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.
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.
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.