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.