‘Concrete Abstract’ at Heiner squares the obscure with the ordinary

April 11, 2013

The theme of “Concrete Abstract,” a group exhibition at Heiner Contemporary, is “the confluence of abstraction with the everyday.” Thus, the selection includes work that repurposes tablecloths, patio furniture and glittery knickknacks. But the show — curated by one of its participants, Matthew Smith — also has another visual agenda. It might be subtitled “homage to the rectangle.”

The parallelogram in the gallery’s window, rendered in blue neon by Lisa Dillin, announces that the eight mostly local artists have a thing for right-angled forms. These can be made or, at least partially, found. Smith’s “Yellow and White,” a quilted rendition of interlocking diamonds, is in the tradition of Josef Albers and Frank Stella. Patrick McDonough’s “lawn chair” works are three-dimensional and constructed mostly of outdoor-furniture fabric. But Jeremy Flick’s elegant series of stripe paintings, “Contrapuntal Derivations,” includes one that merely appears to weave its bold colors as though they were lengths of nylon mesh.

A few of the artists play against the shape. Becca Kallem slaps a loose, black “X” across hers, while Danielle Mysliwiec’s seemingly all-black square turns out to hold intricate, threadlike patterns of paint droplets, with glimmers of blue beneath the undulating surface. Sue Johnson’s two “Designs for Imaginary Shelves” are baroquely impractical, and Seth Adelsberger’s “Untitled (Stella Artois 2)” piece is a wooden frame that’s grown so elaborate it no longer requires anything to frame. Sometimes the thing itself, an abstract shape made concrete, is satisfaction enough.

Concrete Abstract

on view through April 20 at Heiner Contemporary, 1675 Wisconsin Ave. NW; 202-338-0072; www.heinercontemporary.com.

Expansions

Transformer, the diminutive Logan Circle space, maintains a selection of similarly scaled art (16-inch-by-20-inch and smaller); now, some of it has crawled out of the cabinet and onto the walls. “Expansions” allows five artists whose work is represented in Transformer’s FlatFile to show pieces that are bigger or bulkier.

Eames Armstrong breaks out of the files aggressively with “Greydream,” which commandeers a corner of the gallery, including electrical fixtures and the front window. Constructed from paint and tulle netting, the installation is playful, yet its stubbly pink textures are a little disturbing. Megan Mueller’s cascading array of painted wood blocks, which claims another corner, is equally agitated but a little cheerier.

There’s a childlike quality to much of this work, from Benjamin Edmiston’s three-dimensional collage-painting to Matt Hollis’s hanging assemblages of foam, fabric, silk flowers and AstroTurf, which suggest piñatas. There’s a lot of pink in Hollis’s work, and even more in Victor Koroma’s short videos, which rotate everyday items in front of a rosy backdrop while the artist’s own synth-generated music plays. “Spin Nail Polish” lasts only 35 seconds, but Andy Warhol probably could have watched it for hours.

Expansions: Selections From the FlatFile

on view through April 20 at Transformer, 1404 P St. NW; 202-483-1102; www.transformerdc.org.

Erick Jackson and Dan Gray

The world of Erick Jackson’s “Folks” is a sort of twilight zone, in which the colors are deep and shadowy, the ambiance a little eerie. The Civilian Art Projects show depicts a sort of Nighttown, although it’s less town than suburb. Such pictures as “Nature House” depict spaces where the distinction between exterior and interior is clouded. Whether enclosed by walls or trees, these chambers are places for youth, engaging in the ritual idleness of “Hanging at the Ruins” or playing music in “Jam Room.” (The artist is a member of a local band, Heavy Breathing.)

Jackson’s education is in illustration, and these paintings have a cartoonlike quality that adds to their distinctiveness. The mood derives partially from the colors, produced by Flashe (a vinyl-based paint). “The locations are recurring places that I visit in my dreams,” the artist explains, and there are surreal elements, such as a cat-headed person passed out on the ground. More often, though, these paintings evoke the strangeness of everyday life.

Also at Civilian, Dan Gray’s “Seeking Provision” redefines castoffs that might seem too new to have become junk. Two of the four pieces use surplus plasma-screen TVs, one simply as a frame and the other as a mirror. Another piece is a sort of neural network, constructed from bungee cords wrapped around a steel frame that was once part of a Corcoran studio wall. The most dynamic is a twisting fence, which coils through the space as if eager to be transformed.

Folks; Seeking Provision

on view through April 20 at Civilian Art Projects, 1019 7th St NW; 202-607-3804; www.civilianartprojects.com.

Brian Kirk

Virginia sculptor and printmaker Brian Kirk uses metal to conjure delicacy. The four steel pieces in “Natural Reaction,” his Studio Gallery show, are brawny yet deploy heavy chains in ways that appear to defy gravity. All have rusty patinas, which links them to Kirk’s striking works on paper.

These begin with thin, laser-cut metal dies whose shapes generally suggest keys, gears or machine parts. (Among the exceptions are “Olmec II,” which could be the chiseled-stone face of an ancient god, and “Hand.”) Kirk encourages these to rust, then wets them and presses them against paper. The effect is to transfer textures as well as contours to the sheets so that the simple outlines contrast richly mottled tones of reddish brown. Since the residue is metal, these rust prints could be termed sculptural. But they also have a ethereal quality, documenting real-world decay while suggesting idealized forms.

Natural Reaction

on view through April 20 at Studio Gallery, 2108 R St NW; 202-232-8734; www.studiogallerydc.com.

Josh Dihle

The painting in the window of Pleasant Plains Workshop, Josh Dihle’s oil of another cat-human, is half-hidden behind a jungle of potted plants. Nature inspired much of this show, which is titled “Outside,” but few of the pieces are literal. A mix of paintings and drawings with a touch of collage, the work tends toward abstract patterning, with hints of vines or veins. “Untitled (Green and Blue)” suggests a Mondrian that’s mutated from geometric to biomorphic, while “Untitled (Flowers)” punctuates shifting shades of white with bloomlike bursts of deep color. Sometimes the natural element is actual, but subsidiary. “Drawing With Dog” incorporates several photos of dogs, as well as a flower, but they’re not immediately obvious; the small objects on the circular, white-enamel “Disk With Teeth” — the only three-dimensional piece — are shark’s teeth. What might be the most complete expression of Dihle’s aesthetic is also the most portable: a limited-edition book of collages, drawings and paintings that places “Outside” between hard covers.

Outside

on view through April 20 at Pleasant Plains Workshop, 2608 Georgia Ave. NW, www.pleasantplainsworkshop.com.

Jenkins is a freelance writer.

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