Democracy Dies in Darkness

Museums | Review

In the galleries: Malgorzata Jablonska’s bodies of work

August 23, 2018 at 2:15 PM

Malgorzata Jablonska’s “Joanna,” on view at Foundry Gallery. (Malgorzata Jablonska/Foundry Gallery)

A female body, most likely Malgorzata Jablonska’s own, is the central presence in the Polish artist’s Foundry Gallery show. Yet it’s barely there.

The closest thing to a solid object in “Imprints of Reality” is a full-size figure represented in strips of felt; its curves appear to be emerging from a block of the heavy fabric. The other sculptures follow a woman’s contours but are even wispier. Jablonska makes impressions of torsos and faces in strands of bark, which delineate the physical shape while allowing light to stream through. The sculpted forms are wraithlike, yet their outlines are realistic. The artist might retain the bark’s original brown tones or dye the material bright red or yellow, adding another element of unreality.

Most of the sculptures are contained in clear plexiglass boxes, like specimens in an unnatural history museum. Jablonska uses a similar approach to make modestly sized collage-pictures, mounting scraps of thin fabric on glass. In compositions such as “The Night Wind,” which depicts fluttering flowers in a dark palette, translucent fragments overlap to yield new hues, a sense of depth and an illusion of movement.

These pictures are intriguing, but the bark beings are more immediate, and not just because they tend to be bigger. Jablonska renders specific human anatomy both ethereal and eternal. Her bodies are almost intangible, yet their forms are archetypal.

Malgorzata Jablonska: Imprints of Reality Through Sept. 2 at Foundry Gallery, 2118 Eighth St. NW.

Illuminate

Everything glows in the semidark in Target Gallery’s “Illuminate,” an 11-artist show that relies heavily on videos, projections and LEDs. Most of the participants are from the region, but include ones from North Carolina and Spain.

Some of the artists emphasize mystery over illumination. Emma Shapiro and Lucas Martinez project shadowy figures on a translucent screen that curves toward the viewer. Joana Stillwell pairs recordings of snoring by people (and one dog) with a white plexiglass panel that partly hides a small pink light that pulses faintly behind one corner.

Light plays very different roles in two mostly metal sculptures that contrast solidity and evanescence. Karen Lemmert’s wall-mounted 3-D assemblage of aluminum and clear-acrylic triangles features reflective surfaces that glimmer from the effect of pinpoint lamps mounted in front of them. David Gladden’s steel pillar contains four illuminated panels of constantly changing single colors; the piece suggests a traffic signal with a trippy mind of its own.

Among the most engaging entries are those that solicit the viewer’s participation. Sarah Clough provides a black-light flashlight to display the fluorescent pigment that appears to lie beneath the surface of her abstract painting. Andreas Schenkel’s video of jumpy blue and green vertical lines is connected to a button that, when pressed, temporarily compels the bars closer together. Flickering light has its appeal, but there’s nothing like a sense of power, however momentary.

Illuminate Through Sept. 2 at Target Gallery, Torpedo Factory, 105 N. Union St., Alexandria.

Helen Zughaib’s “The Red Studio,” on view at the Watergate Gallery. (Helen Zughaib/Watergate Gallery & Frame Design)

The Other Side

There are a few light pieces in Watergate Gallery’s show, in which 29 artists offer work that interprets, or simply seems to fit, the theme of “The Other Side.” In Maria Bouquet’s ever-changing “Platon,” 15 colors of light blink in five patterns behind regularly spaced horizontal threads. If the effect seems urban and futuristic, Craig Kraft’s “Cave Symbol Arrow” burrows into prehistory, using red neon to simulate a cave painting.

The contemporary paintings include Joanna Tyka’s dynamic abstraction, a sort of patchwork of rectangular and free-form gestures, and Heidi Rastin’s canny composition of red poppies, in which everything save the curving petals has been flattened into geometric forms. Helen Zughaib’s playful “The Red Studio” features small renderings of works by Picasso, Mondrian, Matisse and other artists who have passed to the other side; the only living artist in the room is Zughaib herself, whose self-portrait hangs amid the miniature copies.

Sam Noto’s pair of elegant copper statues assume similar curved forms at different scales. “Hiding One,” which would fit neatly on a table, resembles an Asian dumpling, while the seven-foot “Hiding in Plain Sight” has animal-like scales. The larger sculpture stands just outside the gallery’s glass curtain wall, beckoning from the other side.

The Other Side Through Sept. 15 at Watergate Gallery, 2552 Virginia Ave. NW.

Steven Bollman

Humans are at the center of nearly all the photographs in Steve Bollman’s “Almost True,” but they’re placed precisely in the landscapes that sustain them: A man presents a bouquet while standing in desolate terrain; two riders doze in a graffiti-strewn subway car; a hiker is framed in a woodland trough. The black-and-white pictures in the Leica store show, made in many locales but primarily in Sicily and Cuba, find essential connections between people and place.

The San Francisco photographer shot these pictures between 1985 and 2017, mostly on film, distilling what a gallery note calls “just a few seconds in real time.” That feel for the fleeting is balanced by a sense of history. Bollman is clearly drawn to places where old ways survive, and sometimes captures years in an instant: He depicts an aged woman lying in bed and reflected in a mirror hung on the same wall as a vintage wedding portrait. The camera stops the clock, yet still gives a sense of the ticking minutes.

Steven Bollman: Almost True Through Sept. 7 at Leica, 977 F St. NW.

Ito Briones’s “Dalya’s Jealous Husband,” on view at the Art League Gallery. (Ito Briones/Art League Gallery)

Ito Briones

Most of the subjects don’t gaze directly at the viewer in the suite of realist portraits painted by Ito Briones and on display at the Art League Gallery. The oblique glances can be explained by apprehension, and perhaps even guilt. The people the local artist depicts are suspects in “A Murder in Bruges: Cast of Characters.”

There is a solution to the mystery, and Briones invites viewers to find it before Aug. 30. (That’s when the painter will reveal the culprit on his website and in person.) Manufactured artifacts, such as a purportedly bloody baseball bat, accentuate the fictional reason these people have been convened. But less Sherlockian spectators can simply appreciate Briones’s wintry colors, soft-edged style and killer imagination.

Ito Briones: A Murder in Bruges: Cast of Characters Through Sept. 2 at the Art League Gallery, Torpedo Factory, 105 N. Union St., Alexandria.

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