John Reuss paintings get under the skin
By Mark Jenkins,
John Reuss is not a cubist. Many of the forms in his “Mind & Matter,” at Hillyer Arts Space, are classically modeled and shaded to simulate the appearance of human flesh. Yet there are echoes of Picasso and Braque — as well as Duchamp’s brief Futurist period — in the way the Denmark-based painter fractures his figures and punctuates the compositions with jagged, if cleanly executed lines. Rendered primarily in shades of pink, gray and blue, the central elements of these striking paintings are anthropomorphic — even when tangled in a knot and floating over a field of the abstract rectangular structures Reuss also depicts.
The artist has a background in computer science and graphic design, which might explain his penchant for sharp edges and geometric shapes. But Reuss also reveals a messy, intuitive side; he draws freely with pencil and charcoal before finishing the work with acrylics that are painted meticulously (save for the occasional willful splotch). His interest in metamorphosis is a venerable one in art and literature, stretching from Ovid to Francis Bacon. Although these images aren’t as violent as Bacon’s, they do hint at death. “The Architect,” for example, features a skull that’s partially protruding from a man’s head. But perhaps Reuss simply wants to consider his subjects from as many perspectives as possible, including inside out. In which case, he is something of a cubist, after all.
The tension between organic and geometric forms also plays out, very differently, in Marcia Wolfson Ray’s “Rhythms,” on display in the adjacent room. The Maryland artist deftly assembles dried flowers, leaves, reeds and grasses in combinations that showcase yet constrain their natural appearance. At first glance, such wall-mounted assemblages as “Flutter” could be nests, built by very precise squirrels. The juxtaposition between natural jumble and imposed order is more obvious in works such as “Incline,” a set of four rough grids, each larger than the one in front of it and all topped with spiky, dessicated fronds. The structures that Wolfson Ray constructs both contain and fail to contain their material’s natural twists and curves, which is probably just what she intends.
Mind & Matter;
Marcia Wolfson Ray: Rhythms
on view through Feb. 25 at Hillyer Arts Space, 9 Hillyer Ct. NW; 202-338-0680; www.artsandartrists.org/hillyer.php.
Michael Dax Iacovone, Kathryn Zazenski,
With the expansion and commercialization of Global Positioning System technology, getting from A to B has become a conceptual-art staple. Art-schooled travelers Michael Dax Iacovone and Kathryn Zazenski hit the road with cameras and laptops, as well as pen and paper, charting their movements for “The Points That Bring Us From Here to There.” Featured is a piece on Anacostia that documents the short trip from St. Elizabeths Hospital to Honfleur Gallery, where the show is on display. Also chronicled are more exotic locations, and significantly longer journeys.
“From Here to There: Ezra Pound” comprises a map, two drawings and some collaged photos of the course up Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE. The piece, presented as a “dialogue” between the District-based Iacovone and Michigander Zazenski, riffs on local geography and the psychiatric facility’s most-famous former resident. Lines from Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro” contrast a streetscape that’s more prosaic than poetic, while Zazenski’s drawings turn the route from hospital to gallery into zigzags.
Zazenski also addresses Southeast in her “Memory Maps,” arrays of index cards containing photos, lists, maps and drawings. This series, which includes other sets of cards inspired by stays in China and Finland, seems personal to the point of being hermetic.
The show’s largest piece is Iacovone’s “The Mississippi River Project: Record of a 3600-Mile Drawing,” in which two videos flank a 20-foot-long map. The horizontal map is divided across five tables, positioned to accommodate the river’s curves, which the artist followed to make his “Every bridge of the Mississippi River” video. (It makes 123 crossings, compressed to 52 minutes.)
Upstairs at Honfleur, the Gallery at Vivid Solutions’ temporary home, is a selection of images made by members of InstantDC, a photography collective. These range widely in style, format and subject, from high-contrast black-and-white portraits to full-color near-abstractions. Among the highlights are several cityscapes, notably Keith Lane’s “DC Je Taime,” a local view in the wet-street, French noir style, and Jim Darling’s “Under Pass,” with a vendor in a yellow space beneath a yellow-painted metal span. But perhaps the most memorable photo is an interior: James Campbell’s “Lamp,” a simple portrait of a tissue box within a halo. It is, appropriately, an essay in lighting.
The Points That Bring Us From Here to There
on view through next Friday at Honfleur Gallery, 1241 Good Hope Rd. SE, 202-536-8994, www.honfleurgallery.com.
The Soul of the City
on view through next Friday at the Gallery at Vivid Solutions, 1241 Good Hope Rd. SE, 202-365-8392, www.vividsolutionsdc.com.
Lisa Marie Thalhammer
As its title suggests, “Intimate Network” is an introduction to Lisa Marie Thalhammer’s circle of friends. But the exhibition, at the Fridge, is also a political statement and a stylistic stretch. Focusing on her intimates — all female and all bared, emotionally and sometimes physically — seems to have spurred Thalhammer to experiment artistically.
The work expresses “energy and art and queer community,” notes an essay on the show by Shauna J. Miller, a Washington Post Express editor who is depicted in one of the paintings. In addition to portraits, there’s a series of rainbow-hued prints and drawings; most are angular abstractions, but two make the rainbow symbolism explicit with multiples of the word “equality.”
Thalhammer is known for bright colors, bold lines and simplified images, as seen in “Boxer Girl,” the mural that got mixed reactions in the Bloomingdale neighborhood after it appeared on a townhouse wall there in 2009. “Intimate Network” expands the artist’s range, combining pastel drawing with oil painting — not unlike Reuss’s technique — or applying thinned oils to wood panels so that the underlying grain is visible. Whether this translucence is a metaphor for the candor Thalhammer seeks, or just an attempt to extend her technique, the resulting textures are engagingly layered.
on view through Feb. 24 at The Fridge; 5161 / 2 Eighth St. SE (rear); 202-664-5151; www.thefridgedc.com.
Jenkins is a freelance writer.