D.C. gallery shows: ‘Exposure,’ ‘Beach China,’ ‘Winter Recap,’ ‘Pop Art Prints’


Leslie Parke. “Plates in the River,” on view at cross mackenzie gallery. (Courtesy Leslie Parke and cross mackenzie gallery)
November 27, 2013

Catalyst Projects, in Brookland’s new Monroe Street Market, is not a big place. But its current show, “Exposure: Experiments in Photography” covers a lot of territory. It includes six artists, four of them local, whose work ranges from elaborately staged tableaux to sheer abstractions.

While most of her peers have gone digital, Natalie Cheung works with pinhole cameras and light-sensitive color paper. She uses multiple punctures, yielding complex and different images, from spare to psychedelic.

Christina Kerns stages nighttime scenes that juxtapose the ordinary and the surreal, the peaceful and the ominous. Stephanie Booth and Steve Skowron pose naked men in seemingly torturous positions, reflecting the look of Renaissance paintings, as well as religious rites that, they write, “no longer function.” Mandy Greer, a photographer and fiber artist, places fancifully garbed women in natural settings, highlighting human artifice.

Catherine Day’s “Absence” studies seem at first to be purely formal exercises. Day prints on translucent silk and hangs four copies of an image atop one another, so that the layers go gently out of focus when the air ripples them. The sense of transience, it turns out, is as central to the pictures’ theme as their form. The gauzy vignettes are close-ups of her father’s death bed, taken just after the body was removed, and thus fittingly ghostly.

Exposure: Experimentsin Photography

On view through Dec. 7 at Catalyst Projects, 716 Monroe St. NE, Studio 13; 336-253-6224; www.catalystartprojects.com.

Leslie Parke

Cross MacKenzie is known for ceramics, but that’s not all the gallery exhibits. Sometimes Upstate New York artist’s “Beach China” depicts elegant porcelain afloat in the ocean, glistening with water and light.

The plates, cups and saucers have personal meaning to Parke — they belonged to her grandparents — but not much visual context. She focuses tightly on her subject, so the image is emphatic and enveloping. There’s no beach in “Beach China,” just tableware and water, meticulously rendered. A virtuoso at painting reflections, Parke uses her subjects’ glossy surfaces to investigate the qualities of light, much as the photorealists did with glass and polished steel.

The show also includes two of Parke’s paintings of empty, crushed cans, often with their labels still attached. These are similar to the pictures of floating crockery in composition and technique, and also theme: They peruse things that have lost their purpose. The “Beach China” series is more poignant, however. There’s both more beauty and import in family heirlooms than in a discarded can of diced tomatoes.

Leslie Parke: Beach China

On view through Dec. 11 at Cross MacKenzie Gallery, 2026 R St. NW; 202-333-7970; www.crossmackenzie.com

Winter Recap

On the eve of its seventh anniversary, Honfleur Gallery is hosting work by nine artists it has shown before, most of them European. The pieces in “Winter Recap” are all two-dimensional, or at least flat enough to hang on a wall, but otherwise diverse.

The most direct images are Jean Noel L’Hameroult’s two Rothko-like photo abstractions, with bold colors and strong horizon lines. They might seem to document sunrises or sunsets, but in fact what they show is the first frame on a film roll, exposed to light when loaded into a camera. Also photo-derived, but much busier, are Cyril Anguelidis’s digitally composited streetscapes, one of Shanghai. They teem with signs, colors and surrealist touches, such as outsized frogs and airborne fish.

Equally whimsical is Ben Skinner’s “The Blind Leading the Blinds,” a window shade whose slats shift from red to blue as the adjectives printed on them turn increasingly upbeat. Those hues, and many more, appear in John K. Lawson’s mosaic-like, text-heavy collage; it seems blithe, although it represents the British-born artist’s attempt to create something from the remnants of a Louisiana studio flooded by Hurricane Katrina.

Gustavo Diaz Sosa’s charcoal-with-resin drawings are darker in palette and mood, depicting nearly deserted structures in a moody, neo-expressionist style. Stylistically, they have nothing in common with Anguelidis’s montages, yet both artists give semi-imaginary cities a vivid presence.

Winter Recap

On view through Dec. 20 at Honfleur Gallery, 1241 Good Hope Rd. SE, 202-365-8392, www.honfleurgallery.com

Pop Art Prints

The 1960s boom in fine-art printmaking can be attributed in part to new technology. But it didn’t hurt that this was also the period of such artists as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, who were not merely congenial to mass-produced images but actually celebrated them. Those two artists are, unsurprisingly, among the nine represented in “Pop Art Prints,” at Georgetown University’s Spagnuolo Art Gallery.

The earliest of the artworks, which come from the collection of Christopher and Margaret Condron, is Jasper Johns’s 1964 “Ale Cans,” a lithograph of an unmonumental sculpture. Other pieces from that decade include a Jackie and a Marilyn, both by Warhol and heavy on metallic hues, and Lichtenstein’s “Shipboard Girl,” a romance-comic blonde in one of many oceanic or watery scenes. The selection includes Claes Oldenberg’s “The letter Q as beach house, with sailboat,” and a David Hockney visual ode to L.A. pool culture.

Although the prints are made of solid dots and lines, some simulate the gestures of drawing or painting; Hockney’s “Celia with Green Hat” retains the spontaneity of its pastel-drawn original. The loosest of the lot are two etchings by Jim Dine, both hand-colored. Their images are elementary and mechanical — two bathrobes and a heart — but their pinks and blues are bold and free.

Pop Art Prints

On view through Dec. 8 at Spagnuolo Art Gallery, Georgetown University,
1221 36th St NW; 202-687-9206; art.georgetown.edu/galleries

Jenkins is a freelance writer.

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