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Exhibit shows modern discomfort

November 07, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

In the jagged skylines and lush landscapes of his collages, George Sakkal works like an architect of the imagination.

Sakkal, who once designed brokerage houses for a Wall Street firm, now drafts a different kind of blueprint. His compositions of precisely cut colored images erupt from their frames with volcanic intensity.

The Ellicott City, Md., resident's one-man show, "Space, Time & Survival," is on display at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts through Jan. 2. The 28 pieces embrace a variety of themes, not the least of which is the destructive force of technology.

With its visual allusions to scientific discovery, "Y2KAOS" articulates a foreboding sense of imminent destruction. A placard beside it describes the belief, "We are on the brink of yet another worldwide war of technological making."

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Other works reflect a fondness for nature and an unease with things urban. "Industrialization" is a dark mass of towers, cranes, smokestacks and pipes. "Gnarled Woods" is a luminous idyll of verdant woods atop a tumbling blue stream.

It is easy to see an architect's eye at work in the spires, arches, columns and assembled buildings represented in Sakkal's work. He graduated from Texas A&M University's School of Architecture with a bachelor's degree in 1965.

He wanted to go to art school, but his father feared he would not succeed and become "a drain on the family resources," according to his biography.

After college he joined the Peace Corps and was assigned to the Iranian city of Semnan three days after a nearby community had been ravaged by flash floods. He spent two years drafting plans and supervising the reconstruction.

He later received a master's degree in city planning from Harvard University's graduate school of design in 1973. When he moved to Maryland the next year, Sakkal set up a studio and returned to his art.

For about six years, he experimented with his medium, mostly making abstract works showing color gradation. Even those works, such as "The Seasons of Life" are rife with tiny detail.

Peer closely and you will see hints of a sea anemone's tentacles, the blades of leaves, lichen and a sunset silhouette of a ship's rigging. Phrases cribbed from maps and articles such as "Beacon Hill" and "Baltic Stronghold" can be seen within.

Sakkal splices shards of photographic images together to create the crazy quilt effect, but few of the pictures stand alone. Each is partially obscured, "dissociated" so as to be unrecognizable from the original.

The "survival" in the exhibit's title refers to armed conflict as much as man's adaptation to his environment.

Collages such as "Ignition - Lift Off" and "Station Space" focus that environment outside the earth's atmosphere. The "final frontier" bears an almost mystical quality in the artist's work.

As the placard for "Divine Space" reads, Sakkal is exploring "the enigmatic secrets of the vast unknown."

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