War transmutes into peace, artfully if perhaps too hopefully, in “Mediating Dissent,” a suite of drawings by Nelson Gutierrez. The centerpiece of this District of Columbia Arts Center show is “The Death of Fear,” a series portraying 64 police officers, protesters and others seemingly on the cusp of violence. Each one, like all of the show’s drawings, is executed in ink and pencil on a free-hanging sheet of placid white paper.
What comes next is the mediation. The Colombia-born D.C. artist takes a single bristling “Death of Fear” pose and arranges reiterations of it into a mandala, the circular depiction of an ordered universe used in Hindu and Buddhist ritual. All but one of the 10 mandalas use just a single figure, sometimes in a mirror image to further the sense of interchangeability (and better fill out the space). Although they lack the vivid hues of their Asian inspirations, Gutierrez’s compositions do have a calming effect.
That won’t extend to Ukraine, Syria and the like, of course. But however useful they are as meditative aids, the drawings are worth contemplating just for their craft. The artist renders his street fighters in a single black-ink shape, which he embellishes mostly with pencil; he also adds detail in places by scraping away the ink. The effect is immediate, yet with an intricacy that holds the eye after the first glimpse. Gutierrez’s bold style is deftly mediated.
On view through March 16 at District of Columbia Arts Center, 2438 18th St. NW; 202-462-7833; dcartscenter.org.
Add the power sander to the list of devices with which contemporary artists are retooling abstract expressionism. Gregory McLellan’s “Tingleguts,” at Project 4 Gallery, is a series of oil and enamel paintings on boards, thickly layered with pigment but then excavated with a sander. The process can be slow. McLellan is a New Yorker now, but he began some of his recently finished pieces when he lived in the District a decade ago.
By keeping some of the color but obliterating evidence of how the paint was applied, McLellan makes abstractions that are playfully un-painterly. Stripped and polished, some of his compositions resemble spray-painted graffiti, while others appear to have been reduced to pixel-like bits of color. Most end up having a dominant background hue and a tidiness that recalls 1960s pop art. In a pleasant irony, “Tingleguts #55” suggests one of Roy Lichtenstein’s utterly flat parodies of a chunky brush stroke.
On view through March 15 at Project 4 Gallery, 1353 U St. NW, Third Floor; 202-232-4340; project4gallery.com.
Like McLellan’s, some of the pieces in Michelle Peterson-
Albandoz’s “reWood” also resemble modernist paintings, but that’s by design. The Chicago artist combines small pieces of found lumber into large collages such as “Starry Night Construction,” whose interlocking near-triangles swirl in patterns that echo Van Gogh’s famed canvas. If the work Peterson-Albandoz is showing at Long View Gallery is tidier and more decorative than that in her previous exhibition at the same gallery, that’s partly because it’s modeled on such meticulous styles as de Stijl (“Black, Red & Yellow”) and minimalism (“The X’s 1-8”). But the wood’s weathered textures give depth and variety, as well as wit, to the orderly assemblages. “Color Field,” for example, includes hundred of small rectangles in many hues, but close inspection reveals that the ones that protrude the farthest are unpainted. It’s a color field that submerges color.
Also at Long View, Mike Weber’s “Synchronicity” updates — or backdates — a pop art aesthetic with down-home touches. His photo-based work features farm animals and the occasional barn, often combined with geometric forms, depicted in bright, translucent colors and burnished with resin overlays. The top layer of the multi-level pictures can be drippy and streaky, or as clean as in the shimmering peacock in gleaming metallic tones. Weber has many ways of messing with naturalism when he depicts the natural world.
On view through March 16 at Long View Gallery, 1234 Ninth St. NW;
Entire, if tiny, worlds are conjured from found objects in Morton Fine Art’s “Reveries,” installations and more by Jason Sho Green & Victoria Shaheen. Green brings everyday stuff to life with small motors or simply the drafts that cause dangling objects to dance in midair. Mounted on the wall or on six scaffolds, the Japan-born Brooklynite’s pieces make elementary yet slightly ominous gestures. Two knives flick through space, a fishhook dangles and a wooden block, a face carved on the side, repeatedly traverses a prone body, each time almost hitting it. There’s a hint of slapstick to Green’s everyday-
Shaheen, too, works with commonplace things, but she employs them as molds for multiple porcelain pieces. She casts versions of Smurfs figurines, Darth Vader cups and miniature TV sets, all in ivory, pale pink and light green, and then stacks them into latter-day totems. The Corcoran-educated Detroiter also makes single-item sculptures, such as an ice cream cone topped by a scoop of ceramic green, combined with sheets of translucent acrylic that cast colored shadows. These add a few watery shades to Shaheen’s array of pop-culture pastels.
On view through March 18 at Morton Fine Art, 1781 Florida Ave. NW;
Nature continues to beguile artists, but these days the view is just as likely to be micro as macro, and clearly ephemeral rather than seemingly eternal. Katie Runnerstrom, a Falls Church, Va., native, presents a series of “Biomorph” drawings whose subjects suggest branches, tentacles and roots, as well as creatures too small to be seen with the unaided eye. The selection of her work now at the Athenaeum shows an intriguing variety, from simple drawings on brown or black backdrops to large, colorful panels rendered in watercolor and gouache. While Runnerstrom’s line could be more graceful, the diversity of forms in her work is impressive — and, given her inspiration, appropriate.
On view through March 16 at the Athenaeum, 201 Prince St., Alexandria; 703-548-0035; nvfaa.org.
Jenkins is a freelance writer.