions for Great Grannys Cheese Straws to a timely 1967 clip reporting, “Nationalism continues to reap the seeds of its own sowings.” The juxtaposition speaks volumes in a series of dimensional vignettes as tiny as 4-by-6 inches.
Jeanes’ work, in contrast, is nearly floor-to-ceiling, geometric and stark, with light shapes against dark backgrounds suggesting openings – the “voids” of the exhibition title – one can imagine walking through. Smaller works resemble windows or fragments of illumination offering escape or invitation. The pieces diverge sharply from Smail’s in both scale and style, making the unlikely friendship between the two artists all the more intriguing. Their bond, formed while both taught at the Maryland Institute College of Art, made for a relaxed, interactive “gallery conversation” with attendees at the opening event in November.
“These are two artists who have known each other for a long time and forged a significant friendship,” says Julie Wills, assistant professor of studio art and the gallery’s interim director. “The work, visually, is very different. So some of the programming we’ve built around this show is about how artists work and interact with one another, and how those interactions shape what they’re curious about.”
The Baltimore Museum of Art recently announced plans for a lifetime retrospective exhibit of Smail’s work in 2020. “Having this important artist’s work on view represents a real coup for Washington College,” Wills says. “It’s a very contemporary exhibit for the College, reminiscent of a museum exhibit. There’s a visual language that’s cool and serene. There are elements that are really playful, but it feels a bit like a sanctuary.”