D.C. gallery shows: ‘New Work,’ ‘Paradigm Shift,’ ‘How Do We Arm Ourselves?’


’NRAlien--The Enemy Within’ by Kathleen Ramich, assemblage made from gas line, industrial shredder and paint gun. (Courtesy Charles Krause/Reporting Fine Art )
December 20, 2013

The figure of Brunhilde, a metal Valkyrie constructed from found parts by Kathleen M. Ramich, might seem a benign figure. The largest sculpture in “How Do We Arm Ourselves?” is imposing yet not inherently sinister. The same can’t be said of her neighbor, inspired by the monster in the “Alien” movies and perched threateningly atop circular blades salvaged from an industrial shredder. It’s titled “NRAlien — The Enemy Within.”

Ramich, a North Carolina artist, had a piece in Charles Krause/Reporting Fine Art’s “The Newtown Project: A Call to Arms” exhibition early this year. That stars-and-bullets memorial, “The United Fates of America,” returns in this show, which opened shortly before the first anniversary of the Connecticut school shooting. Only half of the 12 pieces address gun violence, but all have a strong point of view.

The sculptor works mostly in metal, combining stuff she has collected over 30 years. Among her recent creations are a series of robots, more R2-D2 than C-3P0, with moving parts and electric lights, both glowing neon and blinking LEDs. One inspired by the Washington Navy Yard shootings includes a small screen that cycles messages sent from the facility during the September incident. The repeated words “active shooter” are just as chilling as the guns and gunlike devices incorporated into other sculptures.

Ramich’s themes can be literally provincial, commenting on North Carolina politics. Or they can smack of yesterday’s news, as do the statues inspired by the 2008 Republican candidates for president and vice president. Yet the artist often combines the human, industrial and technological in evocative ways. If the “NRAlien” is a simple horror-flick nemesis, a piece titled “Inside/Outside NSA” includes a mirror that implicates the viewer in its vision of cyber-chat as both uncontrollable and irresistible.

How Do We Arm Ourselves?

On view through Dec. 28 at Charles Krause/Reporting Fine Art, 1300 13th St. NW; 202-638-3612, www.charleskrausereporting.com.

Tony Savoie

Orlando-based artist Tony Savoie is a native Floridian whose intricately layered work often features images from nature or his life. Perhaps inspired by his relationship with Washington’s Long View Gallery, his “New Work” includes more explicitly political references. Our town’s namesake, as depicted on American currency, appears in one of the combine paintings. Most bluntly, “Unweanable” shows oil-stained babies drinking from suspended gas-pump nozzles. Rendered in a hard-edged pop-art style, this picture is forceful, direct and not particularly representative of the artist’s style.

Often, Savoie builds found-object collages inside boxes topped with clear acrylic. He then paints on the plastic, leaving areas bare for a partial view of the contents. The windows can be in the shapes of animals; this array includes dogs and a pair of squirrels who face one another, one holding a diamond and the other a bullet. The simplicity of the central figure is complicated by text, subsidiary pictures and areas of impastoed and splattered color, as well as the dioramas beneath the surface. Often, the top levels are brighter, while the lower depths are darker and, seemingly, danker. That might be metaphorical or simply a byproduct of the artist’s technique, but the deeper the eye travels into Savoie’s assemblages, the more ominous they look.

New Work

On view through Dec. 31 at Long View Gallery, 1234 Ninth St. NW; 202-232-4788, www.longviewgallery.com.

John James Anderson and Mei Mei Chang

Both artists featured in “Paradigm Shift,” at Adah Rose Gallery, begin with the experience of physical space. Mei Mei Chang’s work draws on the tradition of Chinese landscape painting but also incorporates recent events and structures. John James Anderson’s pieces riff on a single spot: a staircase at American University he climbed hundreds of times, and whose arrangement of steps, railings and a central column can be seen in a photograph.

Anderson used computer imaging to simplify that picture into abstract digital prints, but the bulk of his work here is not machine-made. The artist took those abstractions as models for handmade wooden wall sculptures. Although the pieces are clearly related, they’re not identical and are further distinguished by multicolored schemes that range from metallic to flowery. Rather than realizing the platonic form of that stairway, Anderson suggests the existence of endless variations.

Chang cuts, arranges and stitches paper as often as she picks up a brush. The artist loosely evokes landscapes with ethereal paper constructions under glass and small works on black backdrops finished with resin. More literal works include “Taipei 101,” a black-on-white piece that includes a rendering of the building that was briefly the planet’s highest, and a series of drawings sparked by Hurricane Sandy.

Paradigm Shift

On view through Dec. 28 at Adah Rose Gallery, 3766 Howard Ave., Kensington; 301-922-0162, www.adahrosegallery.com.

Jay Peterzell

The title of Jay Peterzell’s Foundry Gallery show, “Three Women,” might refer to the number of female models he employed or to the number of styles he used to depict them. Some of the portraits are realistic, others are angularly expressionistic and a few verge on cubism. Even if Peterzell’s portraits could be divided into just three categories, the exhibition includes other genres altogether, including one landscape and a few forays into abstract expressionism and color-field painting.

The strongest work is representational and gently indebted to such venerable European modernists as Picasso and Modigliani. This is true whether the subjects are clothed or nude, male or female. Among the most striking are “Standing Women,” naked and rendered in stark black lines, and “Maria,” notable as much for its contrast of red and green as its sexuality. Peterzell is capable of grand gestures, but his gift is for the specific and the intimate.

Three Women

On view through Dec. 29 at Foundry Gallery, 1314 18th St. NW; 202-463-0203, www.foundrygallery.org.

Jenkins is a freelance writer.

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