Uncanny and colorful artworks resolve to a delicate harmony in a group show of seven Baltimore artists at CPM Gallery in Bolton Hill
Entering the gallery, you are confronted by the glassy-eyed gaze of a taxidermy crow, perched atop Oletha DeVane’s delicate, black assemblage sculpture. As you move around the sculpture, a small black square becomes visible on a landing halfway up a set of stairs. If you’re curious enough to walk up to it, you’ll see a tintype photograph by Elena Volkova of another assemblage–a paper crane resting atop a pile of small objects.
Let the Right One In, a group show of seven Baltimore artists at CPM Gallery, is a collection that rewards curiosity and second impressions. Like the 2008 Swedish vampire film for which it was named, this show explores the power of thresholds, invitations, and the distinction between external appearance and internal condition. Likewise, the seven artists–Sanah Brown-Bowers, Oletha DeVane, Dave Eassa, Alex Ebstein, Toskago, Elena Volkova, and Andersen Woof–were assembled on the basis of personal introduction to the gallery over the two years since CPM has moved to Baltimore. The work and the manner of its meeting remind us: it matters whom we trust.
Crossing the threshold into CPM, a renovated row house in Bolton Hill, you feel this tension between the familiar and the uncanny. In one of Dave Eassa’s bright, gestural paintings, a whimsically-outlined woman stands in the foreground of a rich sunrise, holding a cartoonish cat in gloppy oils. Rounding the corner of what once served as an intimate, elegant sitting room, you are confronted by the appraising gaze of a Black barber and his young client. “Why are you here?” they seem to ask, but they are frozen, and you are free to approach and examine the contents of Sanah Brown-Bowers’ elaborate shadow box, which serves as a shrine to a Baltimore barbershop, reproducing its sights, sounds, and even smells–a jar of pomade rests on one shelf and a bright orange air freshener hangs from the base of the barber’s chair.
To either side of the shadowbox, Alex Ebstein’s paintings contain abstract body parts made from yoga mats and cut steel. On the left, smooth, isolated leg-like forms hover between unity and dismemberment. On the right, an evil eye echoes the blue irises of Toskago’s self-portraits, narrative paintings about a young man grappling with a racialized, digitized concept of self. Toskago himself, a MICA undergraduate, is just twenty-one; next to his work are two sculptural paintings by Oletha DeVane, who has been making art for five decades. Beside her work, a painting by Anderson Woof of a queer, Asian man, clinging for dear life to a tree that threatens to shed him into the swamp below. It’s surprising range in a small space, curated to explore the story that arises from these works’ subtle similarities.
The show opened on Saturday, and as you might expect from a group show of seven local artists, the gallery was packed. It seemed as if people of every race, culture, generation, orientation, and walk of life were packed into this Bolton Hill row house, sharing an enthusiasm for art and new connections. One man expounded the history of black power movements, a couple Ukrainians chatted away in Russian, two of the artists discovered that they live on the same street. In a world where intimacy is always up for renegotiation, this show creates a moment of community.
Let the Right One in runs from February 25 until April 8. CPM welcomes anyone who loves art, by appointment. Find CPM at https://cpmprogram.com/ or on Instagram, @cpm_baltimore. To schedule an appointment, email email@example.com.
[Editor’s Note: If you’ve never visited an art gallery by appointment before, try it! Don’t worry that only prospective buyers are welcome.]
All images courtesy of the artists and of CPM Gallery, Baltimore.