By Mark Jenkins
Sunday, November 3, 2013
In Timothy Makepeace’s views of water towers, transformers and power lines, even the skies are industrial. The D.C. artist’s “Hubs + Feeders,” at District of Columbia Arts Center, is rendered mostly in black and gray, supplemented by rust tones that can be actual rust. In this context, the two pictures with bright backgrounds, “Red Voltage ---- Corroded” and “High Voltage ---- Blue,” appear almost shockingly colorful.
Makepeace calls these works “digital photographs and charcoal photographs,” which suggests yet doesn’t fully explain his technique. The pieces are photo--based, but sometimes the artist uses the digital image simply as the model for a straightforward drawing, such “Spider Top ---- Inverse,” which shows an impressive command of light and modeling. Other pictures are simply large--format photos, constructed from sets of panels and manipulated to produce a simpler, more iconic result.
The manipulations can be computer--generated, as in “High Voltage ---- Blue,” where the bottom is a cut--and--paste mirror image of the top. But Makepeace also paints atop the photos, blacking out simple, central shapes with thick pigment. The oxidization in “Red Voltage ---- Corroded” was applied by the artist, both to further the industrial theme and to highlight the edges of the many squares that combine to make the overall photo--painting. While such additions increase the works’ visual complexity, they also have a larger purpose. They compel viewers to examine the pictures more closely, much the way Makepeace scrutinizes industrial structures that are often ignored.
The richly textured paintings of Joan Belmar and Lori Anne Boocks are nearly abstract, yet suggest both personal and historical meanings. The two artists’ works, on display in “Mathematics, Maps and Myths” at Adah Rose Gallery and Studio 1469, feature mottled, grainy textures that suggest layers of earth and sand. For Boocks, the depths symbolize family history; to Belmar, they represent the indigenous peoples of Chile, his native land.
The artists are showing larger pieces at Studio 1469 and smaller ones at Adah Rose, but even the latter feel expansive. Boocks begins and ends with charcoal, with which she renders forms, often rectangular, as well as words and numbers. In between, she lays down and then partially removes acrylic washes. The technique gives luminosity to the muted hues, often earthy browns or metallic blues. Sometimes she connects pictorial elements with drawn lines, cotton twine or rusted twigs of metal. The sculptural aspect adds another tier to her intriguingly multi--strata style.
The bottom level in Belmar’s pictures is spray--painted and soft, but the D.C.--based artist contrasts that with hard--edged, brightly colored forms derived from maps he studied as a child. Belmar’s “Arauco” series, named for the region of southern Chile where his father was born, contrasts precise and amorphous forms, chart and terrain. The painter calls his subject “a search for freedom in a structured world,” but in such dense, immersive paintings as “Arauco #1,” the straight lines and perfect circles are just as crucial as the loose, watery color fields.
The title of Rachel Farbiarz’s show at Heiner Contemporary, “Take Me With You,” comes from a found--object sculpture previously shown in one of the gallery’s group shows. The piece, which teeters domestic objects atop a wheelbarrow, suggests centuries of refugees forced to flee suddenly and without preparation.
Similar themes are reflected in Farbiarz’s other work, but most is not sculptural. Instead, the D.C. lawyer--turned--artist presents drawings, collages and calligraphy, notably a series of official apologies offered by the Australian government to various groups it had persecuted. Farbiarz heard one of these on the radio and was so moved that she decided to transcribe it in flowing script.
The artist’s family history, which includes ancestors who fled the Holocaust, is reflected in “Salary Man,” a portrait of a guy who worked in a salami factory with her father. But her work expands beyond the personal to consider the fates of all sorts of people buffeted by war, expulsion and political division. In such scroll--like collage--drawings as the flag--draped “Memorial Hill,” Japanese kamikaze pilots and Irish Protestant marchers are just a few of many figures in a grim universal pageant.
Throughout the course of the show, Farbiarz is copying out another official Australian apology. It’s as if she’s writing a spell to banish the hatred, horror and loss she evokes in her other work.
Trudy Myrrh Reagan was raised a Quaker, like Richard Nixon, and shares a surname with Ronald Reagan. Yet she was not the most sympathetic audience for the Watergate or Iran--contra hearings. She watched both on TV, sketching the faces of the men (and one woman) who appeared. These two sets of drawings, supplemented by a few other works, are now on display at Charles Krause/Reporting Fine Art, under the title “When What’s Right is Wrong: The Watergate Portraits and Other Drawings.”
Although she’s lived most of her 77 years in California, Reagan was born in the District, one of the few places where people might still remember the names and perhaps the faces of such figures as contra leader Adolfo Calero. But Reagan’s feelings about that scandal are expressed less strongly in her pencil portraits of the conspirators than in her cartoons of her presidential namesake and Iran--contra organizer Oliver North. Both are depicted with fists for heads.
The Watergate portraits are stronger, both in emotion and technique. Although Reagan watched the 1973 hearings on a black--and--white TV, she drew Haldeman, Erlichman and the rest in color. She didn’t go for photographic realism, instead using colors as accents. The most striking is former attorney general John Mitchell, shown in profile to emphasize an egg--shaped head. It’s an unblinking vision of a man who, the artist clearly believes, embodies the betrayal of public trust.