Fawna Xiao, Hsin-Hsi Chen offer interesting takes on contours

Courtesy of Hsin-Hsi Chen and Hillyer Art Space - Hsin Hsi Chen, "LUX I," is on view at Hillyer Art Space.

Some abstract artists are unhappy to have their work likened to landscapes. Yet Fawna Xiao encourages the comparison, having dubbed her Hillyer Art Space show “Lost Land.” The D.C. artist’s silk-screened monoprints — one-of-a-kind editions — depict jagged, wedgelike cliffs, mesas and icebergs, as well as more vertical figures that might be sails or columns but are arranged like groves of trees.

Xiao’s work has an improvisational feel; its basic shapes are all hand-drawn and its multilayered blocks of color applied intuitively. The prints in this show employ mostly blue, black and white, a color scheme that seems Antarctic. (The white can be paper but also ink.) Three of the prints add red, sometimes unrealistically but always effectively. In the diptych of “Lost” and “Land,” the masses are twinned but not identical and further distinguished by being predominantly red or blue. While their subjects are inarguably craggy, Xiao’s prints don’t need to be geological to hold the viewer’s attention. Their clear forms, rich hues and complex tiers are compelling without further associations.

Hsin Hsi Chen, \

Hsin Hsi Chen, "LUX IV,” is on view at Hillyer Art Space.

Also at Hillyer, Hsin-Hsi Chen has added another dimension (or two) to the depiction of geological, architectural or topographical contours. In “Lux,” the Maryland-educated New York artist works entirely with black pencil, drawing on white paper, wood or, in one instance, polystyrene. The latter material allows light to show from the interior of the work, a hivelike outcropping of panels placed in a corner of the gallery. But all four of the sculpture-drawings include LED fixtures; the glow is just less conspicuous from the ones made of wood rather than paper or plastic.

Because Chen’s pencil work deftly conveys depth, adding sculptural elements might seem superfluous. But in such pieces as “Lux I,” the added range seems natural, not forced. And even the one traditional piece in this selection isn’t quite flat: The artist continues drawing on the sides of the wood panel. Such exuberant details suggest that, for Chen, expanding into 3-D wasn’t just logical. It was inevitable.

Fawna Xiao: Lost Land; Hsin-Hsi Chen: Lux

are on view through April 26 at Hillyer Art Space, 9 Hillyer Ct. NW; 202-338-0680; www.artsandartrists.org/hillyer.php.

Amy Lin

Knowing Amy Lin’s educational background is not necessary to recognize that she values precision and has an affinity for patterns and particles. A longtime Washingtonian who is living in Moscow, Lin draws with colored pencil on large sheets of paper, embellishing wide, pristine expanses with small, immaculate gestures. Originally, her protagonist was the dot. Then that form grew slightly and opened up a bit, until it appeared closer to a bubble. Outlined globules reappear in “Diffusion,” the artist’s show at Addison/Ripley Fine Art, but are no longer the dominant motif. Lin now includes ovals that suggest leaves or fish, lines that swoop ebulliently across the whiteness and dancing circles with tails.

The show is named for several of its works, and other titles feature such scientific terms as “abiotic” and “hydrolysis.” (All right, so Lin studied chemical engineering.) Yet her new work seems more organic, with overlapping lines and contrasting colors. In “Displacement,” blue and green teardrops group in two schools, shaded with yellow and orange, while a lone red one goes its own way. “Adoration” looks like a cross between a circuit board and a star map, with a few red dwarves blinking amid the mostly black and silver circles and lines.

Although “Diffusion 4.0” busily combines multihued bubbles, ovals and swoops in a single drawing, it’s not as if Lin’s work has gotten baroque. It’s still spare and continues to pit simplicity against vastness. Her new work shows how much the artist can alter her original formula without undermining its allure.

Diffusion

is on view through April 27 at Addison/Ripley Fine Art, 1670 Wisconsin Ave. NW; 202-338-5180; www.addisonripleyfineart.com.

Vytautas Valius

Although he trained and taught at what was then called the Lithuanian State Art Institute, Vytautas Valius (1930-2004) was not always in favor in his Soviet-dominated homeland. The artist worked without official sanction in the 1970s and ’80s, often using nonprofessional materials. Some of the art in “Vytautas Valius: Paintings and Prints by a Lithuanian Master” is from the period when he ingeniously made prints by using matrices of cardboard, rather than stone, metal or wood.

The Alex Gallery exhibition ranges from 1968 to 2003 but consists mostly of more recent paintings, rendered in acrylic or synthetic tempera. These tend to be abstract and blocky, recalling cubism and futurism, and especially the latter’s dynamism. A large untitled painting, with areas of bold red, orange and gray offset by two white rectangles, seems almost frantic.

Valius defined himself in opposition to the Soviet Union through religious, folkloric and mythological themes. One of the earlier paintings, 1994’s “Christ Crucified,” is partially abstracted yet retains the feel of an Eastern Orthodox icon. The prints, which date to the late ’60s, include images of mythic western mavericks Orpheus and Don Quixote. Among the show’s most striking pieces, these works on cardboard feature shadowy shapes on backgrounds patterned in deep metallic shades. That the figures emerge from darkness may not be intentionally metaphorical, but it is visually intriguing.

Paintings and Prints
by a Lithuanian Master

is on view through April 30 at Alex Gallery, 2106 R St. NW; 202-667-2599; www.alexgalleries.com.

‘Endless Flowers’

As cherry blossom season withers, floral displays continue at several local art spaces. Perhaps the most extensive is Jane Haslem Gallery’s “Endless Flowers,” with 59 prints and paintings by 20 American artists. These range from the realism of Elizabeth Weiss’s small, precise oils to the impressionism of Kaiko Moti’s etching and aquatint; and from the delicacy of Gabor Peterdi’s monochromatic-like drypoints to the pop-art sunniness of Beth Van Hoesen’s prints of — what else? — poppies. (There are also two witty Van Hoesen prints that place blooms before flowery wallpaper.)

Much of the show’s appeal stems from vibrant colors, but several artists stress form by sticking to black and white; Richard Ziemann’s engravings and etchings are all soft grays, suggesting pencil, while Karl Schrag’s lithographs are darker and looser, simulating charcoal. Both Weiss and Neena Birch employ natural hues, but they place them in high relief with black backdrops. Only a few of the pieces consider flowers in an everyday context; most of these artists prefer their sensuous nature in isolation, whether in a single bloom or the riot of foliage in George Harkins’s watercolor, “Field Floral.” If the selection is not quite endless, it’s more than sufficient to illustrate many ways of blooming, and nearly as many of seeing.

Endless Flowers

is on view through April 30 at Jane Haslem Gallery, 2025 Hillyer Pl. NW; 202-232-4644; www.janehaslemgallery.com.

Jenkins is a freelance writer.

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