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UMD's John Ruppert, professor of art, uses man-made objects to pay homage to nature in exhibit, The Nature of Things, at the C. Grimaldis Gallery.
By Alex Ebstein, Baltimore City Paper

In his fourth solo exhibition at C. Grimaldis Gallery, The Nature of Things, veteran sculptor John Ruppert continues his ongoing conversation with geological forms and natural forces, while adding his less-exhibited photography and video to the mix. Ruppert’s known for his elegant metalwork and exceptional reproductions of natural objects, particularly pumpkins and splintered wood, and his current exhibition is overtly Zen. Concealed from the street with two large shades over the front window, which serve to obscure the bustling, unpredictable outdoor distractions from the calm gallery contents, The Nature of Things is an enclave of calm on North Charles Street.
At the front of the gallery, a large, deceptively realistic iron rock sits illuminated in the corner. The small manufactured boulder sits to the side of a wedge-shaped metal grid that supports the weight of a large metal object resting diagonally across the incline. “Sunken Grid With Strike” is a combination of inorganic metal mesh with one of Ruppert’s signature wood-like forms. Falling somewhere between the organized structures of Sol LeWitt and the natural arrangements of Andy Goldsworthy, the sculpture on its own is elegant and pleasantly simple. Ruppert adds an experimental video element, which had its Baltimore debut at Grimaldis at Area 405 in June of 2008. The accompanying video piece, a full frame of koi fish swimming slowly in a pond, was filmed last year during the artist’s trip to Shanghai. The piece is projected onto the floor and wall around and onto the sculpture, creating a lava-lamp effect, with slow-moving blobs of orange trapped within the visible frame edge. While algae, barnacles, or deep-sea imagery would have more directly suggested submersion, the koi steer the mood away from potential water anxiety and into an Eastern sensibility, which spills out into the rest of the exhibition.

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