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'Bells' That Don't Ring True

By Jessica Dawson
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, November 18, 2004; Page C05

• Baltimore artist Christine Tillman has called her Watkins Gallery show "Bells and Whistles," referencing the oddball group of dime-store doodads she assembles to make her installation art (a pair of plastic bells figure prominently in one piece). The goodies -- along with paper cutouts of a bird and a horse -- are placed on the flat, lighted surface of two old-school overhead projectors, the machines with the craned necks on which your teacher laid long-division transparencies. The result is a pair of works that act both sculpturally -- the projectors on the floor -- and painterly, as the projected images appear on a wall. I'm not convinced the images she makes are as strong as they could be, and the cramped gallery space deflates the project further. Intriguing idea, tepid execution.

Christine Tillman at the Watkins Gallery, American University, 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., 202-885-1670, to Nov. 23.

"Bells and Whistles" by Christine Tillman is made up of an oddball group of dime-store doodads. (Watkins Gallery)

Printmaking's Old World Craftsman

One of Adnan Turani's silk-screens at the Meridian International Center. (Meridian International Center)
• All 70-plus prints in Meridian International Center's latest exhibition were made in the Istanbul studio of printmaker Suleyman Saim Tekcan. Renowned in his homeland, Tekcan has educated several generations in the ways of etching and screen printing, introducing advanced European techniques into schools across his country. By 1974, he'd established the first professional print studio in Turkey, a space that quickly became a hub. Still, the works turned out by Tekcan and his students have a distinctly anachronistic feel, lagging decades behind their European and American contemporaries. In 1999, Adnan Turani produced an untitled silk-screen with the big blocky forms of a Henri Matisse cutout, circa 1950. Besides abstraction, there's plenty of folk art themed work and a handful of landscapes.

"Anatolian Impressions: Artists Prints From the Istanbul Studio of Master Tekcan" at the Meridian International Center, White-Meyer Galleries, 1624 Crescent Pl. NW, Wednesday-Sunday 2-5 p.m., 202-939-5568, to Jan. 23.

A Sworded Affair in College Park

Steven Hickman's "The Dragon Hoard," 1985. (The Art Gallery, University Of Maryland)
• "Magical Adventures: Fantasy Art From the Frank Collection" provides more than 60 opportunities to indulge your inner teen. The exhibition, at the University of Maryland, includes illustration art from the covers of pulp sci-fi novels, calendars and games, most made in the last 40 years and collected by McLean residents Jane and Howard Frank. Those familiar with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons will be right at home. Conjuring, sorcery, scantily clad damsels in distress and dragon-slaying are major themes. Hokey as it sounds, the show feels right: As the halls of high art welcome what was formerly considered low, exhibitions of illustration and cartooning should become even more common.

"Magical Adventures: Fantasy Art From the Frank Collection" at the Art Gallery, 1202 Art-Sociology Building, University of Maryland, College Park, Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Thursday to 7 p.m., closed Nov. 25-27. 301-405-2763, to Dec. 18.

Outback, Up Close

"Last Light," one of Australian Ben Shearer's richly detailed watercolors. (Embassy Of Australia)
• If only this page were in color. Then you could see for yourself the acid red and turquoise of Ben Shearer's remarkable watercolors depicting the Australian Outback. His pictures are so rich in pigment and precise detail that from afar they might pass for photographs. Nearly all were generated during Shearer's travels in a light aircraft over vast stretches of Australia's toughest terrain. Images alternately register as hallucinogenic and spiritual, making this inhospitable land look like a place you want to visit -- and soon. Just don't go expecting to track the exact vistas Shearer did. The artist admits to embellishing the compositions just a bit, grafting one view onto another to arrive at landscapes a Mars rover would love.

"Outback Landscapes: Watercolours by Ben Shearer" at the Embassy of Australia, 1601 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-5 p.m., by appointment, call 202-797-3383, to Dec. 1.

Janis Goodman's Troubled Waters

Goodman's "Continuous Gesture": Paintings that are closer in tone to abstraction than to landscapes. (Janis Goodman)
• Water, water everywhere. Local painter Janis Goodman focuses on waterside views -- the crinkled surface of a disturbed pond, the ribbed fields of exposed mud flats. Closer in tone to abstraction than to landscape painting, her pictures never really show the pond or the water's edge. Instead, she reduces watery surfaces to knots of gnarled lines painted against flat planes of color. The premise is limiting. In a repetitious group of paintings on view at District Fine Arts, the lines Goodman paints to convey ripples and striations are graceless and thick. Though Goodman sometimes juxtaposes acid colors in jazzy combination, such efforts alone can't keep these pictures afloat.

Janis Goodman at District Fine Arts, 1726 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m.-5 p.m., 202-328-9100, to Dec. 11.

Maxwell MacKenzie's Plain Geometry

MacKenzie's "Maplewood Township, Otter Tail County, Minnesota." (Addison/ripley Fine Art)
• Photographer Maxwell MacKenzie is still flying over the Midwest and snapping pictures of the plains from his perch in the heavens. Revisiting his birthplace in Otter Tail County, Minn., MacKenzie photographs the squiggly tractor trails and peppering of hay bales that give this otherwise flat, empty land its character. From above, he can spot unusual patches of land that resemble animal prints; other areas could be messy, ill-planned labyrinths. One particular swath of Maplewood Township is dotted with irregular lines of trees that could pass for a landscape done in Braille.

Maxwell MacKenzie at Addison/Ripley Fine Art, 1670 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m.-6 p.m., 202-338-5180, to Dec. 4.

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