Wood block or woodcut printing developed in Asia and Europe, but in recent centuries its most artistic forms are associated primarily with Japan. So it’s hardly surprising to discover that Aline Feldman, whose work is at Marsha Mateyka Gallery, studied with Unichi Hiratsuka, a Japanese printmaker who spent time in Washington. But the prints in “Landscapes/Cityscapes: Images From Wood” take Japanese techniques in new directions.
Feldman uses watercolor, not ink, to make large monoprints (one-of-a-kind images) of mostly imaginary urban and rural scenes. She carves a single block, rather than individual ones for each color, and applies different pigments to various portions of the carving at separate times. This requires superlative precision, but the exacting technique doesn’t seem to limit Feldman. She also sometimes allows the wood’s grain to show in the finished piece. Thus, “images from wood.”
This selection includes a view of a stretch of Connecticut Avenue that’s a short walk from the gallery. The other prints, however, depict less-specific places, although sometimes with a recognizable feature — such as the Brooklyn Bridge — inserted into the composition. Several of the works are in Feldman’s long-running “Paradox of Place” series, which jumbles locations in a slightly disorienting way. The artist doesn’t seek to unnerve the viewer, though. With their bright hues, sensuous lines and humorous touches, these non-places are entirely inviting.
on view through Saturday at Marsha Mateyka Gallery, 2012 R St. NW; 202-328-0088; www.marshamateykagallery.com.
The idea for “Pulse: Art and Medicine” seems to have begun with the work of Johns Hopkins University’s Department of Art as Applied to Medicine, which contributed 16 medical illustrations. The Mansion at Strathmore exhibition goes well beyond such pragmatic renderings, however. The array includes work that turns microscopic information into large-scale art, as well as some that just has fun with medical technology.
Depicted with exceptional skill and detail, the medical illustrations range from a close-up of atherosclerotic plaque inside an artery and a survey of kidney stones — more diverse than snowflakes, it seems — to a diagram of former president William McKinley’s bullet injuries. The images can be macabre, yet have an elegance that’s detached from the fleshiness of real injuries. This contrast is even more pronounced in such scaled-up pieces as Luke Jerram’s blown-glass replicas of virus molecules, including swine flu and HIV, and Jessica Beels’s hanging models of human papillomavirus and blood clots. At the microbiological level, these messily catastrophic ailments appear orderly and immaculate, much like Bruce Peebles’s massive, wall-mounted depiction of a more benign tiny form, DNA’s double helix.
Playfully, the physician Satre Stuelke uses CT scans to reveal the relative simplicity of human creations, including a Buzz Lightyear action figure and a set of Russian nesting dolls. Such computer-imaging procedures also underlie Stuelke’s videos of toy and appliance innards, as well as radiologist Kai Hung Fung’s seemingly abstract color video images of psychedelicized human tissue. Technologically less forward, but just as compellingly visually, are Virgil Wong’s multilevel drawings and paintings of the body, which draw upon both Chinese and Renaissance investigations of the universe within us. It’s a world that remains mysterious, no matter how well the latest technology can represent it.
on view through April 13 at the Mansion at Strathmore, 10701 Rockville Pike, North Bethesda, 301-581-5109, www.strathmore.org/fineartexhibitions/
Patchwork is a motif of “Show Me What You’re Working With!,” the group show at the Brentwood Arts Exchange — even when sewn-together fabric is not involved. The idea is to show the texture and complexity of African American life, as well as a make-do aesthetic that refashions everyday remnants into something new and meaningful.
The exhibition, which features work by a group that calls itself the Black Artists of D.C., includes such fabric pieces as Jacqueline Lee’s “Passages,” a collage featuring ankhs, the Egyptian hieroglyph for “life”; Gloria Kirk’s “Egungun Masquerade Ensemble,” a hanging fabric construction with a talismanic face; and Esther Iverem’s quilted constructions in various shades of denim, which include some Olokun dolls. (Both Egungun and Olokun are deities from the Yoruba religion.)
There are other sorts of work, including Russell Simmons’s Basquiat-like simplified figure paintings in neon colors, and Hubert Jackson’s mixed-media abstractions, which include the grotto-evoking “Spirit of the Wilderness.” But fabric is always nearby, whether in Eugene Vango’s painting of assembled textiles; Ann Marie Williams’s sentimental “Precious Memories,” in which quilts incorporate old family photos; or Jacqueline Lee’s “City Dwellers,” an African street scene in which the painted figures wear real cloth. Such gambits place both the real and the remembered in a living context.
on view through April 6 at Brentwood Art Exchange, 3901 Rhode Island Ave., Brentwood; 301-277-2863; arts.pgparks.com/Page19056.aspx.
Fabric, as well as hair, is major component of “Be/Longing,” a survey of work by the South Asian Women’s Creative Collective (SAWCC, pronounced “saucy”). The nine-artist show, at Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery, deals with the experience of being female within traditional Hindu and Muslim cultures, and draws inspiration from nature, mythology and Bollywood movies.
Much of the art is, almost literally, combative. Jaishri Abichandani is showing a set of pink boxing gloves decorated with jewels and the faces of women who seem ready to rumble. Shelly Bahl and Samira Abbassy depict women as, respectively, a female 007 type or horse-riding warriors. But the figures in other pieces are victimized, and even faceless. Ruby Chishti makes headless female nudes from pantyhose; Nida Abidi shows sexualized women who are veiled or gagged; and Sa’dia Rehman obscures the girls’ faces in collages of family photos.
Perhaps most chillingly, Monica Jahan Bose’s “Agunmukha (Fire Mouth)” is a semicircle of stones with dangling bits of a singed sari, evoking the widows and wives burned alive in the region. Like so much of the art on “Be/Longing,” the piece is aggrieved but not acquiescent.
on view through April 13 at Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery, 1632 U St. NW; 202-483-8600; www.smithcenter.org/gallery.
Jenkins is a freelance writer.