The exhibition comes with a five-point manifesto, which makes a number of not necessarily linked claims. The one that seems to be central is that Washington artists are “speculative symbolists.” Some of the people in the show who might merit the classification include Simon Gouverneur, Tom Green, Carol Brown Goldberg, Lee Haner, Rosemary Feit Covey and Jack Rasmussen. But most of the chosen pieces aren’t such a good fit for the term, and a few of the supposed symbolists are not part of any ongoing movement. Green died in September, Gouverneur in 1990.
Rather than attempt to interpret each piece as an example of a tendency, it might be more fruitful to treat the show simply as an overview of Washington art today. It’s a diverse, if not bleeding-edge, selection that ranges from deft portraits in oil (Teresa Oaxaca’s ominous “Doll Maker,” Margarida Kendall’s neo-Renaissance “Ave Eva”) to crisp digital photographic prints (Richard Dana’s computer-generated forms, two epic skyscapes by Roberto Bocci). One contemporary-art trend that barely figures in Mahoney’s schema is video. The single video piece is Pat Goslee’s “Pretty Maiden,” an elegant semi-abstraction of body and water that undulates from Meridian Hill Park to the sea.
The sculptures seems particularly strong, if not thematically aligned. Some pieces toy with form and material: John Dreyfuss, who’s known for metalwork, made an anvil out of plaster. Tazuko Ichikawa took a sleek wooden rectangle and left one half to appear natural while cutting and painting the other side into black slices that seem to be falling. Greg Hannan’s “Logo,” made mostly of acrylic and urethane, resembles a natural form, yet is sufficiently alien to be enigmatic. Renee Butler’s “Aphairesis” is a pair of frosted-glass circles, suggesting presence and absence.
Are these speculative symbolist works? Perhaps, but that seems less important than their craft and vision. “Signals” demonstrates that there’s plenty going on in Washington’s art scene, even if appreciating it is easier than naming it.
What’s the most important word in “Washington Color School” — “Washington” or “color”? For local artists, the so-called school’s fame can be both a goad and a burden. But the majority of the six artists whose work is included in Long View Gallery’s “Color Schooled” reside far from D.C., in Chicago or Kansas City, Mo. The only ones who live under Morris Louis’s and Gene Davis’s shadows are J. Jordan Bruns, who works in Glen Echo, and Robert Stuart, who’s based in Staunton. And they’re not the most color-schooled artists in the show.