There are no history or mythology paintings in “Storyteller,” Jane Haslem Gallery’s exhibition of oils and watercolors by Lincoln Perry. The Charlottesville artist is not that kind of storyteller. But Perry’s vividly hued work evokes the past, in style as well as subject. He’s a realist, but one who borrows from impressionist and expressionist predecessors. He has an affinity for dancers, which recalls Degas, and for warm light, which suggests Italy or Spain more than Virginia.
In fact, two of the pictures use the ruins of Rome’s ancient Forum as backdrops, although Perry is just as likely to depict places where the foliage is plainly tropical, or party or bar scenes that could take place just about anywhere. The artist’s interest in narrative encourages multi-panel compositions, sometimes within a single canvas but often divided among several. Perry experiments with framing in order to further divide his paintings, which can seem gimmicky. But that strategy is a success in the largest piece, “Picturing Will,” a house-shaped, 11-panel picture that shows different activity in every room. As the action moves from light-filled attic to shadowy basement, the picture is also a journey from day into night.
Downstairs is “Rarely Seen Contemporary Fine Prints,” a functionally titled array of extraordinary works on paper, from 1955 to 2003. Each one is elegantly crafted, but among the most engrossing are Beth Van Hoesen’s “Double Rose,” which depicts a peach-colored rose in front of gray floral wallpaper; Billy Morrow Jackson’s jazzy “Vintage Beat,” an abstract woodcut of a drum kit; and Anne Appleby’s “Vienna Variation #8,” an aquatint of two panels of green that have been burnished till they seem to glow around the edges.
On view through Jan. 31 at Jane Haslem Gallery, 2025 Hillyer Pl. NW, 202-232-4644, www.janehaslemgallery.com.
Three recent Maryland Institute College of Art graduates, Heather Day, Joseph C. Parra and Theo Willis, are showing in Adah Rose Gallery’s “I’m Passing Through a Phase: I’m Changing to a Word.” If that title (taken from a Stanley Kunitz poem) doesn’t exactly explain what the three Baltimoreans have in common, more words probably won’t help much. But each artist is, in a way, a subtractionist.
Day, for example, does abstract paintings inspired by her home town’s weathered facades. She doesn’t include the sort of details that would make that obvious — no chipped brick, shreds of posters or lines of graffiti. Her series of small paintings is titled “Upkeep,” a reference to frayed urban fabric; “At Your Best,” with its slash of neon yellow across white and gray, does have an urban feel. Still, her art is more color and composition than social commentary.
Working from photographs, Parra prints or draws portraits. His subjects are unnamed and altered in ways that lessen specific identity. Sometimes the artist scrapes or erases part of the image, or punches it with small holes, made with a nail or an etching tool. The effect suggests sci-fi forecasts of a future in which human distinctiveness is expunged. And yet “Individual 3,” a life-size silhouetted drawing of a female nude that shimmers with etched dots, idealizes rather than defaces the human form.
Where Parra removes part of the image, Willis never even makes one. His “Yards” series toys with the construction of canvases for painting, using only wooden stretchers and untreated fabric. Except for “No. 8,” which has charcoal smudges at the bottom, Willis adds no pigments of any kind. Instead, he inverts the customary arrangement, putting the stretchers in front, or manipulates the canvas to change its character. This attack on The Canvas is witty and inventive, and yet seems something of a rear-guard action. In this video- and conceptual-art age, how many people paint still on canvas?
on view through Jan. 27 at Adah Rose Gallery, 3766 Howard Ave., Kensington, 301-922-0162, www.adahrosegallery.com.
The two Montgomery County artists paired in “Fragility,” at Betty Mae Kramer Gallery, make art that appears more formidable than delicate. What’s potentially fragile is the source material: Nancy Weisser works in glass, while Woody Woodroof begins with weeds.
For this show, Weisser has crafted two installations on domestic themes. One shows a bedroom, the other a kitchen. Both assemblages include some found objects, but the majority of each is made of black glass: pots, flowers and furniture, as well as the reflective platforms on which the vignettes sit. (There’s even a shattered glass tabletop, rendered in, well, glass.) The scenes are swirled with vitrographs, strands of glass that, Weisser writes, “imply the diminishing memories of this space and the people who occupied it.” Unprompted, viewers might not make that association. But Weisser’s reimagining of everyday interiors has an eerie power.
Woodroof makes photograms, camera-less images exposed by sunlight and printed on paper, cotton or hemp. His subjects are mostly nuisance plants, such as bittersweet, bull thistle and poison hemlock. (The artist, also an organic vegetable farmer, also includes GMO corn in his rogues’ gallery.)
The photos are cyanotypes, better known as blueprints, and generally quite large. Hung on banners around the gallery, the silhouetted images are imposing yet ghostly, with areas of misty light blue. Removed from their ordinary context and enlarged dramatically, the vegetal outcasts become archetypal — and quite lovely.
on view through Jan. 25 at Betty Mae Kramer Gallery, One Veterans Place, Silver Spring, 301-565-3805, www.creativemoco.com/kramer-gallery.
The watercolors outnumber the glass pieces in “Earth’s Elements,” Harmon Biddle’s show at Touchstone Gallery, but the sculptures are more striking. The local artist’s paintings clearly begin as landscapes, often depicting brown earth and blue skies and water; sometimes they turn toward abstraction, and egg shapes are common. In 2007, she traveled to Venice to collaborate with Berengo Fine Arts, one of the glass studios on the Murano islands. There, Biddle reinterpreted such pictures as “Night” and “Blue Egg” in glass. The forms and basic color schemes of the originals remain, but with added depths and highlights. Particularly complex is “Remembrance,” in which swirls of red and yellow seep into the bluish glass block. The ability to incorporate such interior details seems to give Biddle’s sculptures not just two more dimensions, but an infinite number.
on view through Jan. 27 at Touchstone Gallery, 901 New York Ave. NW, 202-347-2787, www.touchstonegallery.com.
Jenkins is a freelance writer.