As an ensemble, however, the pictures encapsulate the essence of boxing - the simultaneous gaudiness and shabbiness of its milieu, the sleaziness of its hangers-on and the essential brutality of the combat.
Images that read individually as cliches - sweat flying from the impact of a blow, the winner posing with his mother - coalesce into a powerfully focused composite in which incidental details such as spectators' clothing prove more telling than the primary images of men punching each other.
In one photo, for instance, a fighter sits in his corner between rounds while his seconds offer the usual encouragment and advice. But he doesn't seem to be paying attention; his gaze is fixed on the pelvis of the scantily clad woman who parades around the ring carrying cards that announce the rounds.
Painters such as George Bellows have transformed scenes like those that Schuman has photographed into romantic or heroic tableaus. Instead of such hollow sentimentality, she offers genuine insight.
Elyse Saperstein, a ceramic artist who works sculpturally, is also showing at Fleisher; for this show, she has created seven terra-cotta pieces inspired by ancient sculptures and architectural motifs seen on a recent trip to Peru. They come in various formats, including tabletop pieces, two bracketed wall pieces and an extended wall relief.
Saperstein has adapted her sources somewhat literally, so that her pieces not only embody a ritual or ceremonial presence but also feel borrowed; the viewer is immediately aware that these motifs and compositional strategies originated in another culture. The transformation from source to contemporary idiom seems to have stopped in mid-process.
By using stylized fish, birds, humans and animals, by organizing them in hieratic arrangements, by coloring them to suggest antique pieces, Saperstein speaks too much with someone else's voice. The pieces are artfully made, but they're only thoroughly convincing when considered as ornament.
Matthew Lawrence, the third artist in the show, is a printmaker whose language is indisputably contemporary not only in its individual components -
mainly cartoon figures - but in the way these components are projected toward the viewer in a whirlwind of nervous energy.
For instance, one large woodcut that runs up the wall onto the ceiling consists of sequential images of cartoon characters that partially overlap, which creates a jerky, cinematic effect. Another woodcut is based on a concentric plan, with images and slogans such as "Dear God Please Make Me Rich and Famous" radiating outward from the center like ripples in a pond.
Contrast and irrational juxtaposition also figure in this work, particularly in a large color woodcut that combines a large portrait head of Hitler with animal faces and bits of tropical landscape. The ultimate contrast, though, is a saturnine self-portrait that seems to contradict the general tenor of the more frenetic prints.
Fleisher Art Memorial, 709 Catharine St. Hours: noon to 5 p.m. and 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, noon to 5 p.m. Fridays, 1 to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Through Feb. 7. Telephone: 922-3456.
DREXEL UNIVERSITY. For her first solo exhibition in Philadelphia since 1982, Emily Brown has assembled a group of landscape paintings that are intended to represent the images, ideas and emotions of T. S. Eliot's poem ''Four Quartets."
The poem deals with the passage of time by referring to various kinds of changes - of season, weather, daylight and feelings. Brown has attempted to convey this agenda through landscape imagery, her stock in trade. But whereas in the past her landscapes have been factual descriptions, some of these are more complex in the way they juxtapose images in metaphorical combinations.
In the four key paintings of the series, Brown evokes spirituality by representing the four sections of the poem as hinged triptychs, like altarpieces. Each is really two paintings - an "inside" (doors open) and an ''outside" (doors closed) - and each generates a dialogue between the two states. In one, for example, the closed position depicts a back yard with a pool full of water; in the open position, the pool is empty.
In another triptych, small scenes are superimposed on the interior like predella panels; this layering of thoughts and observations, also used in several other paintings, suggests either the passage of time or simultaneous activities in the same time frame.
Some of the smaller paintings in this series resemble Brown's earlier work - documentary landscapes that have been put to symbolic uses. But the major paintings reveal a philosophical sensibility and an attempt to carry the viewer beyond pure visual stimulation. One doesn't get the complexity of the poem from the paintings, but one does get the sense of poetry.
Design Arts Gallery, Nesbitt College of Design Arts, Drexel University, 33d and Market Streets. Hours: noon to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Through Feb. 8. Telephone: 895-2386
ROSENFELD. The watercolor views of Philadelphia that constitute Earl B. Lewis' current solo show at Rosenfeld Gallery intially seem like standard fare - the park, the Schuylkill and that sort of stuff. But as one studies the body of work, one realizes that his view of the city points up one of its more attractive aspects, the many vistas that incorporate greenery and water.
In his previous exhibitions, Lewis has demonstrated a fondness for water views. In this group of pictures, many of the city views are taken along the Schuylkill or the Manayunk Canal. In that sense, they are city views only technically; in actuality they feel more like the pictures made in towns along the Seine by the impressionists.
Lewis is not a storyteller; he doesn't offer scenes packed with narrative incident and descriptive details. Rather, he displays a keen eye for compositional consonances, particularly repeating motifs - multiple arches in a bridge or a group of rooftops that registers as a set of angled planes.
He also makes effective use of a soft, even, silvery light that conveys a feeling of tranquillity, a light that enhances the landscape and its principal structures much as Corot's did. Such light perfectly complements Lewis' reductive compositions, which build off simple but eloquent themes like the curve of the river or a shadow cast by an overpass.
Not all the pictures depict Philadelphia; some, vaguely reminiscent of the way Andrew Wyeth paints barnyards, involve buildings in a landscape, or single objects like a bright blue wheelbarrow set against a stark white wall. In these pictures, as in the city views, the intensity and the visual economy of Lewis' style remain consistent.
Rosenfeld Gallery, 113 Arch St. Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Through Jan. 27. Telephone: 922-1376.
ZONE ONE. "Senses Series," by Mary Ann B. Rich at Zone One, is a group of mixed-media works that attempt to engage the senses directly or that transform themselves with the passage of time.
One of the more elaborate of the latter is Steel Tears, in which water drips through tubing connected to overhead reservoirs into a coil of braided steel wool hung on the wall. The water seeps through the steel wool, causing it to rust, and eventually seeps down into a blanket of yellow sand on the floor.
In a similar piece, honey runs from overhead boxes down steel wires into a shallow floor pan. Another floor piece changes shape and color through the formation of crystals on the rim of a pan. None of this is particularly original in concept, but one senses the artist's enthusiasm for the project and responds to it.
Zone One, 139 N. Second St. Hours: noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Through Feb. 3. Telephone: 819-8995.