For $15, connoisseurs on a budget can get 52 local artists’ works in pocket-size form: a pack of cards. That’s the premise of “Art Deck-O: DC Playing Card Originals,” a project of Touchstone Gallery. But not all these artists are playing from the same deck, and seeing the pieces on the gallery’s walls is more satisfying than shuffling the reproductions.
Only a few of the participating artists emulated the playing-card format, with images designed to be read either right-side-up or upside-down. These include Newton More’s “6 of Spades,” a pair of vividly red leaves, and Adam Bradley’s two-headed “Jack of Spades,” which evokes a playing card even though it’s a 3-D sculptural piece. At the other extreme, Tony Cowles seems to have simply slapped a four-of-clubs logo on an existing abstract canvas. It’s a fine painting, but not much of a card.
Some participants went for over-obvious local icons — George Washington, Abe Lincoln, the Capitol and Ben’s Chili Bowl. More cleverly, Jennifer Bishop personifies the seven of hearts as a man on a Metro escalator, holding seven heart-shaped Mylar balloons. Leaving D.C. behind, Jennifer O’Connell’s “The Late 8 of Hearts” shows a bear on a bike, arriving at a party at a Victorian-style house; these elements (especially the house) suggest the work of Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki.
Most of the pieces that reproduce well are, not surprisingly, simple images in a hard-edged, magazine-illustration style. Emily Greene Liddle’s nifty “10 of Hearts” depicts a cherry with a heart stitched into it, and Chris Bishop’s elegantly stylized “8 of Spades” shows a woman who has just taken a bite out of a spade. These transferred to the card format nicely, but look even better in the original.
-- Mark Jenkins