The two-artist show at Hamiltonian Gallery is titled “Anything Sacred,” after Amy Boone-McCreesh’s contribution. It’s Sarah Knobel’s work, however, that invites prolonged contemplation.
Knobel, who now teaches art in Montana, makes photographs and videos that might be called living collages. She mixes cheap toys and other junk with organic objects and encases them in ice (for the photo series “Icescapes”) or plunges them into colored fluid (in the gurgling video series “Cycles”). Although most of the ingredients are manufactured, the melting ice or swirling liquid provides an organic feel. The moisture can evoke either life or death: things that have begun to putrefy, or creatures just pulled from amniotic fluid. Knobel’s art celebrates transformation, although it is just as much about illusion.
Immersive in a different way, Boone-McCreesh’s full-room installation looks like a psychedelic day-care center, decorated for a birthday party. The walls are a soft violet, punctuated by light-green shapes that suggest clouds and mushrooms. Ribbons, netting and tendrils hang from the walls, which also hold framed collages. This “temple of visual excess,” as the gallery notes call it, scans and recombines forms taken from previous work by the Baltimore artist. That’s the connection between the two: Both repurpose and recontextualize. But where Knobel’s art is beguilingly mysterious, Boone-McCreesh’s is appealingly bright and immediate, yet with little lingering resonance.
Anything Sacred: Sarah Knobel and Amy Boone-McCreesh On view through June 21 at Hamiltonian Gallery, 1353 U St. NW, Suite 101; 202-332-1116; www.hamiltoniangallery.com
The colors in Deborah Anzinger’s collage-paintings are, as the title of one of them says, “Kind of Tropical.” But such references don’t dominate “Float,” a group exhibition of art by three Jamaicans and one Trinidadian. Organized by NLS Kingston and its local venue, Transformer, the show includes sculpture, video and photography in addition to Anzinger’s work. According to curator Nicole Smythe-Johnson, the selection “cannot be said to, and does not aspire to, represent the Caribbean region or any part thereof.”
Photographer Marlon James presents celebrity-style glamour shots of people who are not stars in Jamaican society, from blue-collar workers to a transvestite in a boldly striped jumpsuit. Leasho Johnson’s ceramic sculpture, painted international orange, is titled “Pum Pum tun up dive,” after a dancehall-reggae tune whose lustful lyrics are in Jamaican patois. But Johnson’s mix of earthiness and artificiality is influenced by the Japanese pop/art aesthetic of “kawaii” (cuteness).
The videos by Trinidad’s Rodell Warner also transfigure the everyday. The artist takes nature shots and animates them so they jerk, rotate or oscillate in digital space, their original subjects obscured. Like Anzinger, who inserts such small objects as a photo or a shard of broken mirror into her landscapes, Warner doesn’t accept scenic-postcard views as true representations of the islands.
Float On view through June 21 at Transformer, 1404 P St. NW; 202-483-1102; www.transformerdc.org
One of several D.C. galleries that currently have only part-time homes, Contemporary Wing is using its first local show in a year to showcase 10 artists. Most of the artists are familiar, but the reach is wide. The work ranges from Wyatt Gallery’s large photographs of post-Katrina devastation to Hedieh Javanshir Ilchi’s abstractions, in which rivulets of thick pigment flow into topographic patterns — and sometimes right off the panel. A new wrinkle is that Ilchi is showing two paintings that are principally silver rather than the full range of colors in her other work.
The street arts of postering and graffiti underlie much of the work Contemporary Wing shows. This selection includes a print by GAIA, who’s known for large wall paintings, and several pieces executed primarily with spray paint: Tim Conlon depicts two segments of boxcar sides, one swirled with bright patterns, the other not; John Tsombikos, once active under the tag BORF, uses graffiti gestures to simulate Mark Rothko’s transcendental style of abstract expressionism.
Sonya Clark, whose usual materials include thread, combs and human hair, also riffs on mid-20th-century art, with pieces based on Josef Albers’s color studies. She incorporates hair into an abacus and a set of violin bows, one dreadlocked and the other blond. One of the simplest of Clark’s commentaries is perhaps the most effective: a cut-out map of North America and Africa, with the latter positioned where South America actually sits on the globe. This simple gesture highlights an essential link that’s not always acknowledged.
Friends with Benefits On view through June 21 at Contemporary Wing, 1412 14th St. NW; 202-730-5037; www.contemporarywing.com
Another friendly show, Flashpoint’s “Between Us: Variance Invariance Project,” is credited to Judy Rushin &, with a long list of collaborators posted on the gallery wall. The artist painted the small pictures that are on display, most of which feature bands of color that resemble wrapping paper about as much as Gene Davis’s epic stripe canvases. They’re designed to be modular, sort of like color-field Legos, and are positioned in various ways in the gallery. Some are stacked sculpturally, while other just lean against the walls like bored teenagers.
The “&” enters in photos, which show how Rushin’s pals temporarily displayed sets of the canvases. She sent the paintings around, and they returned with documentation of various arrangements: hung on clotheslines like drying socks, for example, or arranged on a beach so they look like the backs of folding chairs. The best of these photographed installations are smart and witty. If they upstage the ones in the gallery, that’s because a white-box space isn’t the optimum showcase for Rushin’s mix-and-match pictures. They belong out in the world of consumer products that inspired them.
Between Us: Variance Invariance Project: Judy Rushin & On view through June 21 at Flashpoint Gallery, 916 G St. NW; 202-315-1305; www.culturaldc.org/visual-arts/flashpoint-gallery
Jenkins is a freelance writer.