Alex Mayer: Hard-edged sculptures that aren’t boxed in


Alex Mayer. "Untitled (Lattice)" on view at George Mason University's Fine Art Gallery. (Courtesy Alex Mayer)
April 25, 2013

With his woodworking skills and orderly aesthetic, Alex Mayer could be a cabinetmaker. Yet some of the most intriguing pieces in “Alex Mayer: New Work,” at George Mason University’s Fine Art Gallery, are little more than the idea of a bureau. The D.C. artist has constructed dressers merely from lines drawn on white walls, but they’re embellished by actual knobs — and, in one case, black stockings that feign to hang from a outlined drawer’s nonexistent opening.

This work is advertised as “new,” and mostly is, but Mayer has clearly been thinking about the contrast between sketch and finished item for a while. Included is 1978’s “Untitled (Early Wall Drawing),” which consists of two joined rectangles, rendered on the wall with pencil and partially covered by a rectangular pane of glass.

If the right angles and wall drawings suggest Sol LeWitt, Mayer is not averse to curves, or to making things that verge on functionality. “Untitled (Lattice),” a yellow-painted wooden grid with recessed panels, looks as though it really wants to be useful. “Untitled (Wishbone)” is modeled on a natural object and relies on sunlight to underline its spare shape with multiple and changing shadows. Balanced on both the floor and the wall, the bony black sculpture is concrete, yet it also suggests a pencil sketch that hasn’t quite separated from its 2-D beginnings.

New Work

on view through Thursday at Fine Art Gallery, George Mason University, 4400 University Dr., Fairfax; 703-993-8950; soa.gmu.edu/gallery.


Carol Reed. “Padlock,” 2013. Charcoal, wood block stamp, ink, graphite, watercolor, colored pencil, on paper, Dimensions (H x W) 30” x 44”; on view at Glenview Mansion Art Gallery. (Courtesy Carol Reed)

Iva Gueorguieva

“Reinvigorating” is a mild word for what Iva Gueorguieva does in her large works, which combine collage, drawing and painting with nearly a dozen printmaking techniques. Those were developed, of course, to make multiple copies of a single original. But “Reinvigorating Prints,” at George Washington University’s Luther W. Brady Gallery, features one-of-a-kind works. The L.A. artist’s pieces are not finished when pulled from the press; she adds scraps of paper or fabric and garnishes freely with ink, watercolor and oil and vinyl paint.

Working on a wall-filling scale associated more with painting than printmaking, Gueorguieva draws from several 20th-century styles, including cubism and abstract expressionism. Although there are hints of representation, most of the pictures are all-over compositions, with no central focus. Many feature exuberant colors and gestures, yet two are in shades of gray, with only glimmers of brighter hues. There’s also “Rolling Anvil,” whose principally white and gray shades are accented by swoops of bold red, cut and collaged into the whole. The limited palette is typical of printmaking, and quite effective. But this multi-strata work only begins to show Gueorguieva’s flair for layering diverse tones, images and processes.

Reinvigorating Prints

on view through May 3 at George Washington University Luther W. Brady Gallery, 805 21st St. NW, second floor; 202-994-1525; www.gwu.edu/~bradyart/

Bess Gonglewski,
Carol Ann Reed

Of the two artists whose work is on display at Rockville’s Glenview Mansion, Bess Gonglewski makes the bigger splash. Her “Stream of Fish” consists of 46 skeletal fishes, made of wire and hanging in an arc that stretches all the way across a second-floor porch. But Gonglewski’s smaller sculptures are no less minimal than Carol Ann Reed’s ­mixed-media prints and drawings, which are mostly monochromatic.

Scattered around the mansion’s second floor, Reed’s and Gonglewski’s pieces enjoy a congenial dialogue. Reed’s works on paper showcase curving forms, often termed “hinges” in their titles. The elementary compositions contrast a wealth of textures, whether from smeared or scribbled pigments or from the way the artist tears the paper and pastes fragments atop it. The resulting pictures balance Zen simplicity with bustling energy.

Although one of those 46 fishes is gold, Gonglewski works mostly with black wire, sometimes incorporating stone and sticks. She can deftly conjure natural objects, including chickens, trees and a large pear, with wire outlines. But some of her work is nothing but contour and texture. Her “Square Roots,” a roughly square tangle of rusted wire, is as starkly elegant as one of Reed’s austere, yet heavily worked hinges.

Works by Bess Gonglewski and Carol Ann Reed

on view through Tuesday at Glenview Mansion Art Gallery, 603 Edmonston Dr., Rockville; 240-314-8282; www.rockvillemd.gov/arts/exhibits.htm.

Kathy Erteman

Well-established as a ceramicist, Kathy Erteman both teaches the craft and designs for such retailers as Tiffany and Crate & Barrel. While the skills that led to such success are on display at Cross Mackenzie Gallery, “New Vessels and ‘Catalpa’ ” doesn’t include the New York artist’s mainstream work. There are bottles with rich metallic glazes, and a simulated elephant foot that could be used — as real preserved elephant’s feet once were — as a container. But her catalpa works, inspired by that tree’s seed pods, are nonfunctional and even artfully irrational.

Erteman drops pods and sticks at random and then makes designs in the pattern in which the objects fell. (The technique recalls John Cage’s use of the I Ching to write aleatory, or chance, music.) Made of small stoneware and porcelain pieces and arrayed on the gallery’s wall, the compositions evoke the natural world while demonstrating human artifice. Erteman also experiments with random effects of glazes and firing, and manipulates pieces after they leave the potter’s wheel. “Black and White Long Vessel” was originally a circular vessel before the artist cut off the bottom and squashed the sides to yield an undulating form. Serendipity is part of the process, but so are judgment and experience.

New Vessels and ‘Catalpa’

on view through Wednesday at Cross Mackenzie Gallery, 2026 R St. NW; 202-333-7070; www.crossmackenzie.com.

Barbara French Pace

The title of Barbara French Pace’s “Seeking the Abstract in Photography” could refer to a variety of approaches: focusing on the forms and colors in realistic images, stripping detail from photos to render them more stylized, or actively distorting images so the original subject is no longer discernible. In fact, the D.C. artist does all these things. Her Waverly Street Gallery show ranges from traditional black-and-white vignettes that suggest the style of pioneering photographer Edward Weston to colorful digital abstractions that look as pixelated as an ’80s video game.

Pace is an oil painter and professional photographer who has only recently turned to the camera for purely artistic reasons. One inspiration was a trip to Antarctica, whose vivid blue expanses and jagged white hulks suit the artist’s style, whether reproduced accurately or reduced to nothing but shape and hue. Technology overwhelms artistry in few of the altered shots, though, and the most striking picture here doesn’t employ computer manipulation. “Primary” shows a weathered facade that’s divided into areas of red, blue and yellow, but the colors are just as Pace found them.

Seeking the Abstractin Photography

on view through May 4 at Waverly Street Gallery, 4600 East-West Hwy., Bethesda; 301-951-9441; waverlystreetgallery.com.

Jenkins is a freelance writer.

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