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Signal 66: Painted Into A Corner

By Jessica Dawson
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, October 21, 2004; Page C05

• After nearly six years mounting some of the city's grittiest art shows, Signal 66 shutters its doors at month's end. More whimper than bang, the final show collects a trio of artists working in the most traditional of all media: paint. Richard Vosseller slops on gobs and gobs -- a notice warns that his paintings are still wet -- lending the pigment a sculptural presence. The idea is groovy but hardly groundbreaking. Kevin Mitchell makes anemic interiors peopled by lethargic folks or their body parts; his picture of a pair of feet in a tub has some of the angst of an Egon Schiele, but the rest of his pictures simply look exhausted. Better are the canvases of Mark Milroy, whose portrait of Jennie Yabroff boasts tiny rivulets of pigment converging around the sitter's eyes and knuckles. In the gallery's rear room, John Figura shows his updates on classic nocturnes.

"Paint" at Signal 66, 926 N St. NW, Friday 5-9 p.m., Saturday noon-5 p.m. and by appointment, 202-842-3436, to Oct. 30.

"Portrait of Martin, Scott & Peanut" by Mark Milroy. (Signal 66)

Covering Some Familiar Ground

Mexican artist Miriam Medrez's clay figure is dressed in pipe cleaners. (Cultural Institute Of Mexico)
• "The Dream of the Earth: 21st Century Tendencies in Mexican Sculpture" doesn't deliver exactly what its title promises. These artists share just one tendency, and it is millenniums old: modeling in clay. The six artists on view, most in their fifties, work the ancient medium with a reverent touch; so much so that their work, though recent, hardly seems it. On occasion, a quirky ingredient trots in -- Miriam Medrez favors pipe cleaners -- to bring these sculptures into our world. But mostly the artists seem bent on self-conscious reworkings of ancient forms and figures. Intentionally crude renderings, such as the oversize feet in Maribel Portela's figure "Blooming," border on the contrived.

"The Dream of the Earth: 21st Century Tendencies in Mexican Sculpture" at the Cultural Institute of Mexico, 2829 16th St. NW, Monday-Friday 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., 202-728-1628, through Nov. 11.

Art Takes Wing At the Air and Space Museum

"Escape Tower" by Robert T. McCall. (National Air And Space Museum)
• All those years it's been amassing spacecraft, the Air and Space Museum has been collecting artworks, too. A brand-new exhibition installed in a second-floor gallery offers a peek at 72 donated works depicting all manner of flight, from early experiments in ballooning to space shuttle launches. You'll recognize a few names, such as Goya and Calder, though most works are by lesser-knowns. Milestones of flight, such as 1969's Apollo 11 lunar landing, offer opportunities for compare-and-contrast: Artists as creatively polarized as Norman Rockwell and Robert Rauschenberg responded to the event, making it a touchstone for kitsch and avant-garde alike.

"Generous Friends: Building an Art Collection for the National Air and Space Museum" at the Air and Space Museum, Sixth Street at Independence Avenue SW, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily, 202-633-1000, through fall 2006.

At Mateyka, a Star in Stripes

From Gene Davis's "Series 1" (1969), a suite of six prints. (Marsha Mateyka Gallery)
• You're seeing stripes, all right. This is a Gene Davis show. At Mateyka, a selection from the late artist's estate includes moody canvases featuring generous fields of black alongside chipper silk-screens inflected with preppy greens and pinks. And then there are some pleasant surprises: Watercolors from 1956 show Davis in latter-day abstract expressionist mode, playing with unstructured clouds of color. In the gallery's main room, high above our heads, hang five "micro paintings," most not much bigger than a matchbook. The gallery's whimsical, just-out-of-reach installation is based on historic precedent: When Davis first exhibited his small-scale works, a great many of them exited via five-finger discount. Only a giant could get at these.

Gene Davis at Marsha Mateyka Gallery, 2012 R St. NW, Wednesday-Saturday 11a.m.-5 p.m., through Saturday, 202-328-0088.

A Stitch in Time and Fabric

Detail from an 1846 "album quilt" at the DAR Museum. (Mark Gulezian -- Dar Museum)
• No idle hands here. The young girls who labored to create the samplers and quilts in this fascinating exhibition of historical needlework were busy, busy, busy -- or so their parents must have hoped. Endlessly embroidering alphabets, wisteria vines, cornucopias and eagles, girls as young as 8 or 9 turned out many of the more than 50 works on view here. Some were gifted seamstresses, sewing quilts with an expert hand. Others, less blessed with spatial and artistic relations, were made to learn proverbs stitch by stitch. Witness little Nancy Tucker, age 8, who in 1791 was made to sew this morbid verse: "This Work In Hand my Friend may hav [sic] When I am Dead And in My Grave."

"Home and Country: American Quilts and Samplers" at the DAR Museum, 1776 D St. NW, Monday-Friday 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m., 202-628-1776, through April 30.

Design and Structure, in 3-D

Adam Ross's "Too far for the eye to see, always at the back of my mind #4." (Numark Gallery)
• A solid sampler of artists playing in three dimensions: Adam Ross paints alternative landscapes filled with drowsy floating capsules; James Casebere makes models of rooms and photographs them with eerie floodwaters seeping in; Robert Lazzarini fashions distorted versions of everyday objects, here a school desk so warped it looks like a saddle. The show's most intriguing piece, an installation by Isidro Blasco, takes images shown on a video monitor -- a couple discussing banalities over a meal -- and explodes their world into three dimensions. Photographs depicting the onscreen room are pasted onto a plywood structure in the gallery, so the video's fleeting images are given sprawling, sculptural form.

"Architecture Untethered" at Numark Gallery, 625-27 E St. NW, Tuesday-Thursday 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Friday 11 a.m.-6 p.m., 202-628-3810, through Oct. 30.

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