In the galleries: ‘Transient States’ illustrates Steven Walls’s rigorous realism


Steven Walls, “Clarinet,” 2014. Oil on canvas. 36” x 48”; on view at Target Gallery. (Steven Walls)
August 22

In many ways, Steven Walls is a rigorous realist. His “Transient States,” at Target Gallery, includes precise brushwork and immaculate detail, as well as homages to pre-impressionist Édouard Manet. Yet the North Carolina painter sometimes adds a touch of computer-age surrealism, disrupting his pictures with areas of pixel-like patterning.

Walls likes intricate embellishments. His “Sarah Sleeping” shows a woman on flowery fabric bearing motifs that complement the elaborate tattoos on her arms. Such repose can be permanent, as in “Dead Toreadors,” twinned renderings of a man and a woman, each in the pose of Manet’s “Dead Matador.” Doubling occurs frequently in the artist’s work: “The Revisionist” shows two versions of a man, one upside-down and black-and-white, the other with a face reduced to blocks of color. Also common are intimations of violence, as in the stocking-masked “Freedom Fighter.”

According to a gallery note, Walls depicts “the states between visual perception, memory, waking life and dreams.” But the artist’s style seems too concrete to evoke such intangibilities. “Transient States” is strongest at its most corporeal.

Stephen Walls: Transient States. On view through Aug. 31 at Target Gallery, 105 N. Union St., Alexandria, Va., 703-838-4565, Ext. 4, www.torpedofactory.org/target.


Caroline Adams, “#30,” egg tempera with oil on panel; on view at Susan Calloway Fine Arts. (Caroline Adams)

Caroline Adams

Counting a few on adjacent walls, there are more than 50 pictures in Caroline Adams’s “50 Egg Tempera Paintings.” But then the main event in this Susan Calloway Fine Arts show could be calculated as a single work: The cloud-heavy landscapes on wood panels are grouped together tightly as a unified layout composition. If the multitude of images suggests the influence of mechanical or digital reproduction, Adams’s millennia-old medium demands human dexterity and spontaneity. Egg tempera dries quickly, so the painter must work at its speed. The local artist makes a virtue of the process, leaving visible drips and allowing the panels’s grain to show through translucent washes.

While two of the pictures are in shades of gray, the rest emphasize earth tones, often topped by subdued blue skies. The compositions emphasize the horizontal, even when the panels are vertical. Cloud formations hover, filling the skies, their vaporousness conjured by the near-liquid quality of the pigment. Perhaps 50 paintings are not enough to capture the sky’s ceaseless flux, but Adams does have a gift for conveying the ephemeral.

Caroline Adams: 50 Egg Tempera Paintings. On view through Aug. 30 at Susan Calloway Fine Arts, 1643 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington; 202-965-4601; www.callowayart.com.

Altogether Now

A tour of political expression from the Baltic region, Charles Krause/Reporting Fine Art’s “Altogether Now” revisits three of the gallery’s most notable artists: Jerzy Janiszewski, a Pole who designed the original logo for the Solidarity democracy movement of his country; Russian-bred American Anatol Zukerman, whose oil pastels skewer his former and current homelands; and Stefan Bremer, who makes sumptuous photographs of performers from a Helsinki theater that features people with Down syndrome.

The lineup’s newcomer is Marek Sobczyk, another Pole shaped by his country’s crackdown on Solidarity. His intriguing style suggests poster art, with simple images and slogan-like text. But his paintings, also executed in egg tempera, are actually one-of-a-kind pieces that contrast hard outlines and loosely applied color. The themes can be local and topical, such as Poland’s lack of maternity leave for workers. Yet he also considers history, as in a rendering of Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona chair, whose cryptic inscription, “Seksreligiapol,” refers to the Catholic Church’s support for the dictator Gen. Francisco Franco. There’s something of Warhol in this combination of expressionism and commercial art, but Sobczyk has a fiercer sensibility forged by life under communism.

Altogether Now. On view through Aug. 31 at Charles Krause/Reporting Fine Art, 1300 13th St. NW, Washington, 202-638-3612, www.charleskrausereporting.com.

1460 Wallmountables

In an uncurated summer showcase for local artists, D.C. Arts Center’s “1460 Wallmountables” rents out 2-by-2-foot parcels of display space for a modest price. This opportunity, now in its 24th year, attracts a lot of cartoonish drawings and paintings, as well as collages and junk shop assemblages. The lesser stuff is really lesser, yet there’s much of interest.

By coincidence, many of the photographs are of the District during the 1980s, an era in local history whose frightfulness has been much overstated. Michael Horsley contributes two pictures of the Ontario Theater, which until its recent demolition stood a few blocks from DCAC. (One features a “Meese is a Pig” poster from 1987-1988.) Russell Sawyer’s punk-scene photos are likely from around the same period, and Richard Blackmore’s partially painted-over image of 13th & H streets NW is dated 1985.

The pictures of frayed buildings hang compatibly with such pieces as Pat Goslee’s metal-and-rubber wall sculptures, which are artful found objects, and Kevin Milstead’s series of handsome encaustic paintings, which incorporate metal rings and lids. Also minimal, but with more of a sense of whimsy, is Steve Wanna’s “When Fireflies Sing,” a set of glass jars fitted with mini-speakers. It’s one of several entries to elicit smiles.

1460 Wallmountables. On view through Aug. 31 at D.C. Arts Center, 2438 18th St. NW, Washington. 202-462-7833. www.dcartscenter.org.

Shelfworks

The arrangement of “Shelfworks,” at Petworth Citizen, is intentionally informal, as is much of the art. In the bar and restaurant’s modest reading room, pieces by 20 artists are placed between used paperbacks and dimly illuminated by tiny LEDs. The selection includes ceramics, a handmade book, stuffed creatures of various sorts — including one made of snake skin — and a few bar-themed items. Karen Joan Topping amusingly combines the last two categories with plush beverage vessels, including a “Monkeytini” glass with a tail.

The Cliff Group’s diorama wouldn’t stay intact for long in someone’s home; it includes easily scattered sand, rocks and shells. But many of the objects look ready for an everyday bookcase. Cynthia Connolly’s suites of on-the-road pictures, made with a half-frame camera to evocatively fragment views of individual sites or areas, are shelf-scaled. So are Mary Early’s four subtly lovely encaustic paintings on shaped wood, which play out variations of rectangles and triangles. One thematic set would even befit a refrigerator shelf: Linda Hesh’s “Mini Edens” nestle freeze-dried apples amid fabric flowers in glass jars. Tartly juxtaposing the playful and the sinister, each apple is inscribed with the word “evil.”

Shelfworks. On view through Aug. 31 at Petworth Citizen and Reading Room, 829 Upshur St. NW, Washington, 202-722-2939. www.petworthcitizen.com.

Jenkins is a freelance writer.

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