A ‘Closer’ look at Jason Horowitz’s photos in Northwest Washington exhibit

April 4

The earliest photographs in Jason Horowitz’s “Closer & Closer, Works Thru Time, 1980-2014” are observational, black-and-white and modest in scale. But their themes and formats echo in the photographer’s recent work, which is larger, more colorful and less naturalistic. Studio 1469, the exhibition’s venue, may not be big enough for an exhaustive retrospective, but it offers significantly more space than the show’s organizer, the currently between-homes Curator’s Office, used to have at its small Logan Circle location. So there’s room for a full-wall 9-by-23-foot image of a strip steak.

Horowitz is perhaps best known for his portraits of drag queens, often pictured in extreme closeup. One of those photos, highlighting a pair of highly made-up eyelids, is included in this survey. But the Arlington photographer’s intimate yet dispassionate observation begins about 25 years before that 2009 immersion into green-black mascara. Pictures of sunbathers made in the early ’80s take a less glittery view of body parts.

Two wide-format photos from 1991 hang across from the massive meat picture, a 2014 piece that plays on the same landscape tradition. “USDA Choice Strip Steak” also announces Horowitz’s embrace of digital manipulation. The striated beef and rippled fat are actually montaged from more than 1,000 individual images, electronically composited into a visually unified slab.

Food and flowers have become recurring subjects for Horowitz, who suspends petals and nibbles in gelatin to yield complex lighting and layered compositions. Three of these pictures show the sort of freezer-section meals that the artist sometimes served his kids. With their swirling forms and refracted colors, both “Roarin’ Ravioli Fun Feast” and “Game Time Taco Roll-up Kids Cuisine No. 2” suggest views of ocean and sky. But the latter’s phallic shapes also link to a pair of sexually explicit photos that exemplify Horowitz’s vision: detached to the point of abstraction, yet recognizably fleshy.

Jason Horowitz: Closer & Closer, Works Thru Time, 1980-2014: On view through April 19 at Studio 1469, 1469 Harvard St. NW, rear; 202-518-0804; www.studio1469.com.


“Still Life (Blue Daisy)”: Jason Horowitz’s 1994 archival pigment print is one of works featured in the exhibition “Closer & Closer, Works Thru Time, 1980-2014” at Studio 1469. (Courtesy Jason Horowitz and Curator's Office)
Langley Spurlock & John Martin Taratt

Artist Langley Spurlock and poet John Martin Taratt have found an apt temporary home for their ongoing project to illustrate all 118 elements: the American Center for Physics. Spurlock’s drawings, paintings and constructions fuse with Taratt’s words to celebrate magnesium (“harvester of light” in chlorophyll) and potassium (“chitter chattering” to regulate heartbeat), as well as many others whose atomic numbers will never make the Top 40.

Spurlock, who has a background in organic chemistry, often illustrates Taratt’s writing, whether it’s of haiku-ish terseness or more verbose. Words are everywhere in the two’s collaborations, which began a decade ago. In a sense, the text is the constant, since Spurlock shifts styles and media regularly. Tin gets a quick gouache-and-ink rendering of two cans, while germanium (abundant in ginger) rates an Asian-style scroll painting.

Their outlook is generally whimsical. They hail thulium for being “of no apparent use,” and are particularly keen on poisons: The deadliness of arsenic, beryllium, cobalt and thallium is applauded with Hitchcockian glee. Phosphorous, crucial to the firebombing of Dresden, Germany, in World War II, is handled more somberly. Spurlock and Taratt have fun with chemistry, yet not all their pieces have a jokey punch line.

Langley Spurlock & John Martin Taratt: Intersections: Secrets of the Elements: On view through April 11 at the American Center for Physics, One Physics Ellipse, College Park; 301-209-3125; www.acp.org.

Jamea Richmond-Edwards

In her notes on Jamea Richmond-Edwards’s District of Columbia Arts Center show, curator Myrtis Bedolla calls the artist a “ballpointist.” Richmond-Edwards does use ballpoint pens to provide detail, shadow and an ebony sheen to faces and hair in her depictions of African American women. But the tightly inked lines in “The Cost of Making Her Run: Fear, Flight, Freedom” are secondary to chalk pastel, and both are supplemented by splashes of silver paint. The artist also incorporates patterned fabric, both drawn and actual, and supplements the drawings with a suite of photographs of herself on the run in a bridal gown, reenacting Harriet Tubman’s escape from slavery.

Symbolically, if not actually, the drawings are self-portraits, representing the artist at different ages, and in assorted states of mind. Transition is represented, at least in part, by the way Richmond-Edwards divides the pictures into diptychs (often split horizontally rather than vertically) or triptychs. The severed faces and bodies give the compositions a dynamic tension, but also a sense of self-determination. If self-image can be fractured in sundry ways, so can it be reassembled.

Jamea Richmond-Edwards: The Cost of Making Her Run: Fear, Flight, Freedom: On view through April 20 at District of Columbia Arts Center, 2438 18th St. NW, 202-462-7833, www.dcartscenter.org.

Amazing Marvels

Circuses and sideshows are the common ground for “Amazing Marvels,” at Off-Rhode Gallery, a venue that specializes in “outsider” art. Nearly 30 artists are represented, and while most of the work is colorful and exuberant, the degree of skill varies. The participants often depict phenomena that have largely vanished, and some seem to have modeled their pieces on vintage circus posters. Several of the artists make inventive use of found and recycled objects; the cleverest example is Jeff Tacke’s seated elephant, made entirely of clear plastic, with an inverted jug for its head.

Among the deftest painters is Toni-Lee Sangastiano, who contributes before-and-after views of a hapless fire-eater. Neil Stavely, a Virginia tattoo artist, shows his command of line with woodcut prints of a mermaid, a tiger and a palmistry sign, mounted on wood and cut out in the shapes of their subjects. Although the artists often take an ironic view of things that used to be deemed amazing, Johanna Sherman’s “The Amazing Norbert” celebrates a particularly modest marvel: a 25-pound cat, a beast more likely to be found in a townhouse than a sideshow.

Amazing Marvels: On view through April 19 at Off-Rhode Gallery, 2204 Rhode Island Ave. NE; 202-554-9455; www.art-enables.org.

Jenkins is a freelance writer.

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