Anatol Zukerman grew up in what was then the Soviet Union but has lived in the United States for 40 years. He has doubts about both his homelands, but to judge from the oil-pastel drawings in “Truth to Power: Anatol Zukerman’s ‘Responsible Art,’ ” he’s probably better off in the NSA-bugged U.S. than he would be in Putin’s Russia.
The work on display at Charles Krause/Reporting Fine Art questions both the Russian and American varieties of imperialism and notes where they overlap: “Afghan Madonna,” whose face is half skull, warns against intervening in a country where both superpowers have sent troops. But Zukerman’s jabs can be more personal, and even petty. An architect who lives in a prosperous Boston suburb, Zukerman includes snippets of zoning regulations in a piece that warns: “a rat in a bureau is not yet a bureaucrat.” However annoying it may be, the local zoning board isn’t in the same league as Stalin’s NKVD.
Such drawings as “Rites of Spring,” with its phallic insects, are a little too racy for the standard op-ed page. But Zukerman uses many editorial-cartoon tropes that fans of the late Herblock will recognize. An ominous version of the Soviet flag’s sickle has a missile at one end and a gun at the other; in a critique of the Citizens United decision, Uncle Sam wrestles with a dollar sign that has become a threatening two-headed serpent.
Zukerman’s drawings are notable not only for their vehemence but also for their dexterity. In a montage of former Soviet leaders from Lenin to Gorbachev, the likenesses are extraordinary. “Truth to Power,” which includes an anti-NRA piece that continues the theme of the gallery’s previous show, probably won’t appeal to viewers who don’t share some of Zukerman’s worldview. But there’s no denying the skill with which the artist skewers generals, politicians, businessmen and those chumps from the zoning office.
On view through Aug. 18
at Charles Krause/Reporting Fine Art, 1300 13th St. NW, Suite 202-638-3612, www.charleskrausereporting.com
Despite its title, “From the Outside (Art Brut. Visionary. Outsider.)” includes at least some artists who are in the D.C. mainstream. Kathy Beynette and Matt Sesow, to name just two, have shown at other local galleries recently. And while much of the art in the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery exhibition is handmade and exuberant, it can’t be termed “naive.” There’s too much skill on display for this sequel to last summer’s “Messages from Outsiderdom” to be pigeonholed as the product of artists whose inspiration exceeds their craft.
Wood sculptor Glenn Richardson hews with finesse, and while his painted, chain-saw-carved fish are whimsical, he’s not limited to the playful. His “See the Beast,” a chained and crouching figure with insults carved into its ribbed flesh, is a robust statement. Candy Cummings toys with nostalgia in her assemblages of vacuum tubes, TV knobs and other near-obsolete A/V parts, but the results are as graceful as they are goofy. While Tina Lassiter simply collages bits of magazine ads and illustrations into stylized representations of women, the exaggerated hips and busts comment on how the female form is merchandised. Some of these 10 artists offer more private visions, but much of “From the Outside” is more engaged with contemporary society than the otherworldly.
On view through Aug. 17
at Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery, 1632 U St. NW; 202-483-8600; www.smithcenter.org/arts-healing
The two artists showing side by side at Greater Reston Arts Center both work with wood and retain some of its intrinsic attributes — just not the same ones. Julia Bloom wires together sticks to make complex 3D forms that suggest beehives, bird nests and other natural constructs. (The D.C. artist also does elegant charcoal drawings, suggesting a link to such noted earth artists as David Nash.) Some of the standing or hanging pieces are coated with shellac, but others are painted entirely with a single bright color — including silver, yellow or red — not found in any virgin forest. The effect is to highlight Bloom’s manipulation of the material. She takes inspiration from nature yet reserves the right to emphasize her art’s manufactured qualities.
A former contractor in rural Pennsylvania, William Alburger has the woodworking skills to craft shelves and compartments, and to insert small glass windows into his assemblages. But the artist clearly prefers wood’s natural colors and textures, which predominate even in pieces in which some parts are finished to a furniture-like sheen. The transition from natural to worked — or vice versa — provides the tension in Alburger’s pieces, which often incorporate salvaged or damaged lumber. None of the ingredients come directly from the woods but are sometimes arranged to pay tribute to their origins. The show’s centerpiece is “Forest,” in which battered boards are grouped vertically to suggest the pristine trees they used to be.
On view through at Aug. 10
at Greater Reston Arts Center, 12001 Market St., Reston; 703-471-9242; www.restonarts.org
A study in red and orange that’s abstract but suggestive of an inferno, Suzanne Goldberg’s “Heat” seems aptly titled. It also provides the name for the current group show at Studio Gallery, which is not thematically arranged but does feature warm hues and seasonal themes. Eugene Markowski’s “Fireball 2010” is a circle made of jagged, red-painted shards of wood and fiberboard, sliced into four wedges; the intriguing construction suggests a geometric vision of hell, or perhaps an alien pizza. Nearby, Carolee Jakes’s “Late Summer Afternoon, DC” is a landscape with an aura so humid that its subject nearly disappears in haze.
While there’s a fiery glow at the rear of Rosabel Goodman-Everard’s “My Nails Can Reach Unto Thine Eyes,” the surrealistic acrylic is more likely to elicit chills than sweat. Dramatically composed and skillfully rendered, the picture depicts two nude humanoids, one of whom has bearlike claws. Nasty scratches on both creatures’ legs add to the sense of menace. Rather than fit into “Heat,” this painting stands out.
On view through Aug. 10 at Studio Gallery, 2108 R St. NW; 202-232-8734; www.studiogallerydc.com
Mark Jenkins is a freelance writer.