By Mark Jenkins
Sunday, August 25, 2013
Over its 35 years, Zenith Gallery has migrated from Logan Circle to the erstwhile Seventh Street NW gallery row to Chevy Chase Pavilion. That last location closed when the mall was remade, but Zenith is not homeless. Gallery founder Margery Goldberg operates a salon at her Shepherd Park home and programs other venues around town, notably the Eleven Eleven Sculpture Space. Currently, she also has an exhibition at the Washington DC Economic Partnership.
Billed as an anniversary show, Zenith Salon’s “Fresh” lists 20 artists, although many more can be seen in the art--jammed house and garden. Some are showing work in a familiar style, such as Sica’s metallic--paper construction or Joan Konkel’s sculptural paintings, which combine paint, aluminum and acrylic mesh in ever--shifting planes. Among the artists trying something new is Kim Abraham, who has turned from pastel coastal landscapes to dark but light--speckled compositions that hint at the complexity of the night sky.
As is typical of Zenith, some of the items are whimsical. Glass artist Tim Tate’s recent American University Museum show combined video and projections to dream--like effect. But here he shows “Martha Stewart’s Kitchen,” an array of blown-- and cast--glass pies ---- under glass, of course. Tom Noll starts with rebar, the steel bars used in reinforced concrete structures; he coils and paints them so they resemble flower arrangements, rooted in blocks of sandstone or wood. Chris Malone draws on African folk art for figures, both comic and totemic, with intricate patterns incised into their ceramic flesh.
Then there are artworks of simple beauty, including Bert Beirne’s exacting, traditional still lifes and Donna Feldman Lasky’s photographs of dancers, semi--draped nudes that evoke classical painting. Among the most intriguing pictures are Jesse Gillespie’s untitled mixed--media collages, which layer the recognizable and the inexplicable; they suggest a future archaeologist’s attempt to brush away multiple layers of grime to find the culture of 2013.
The retrospective of Ken and Julie Girardini’s work at Eleven Eleven Sculpture Space is titled “Yours, Mine & Ours” because the two artists make art separately but also run a firm that fashions distinctive household items. Girardini Design is represented in the show by eccentric (and mostly metallic) tables, baskets and vases, as well as an industrial--chic wall divider. The individual creations range from Ken Girardini’s digital prints on metal panels to his spouse’s exquisite miniatures of boats and houses.
Since they design objects for the home, it’s not surprising that both Girardinis include symbolic images of houses in their art. Reduced to an outline of walls and eaves, these structures resemble smaller versions of the “ghost house” that marks where Benjamin Franklin’s Philadelphia abode once stood. But Julie Girardini toys brilliantly with the archetype, placing a metal skeleton of a tree inside one (“Tree House”) or framing an absent home’s contours with crosshatched wires (“Missing House”). These streamlined structures are ingenious and evocative.
Julie Girardini also makes variations on another classic form, the longboat. Working mostly in metal ---- but forging one boat/house hybrid partly from colored pencils ---- she defines the ship’s swooping form both directly and allusively. Such elegant vessels as “Copper Ribbed Boat” conjure motion as surely as her houses do rootedness.
There are more than cityscapes in “Great Streets: The Urban Life of D.C.,” the Zenith--curated show at the Washington DC Economic Partnership. The assortment includes Curtis Woody’s historical collages, which emphasize African American heritage, and Philip Hazard’s handsome American flag sculpture in copper and reclaimed barn wood. It’s illuminated by cut--out, back--lit stars and red, white and blue neon squiggles atop the worn surfaces.
Most of the space, though, is allocated to Richard Fitzhugh’s and Glenn Moreton’s urban landscapes. Moreton’s digital prints on canvas are precise and detailed, showing Dupont Circle scenes. Fitzhugh’s pictures are watercolors and looser, capturing the feel of nighttime at lively intersections. Not surprisingly, most of the paintings depict the general vicinities of 14th and U or Seventh and H streets NW, areas whose energy matches the vigor of Fitzhugh’s brushstrokes.
Like many summer group exhibitions, the current one at Adah Rose Gallery includes works by artists the venue has displayed recently. But they weren’t chosen by the gallery’s proprietor and namesake, Adah Rose Bitterbaum. “Carte Blanche: Asia, Joey and Kara” was culled from the existing inventory by three summer interns. They packed the show with dozens of pieces, yet it doesn’t look crowded, in part because the art itself features lots of open territory.
Take, for example, Joseph C. Parra’s two screen--printed portraits on large expanses of white paper. He has partially sanded off the areas around the faces to frame them, which increases the pictures’ already ample negative space. Among the other participants who employ white backgrounds are Alison Rash, who paints fluid arrangements of rhomboids in complementary colors, and John James Anderson, who makes visually punning compositions of single words, such as a slanting “lean,” rendered in black.
There’s also a lot of white in Jessica Drenk’s found--object sculptures, which squeeze everyday items into combines that seem to belong in a natural history museum. One wall sculpture, “Soft Cell Tissue,” suggests an enlarged cross--section slide of muscle cells, but it’s actually squished--together toilet--paper rolls. Similarly, Drenk stuffs coffee filters and torn pages from books into oblong frames, subverting their purpose while retaining something of their papery delicacy. Not all of the show’s art opposes tightness and openness, but such juxtapositions characterize some of the more memorable items.