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A Group Effort Launches JET

By Jessica Dawson
Thursday, January 20, 2005; Page C05

In Conor McGrady's "Front," similar faces suggest similar motivations. McGrady was part of the 2002 Whitney Biennial. (Jet Artworks)
• What a curious mix of pictures in JET Artworks' inaugural show. Occupying the R Street rowhouse gallery once home to Anton and, most recently, Elizabeth Roberts, JET was founded by a collector turned gallery director and two investment partners. They promise a program favoring painting and drawing; this six-person group show is eclectic. The best paintings here are by 2002 Whitney Biennial participant Conor McGrady. He paints striking portraits of skinheads and modern-day corporate suits with nearly identical faces, as if the paramilitary and robber barons share an inner drive. And then there's Ken Bucklew. I simply cannot figure out why his Thomas Kinkade-caliber landscapes, with their rendering of daylight equivalent to office-grade fluorescents and their banal, choppy brushwork, hang here.

JET Artworks, 2108 R St. NW, Wednesday-Saturday noon-5 p.m., 202-232-4407, to Jan. 29.

The Flowering Of Martin Kotler

District painter Martin Kotler's "Orange Pink Poppies": postmodern sensibility with a 19th-century spirit. (Hemphill Fine Arts)
• I'd always figured District painter Martin Kotler for an urban kind of guy. His paintings chronicling Washington rowhouses and back alleys, and his architectonic depictions of Union Station train yards, seemed to prove me right. But his latest exhibit at Hemphill shows he's also a latter-day Martin Johnson Heade, turning out lovely flower portraits -- 14 hang here -- that would have pleased the 19th-century American portraitist of the lush botanical. Though Kotler's pictures have a postmodern sensibility -- up close, petals devolve into complex oil paint combinations pressed together with a palette knife -- his spirit is 19th century. In the gallery's rear, District sculptor John Dreyfuss's works, most in brushed aluminum, call to mind an art deco blacksmith shop. Most possess a cold authority.

Martin Kotler and John Dreyfuss at Hemphill Fine Arts, 1515 14th St. NW, Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., 202-234-5601, to Feb. 12.

In Arlington, a Sweet Debut

"Drunk on Doughnuts," by the FEAST arts collective. (Arlington Arts Center)
• The smell of fresh paint lingered at last weekend's opening of the renovated and expanded Arlington Arts Center. The historic red brick building, a former school, boasts three floors of exhibition space now playing host to a mixed bag of 68 mid-Atlantic artists. District gallerygoers will recognize some solid performers -- John Winslow, Maggie Michael, Andreas Tremols. New to me, and particularly intriguing: FEAST, a five-member Virginia collective whose photos cross documentary and camp, advertising and fashion. "Drunk on Doughnuts (lick)," the collective's color photo diptych, stars a would-be John Waters heroine devouring her Krispy Kreme stash. I also loved Galo Moncayo's installation "So far, I do not know," with its garden of stereo speaker cones arranged faceup like lily pads emitting belches and pops.

"State of the Art, a Mid-Atlantic Regional Overview" at Arlington Arts Center, 3550 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m.-5 p.m., 703-248-6800, to March 12.

Serving Art On, and With, A Platter

A ceramic platter by Rebecca Cross, whose funky plates are paired with Mira Hecht's paintings of bubbles and orbs at Ralls. (Ralls Collection)
• Like Ross Bleckner, Mira Hecht has a penchant for painting bubbles and orbs. Whereas Bleckner's longstanding referents are blood and cellular matter, Hecht's deeper meanings aren't so focused. Nor, for that matter, is her paint handling. She repeats compositions again and again, in different monochromatic palettes, placing dark orbs near edges and light ones near center. Some of the circles are as big as basketballs, and look about as heavy. Her work is paired with District ceramicist Rebecca Cross, who sells her funky, rounded-edge rectangular plates through upscale retailers like Barneys New York. Ralls hung her wares on the walls, but they're just as happy as horizontal homes for crudites. Their bright colors and bold graphics would show well at Neiman Marcus.

Mira Hecht and Rebecca Cross at the Ralls Collection, 1516 31st St. NW, Wednesday-Saturday11 a.m.-4 p.m., 202-342-1754, to Feb. 26.

Line After Line, Loop After Loop, Adam Fowler's Very Fine Web

• Adam Fowler draws loopy lines in graphite and charcoal that look like intricate webs. Then he takes blade to paper, cutting out the space between his lines as if fashioning a doily. What's left are sheets of paper filigree that he layers one atop another and secures with tiny pins. His best pieces are his biggest, a couple of feet across, because the paper bulges and casts lovely shadows. Still, with 18 works on view, even a promising method skirts monotony. Imagine my delight, then, when I discovered a stray auburn hair trapped between one picture's layers. An inadvertent step forward, Mr. Fowler?

Adam Fowler at Flashpoint, 916 G St. NW, Tuesday-Saturday noon-6 p.m., 202-315-1310, to Feb. 3.

Provincetown: A Mass. Medium

"Sketch for Portrait of Susie Orr," 1950, by Franz Kline. (Smith Kramer Fine Art Services)
• Provincetown, Mass., has beckoned artists since the late 19th century, when railroad tracks connected painters to its spectacular light and cheap rents. By the 1920s, rival art schools had opened; some pockets favored radical modernism. At St. John's College, 80 works held by the New York School-loving Provincetown Art Association and Museum are on view. The assembled pictures are a guestbook of the fishing village's most famous artist visitors, Milton Avery and Robert Motherwell among them. What happened in P-town stayed in P-town, it seems, as an echt Ab-Exer like Franz Kline was more than happy to turn out an oil stick portrait sketch in 1950 -- even as he was busy perfecting the muscular, calligraphic abstractions he's known for.

"A Community of Artists: The Collection of the Provincetown Art Association and Museum" at the Mitchell Gallery, St. John's College, 60 College Ave., Annapolis, Tuesday-Sunday, noon-5 p.m., additional hour Friday, 7 p.m.-8 p.m., 410-626-2556, to Feb. 26.

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