In addition to hints of peaks, palisades and cliff-side roads, Kirkeby’s mostly abstract pictures often include suggestions of trees and wood. One exquisite and untitled mixed-media drawing seems to depict leaves, a trunk and three logs atop what is clearly a milled board. That last image reappears in the only painting, also untitled, that features a wood-grained bar across the bottom. Other pieces, however, are as fiercely nonrepresentational as 1950s abstract expressionism.
Among the array’s highlights is “Inventory,” a portfolio of 18 black-and-white prints whose elegant use of line recalls classical Chinese ink paintings. Mountains can be glimpsed in some of these pieces, as well, yet the world they depict is entirely Kirkeby’s.
Also a complement to a larger exhibition, “On an Intimate Scale” at George Washington University displays three dozen smaller works by Jules Olitski, who is also the subject of a retrospective at the American University Art Museum. The selection dates from 1962 to 2007, the year of the Ukrainian-born American artist’s death. Both shows follow Olitski’s progression from color-field paintings that stressed shapes (mostly dots and ovals) and bright hues to a looser, more textural style.
In the 1960s, then-new acrylic paints were valued for their dilutability, which allowed artists to stain unprimed canvas with vivid colors that seeped entirely into the fabric. But acrylic is plastic, which means it can also be applied abundantly to create sculptural effects. In such works as 1991’s “The Sea,” Olitski preserved painterly gesture in 3-D form. In works that are less than two feet wide, the swoops seem almost as monumental as Roy Lichtenstein’s 30-foot-high sculptures of single brush strokes.
As Olitski pursued this technique, his palette became muted, with reds, pinks and purples nearly submerged in gray. He later synthesized the textures of his mid-career work with the circular forms and intense colors of his earlier style. The combination is effective, even in the smaller pictures of this show. But most of the striking works here are pure paint, clotted thickly in mid-swoop.
In most of moving-picture collagist Cliff Evans’s videos, the motion is steady and forward. Three of the four video loops in “Drones in the Garden,” the Brooklyn artist’s show at the Curator’s Office, take that path. “Dead Letter Postcard” and the title work flow though sylvan terrain that suggests 19th-century British landscape paintings; “Untitled (sketch for a monument to J.G. Ballard #3)” floats on a similar course through the flyovers of a multi-level Dallas highway, partially obscured by clouds. The forward momentum is eerily smooth and deliberate, in the manner of video games, and the mini-movies include high-tech military and outer-space gear, as if equipped for a battle that never begins.