Editors' pick


Mixed Media

Editorial Review

By Mark Jenkins
Sunday, November 17, 2013

Several mini--shows nestle within “Represent,” Hemphill Fine Arts’s 20th--anniversary exhibition: portraiture, conceptual work, manipulated nature photographs, painterly canvases in the tradition (sometimes loosely) of the Washington Color School. There’s even an impressive selection of posters, invitations and other graphics produced by Hemphill over its two--decade run.

The array features three works by each of 30 artists, too many for the space. Only about 40 fit at a time, so the lineup has changed during the show’s run. During one visit, many pieces were arranged in visual dialogue. These included Colby Caldwell’s “untitled (yellow),” a crisp photo of a dead bird, and William Christenberry’s “Southern Tree, Yellow,” an expressionist line drawing; Steven Cushner’s “Over Under Sideways Down #10” and Willem de Looper’s “Sam,” two very different approaches to balancing hard and soft in a color--field painting; and Robin Rose’s “The Fab Four,” a set of dangling microphones, and “Terratriad,” a set of three abstractions whose metallic tones complement the mikes.

While most of the works are recent, some predate the gallery’s founding. Godfrey Frankel’s stark photo of a barbershop dates to 1947, and “Sam” is from 1968. Digital imaging is pivotal for some of the later pieces, notably Caldwell’s blurrily pixelated photo abstraction and Franz Jantzen’s deadpan shots of “Objects Outgrown” by his daughter. Computer--assisted art's clean lines also seem to have influenced the handmade art, such as Linling Lu's precisely rendered update of 1960s target paintings.

Outside such tides is Workingman Collective's "Craft," a wall--mounted rowboat whose mechanized oars periodically slam the gallery wall. The piece is whimsical yet a little alarming, suggesting "The Great Gatsby's" "boats against the current," now unable to row into either the past or the future.

Chandi Kelley, D.B. Stovall & Pamela H. Viola

Hillyer Art Space is showing a trio of artists who work with photographic imagery. Of the three, only D.B. Stovall’s work is documentary, and the photographer’s “A Slower Way of Seeing: Photographs of the American Vernacular” is concerned with color and the everyday facades of rural and Rust Belt towns.

Stovall depicts squat older buildings and the skies that frame them. He’s drawn to saturated hues, often primary colors, which he captures impeccably with a 4--by--5 view camera and color transparency film. Often the structures’s bright reds and yellows are set off by bold blue skies. But in a photograph of a house turned tire store, only the thin red line of the building’s roof separates azure wall from equally blue heavens. Like many of Stovall's pictures, it is homey and surreal at the same time.

Chandi Kelley’s “Unnatural Histories” offers elegant vignettes of the natural world, gently manipulated. Often, the artist gilds a found object or inserts a golden article that mimics a natural one. In one of the most striking juxtapositions, a metallic gold leaf seems to float among real green ones. Some photos hint at narrative: In “Pebble (as meteor),” a gilded stone leaves a metallic streak across a variegated rock. Kelley writes that this series seeks “to draw attention to natural beauty,” but it also shows the eternal human inclination to rearrange the universe’s random displays.

Created on a tablet computer, the work in Pamela H. Viola’s “Having a Ball” is photographic in origin, yet seems more like drawing. Printed on handmade Japanese paper, the layered collages include images of balloons and ballgames. Some of the compositions are symmetrical and others more free--form, but all are playful in both tone and style.

Chad Andrews & Joey P. Mánlapaz

Washington painter Joey P. Mánlapaz observes downtown’s inhabitants, but not the ones that can move on their own. The protagonists of her current show at Gallery Plan B are bicycles and vending boxes, fireplugs and motor scooters. These mute items might seem generic, yet the location of these pictures is unambiguous. Even without the logos of local newspapers, the scenes could be only of the Philippines--born artist’s adopted home town. Mánlapaz is influenced by 1970s photorealism, which emphasized hard edges and shiny surfaces. Yet her use of traditional oil--painting techniques gives depth and warmth to her depictions of unpeopled sidewalks.

Also at Plan B, Chad Andrews is showing prints and drawings of everyday stuff, including tools, targets and cigarettes. In the pop--art manner, the Pennsylvania artist mixes tidy silk--screen technique with messy painting, and often incorporates commercial product imagery. But Andrews prefers logos that look retro and often have a sulfurous whiff of danger. No Campbell’s soup for him; he prefers Black Cat firecrackers. Many of the objects in these handsomely composed pictures seem about to discharge, ignite or explode, which makes the drips and streaks appear both appropriate and foreboding.

Eugene Markowski

Two years ago, when Eugene Markowski showed his lively wall sculptures at Studio Gallery, the motifs often were drawn from Slavic religious icons. His current Studio show, “Cosmologies,” was prompted by geometry and science. Yet the fundamental building blocks of both series are the same. The artist constructs multi--leveled pieces from circles, arcs and triangles of wood and fiberboard, sometimes with wave--like patterns made of modeling paste. These components are painted with bright and often metallic pigments.

The show includes some standing pieces made of egg--shaped forms and dowels of differing lengths; the largest, “Gravitational Pull,” shifts from purple to red. The wall sculptures feature brighter and more expansive color schemes. One represents winter with muted pastels, but more frequently the hues blaze and glisten. Markowski’s current inspiration may be futuristic, but he still has a medievalist’s taste for silver and gold.

By Michael O’Sullivan
Friday, September 20, 2013

Hemphill Fine Arts isn’t large, except in reputation. The gallery, which opened in Georgetown 20 years ago this month, is a giant of Washington’s contemporary art scene, but its current digs near Logan Circle are far from palatial.

So how will it squeeze 90 candles ---- three artworks each by 30 artists with past and present connections to the gallery ---- into “Represent,” the anniversary exhibition that is serving as its birthday cake? By re--hanging the show with new works every few weeks.

The party gets underway Saturday with a public reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Over the course of the two--month show, there also will be a number of programs related to the history of the gallery and of Washington art in general, beginning Oct. 5 at 10 a.m. with “What Have I Seen?” In this free illustrated lecture, former Washington Post art critic Paul Richard will reflect on his four decades of looking at art in the city.