"Flight of the Mythmakers" is a sleeper of a show at the Howard university Art Gallery. It introduces three outstanding artists who make objects that cross the traditional boundaries of painting, sculpture and crafts. The might best be called "evocative objects," of the sort that have provilled so much excitment in recent art, for the feelings they convey.
None of the three has yet been seen here in a solo show.
The exhibition actually includes six artists from Washington and Philadelphia, who are joined by their mutual interest in using ancestral African ideas and forms and transforming them through contemporary Afro-American sensibilities.
"This is no longer the exclusionary some of which only superficially mi-micked African forms and subject matter which, reflecting the new fascination of many Afro-American artists with their roots. The African inspiration here is far mre profound and better understood.
These are works by highly original and creative American artists who have, in many cases, been to Africa and studied traditional ideas and forms there, and are now reshaping these ideas into new, highly provocative malgams. It is not unlike the inspiration Europe has provided earlier American artists over the past 200 years. And the new possibilities seem to be endless.
Edgar H. Sorells-Adewale, a teacher at Howard, is both painter and object finder. His "paintings" are brightly coloured high reliefs made from jewellise bits of painted modeling paste laid in a symbolic abstract patterns. This patterning is also evident in Sorrells-Adewale's delicate and beautifully wall-hung sculptures, mask-like assemblages made from bits of found objects, including cowrie shells, feathers and metals of different colours. He then transforms. These rough bits of metal - brass, copper- tin and aluminum cans - with the fine hand of a goldsmith until they actually take on the precious look of gold and silver, but always with an artist's eye for larger meaning.
"These are all short stories to me," he says, providing clues in the titles of his work. They are also votive pieces, often spell-bindingly beautiful, and with a strong but unspecific spiritual component which, mandala-like, invite and upon mediation.
The two other object makers in the show work with clay but both have successfully navigate the gulf between pottery-making and art.
Owens has studied traditional pottery in Negeria, but her forms, both ultilitarian and sculptural, are her own invented variations. She has also made several ceramic masks, all using her own face in various symbolic context, traditional and new. One inverted bowl form for example, has a face emerging in relief from the bottom. It is one of a series disturbingly entitled, "Scream, You're Black and in America."
The other clayworker is Martha Jackson, another Ellington teacher, who makes ceramic sculpture which combines both Japanese "raku" firing with traditional African techniques. Working in a semi-figurative style, Jackson makes highly expressive works having to do with the bird image in various ancient mythologies, which she somehow manages to conjure up in these parched, earth-coloured forms.
Two other artists in the show are the well-known Ethiopian painter Skunder Boghassian, a teacher at Howard, whose style seems more Middle-Eastern than African in origin; and Barbara E. Bullock, whose constructions far surpass her home-what dated paintings.
Among the paintings in the show, those by Clarence Morgan from Philadelphia are particularly remarkable because he has managed to create primal and spiritual abstractions from sheer pattern.
The show will continue through March 17, and is open Monday through Friday, 9 a. m. to 4 p. m.
Having exhausted the possibilities of the square, the stripe and the circle, artists of the post-minimal, conceptual persuasion are returning to figuration - the horse, the dogs; the teapot and the mousetrap - but always in a single, centralized and still very minimal image.
That at least would seem to be the central pronouncement of "The Minimal Image" show just opened at Protetch-McIntosh, a group of works by 10 gallery artists allied in their search for a new mode of expression.
It is a new wrinkle which will be explored by the Whitney Museum in a show scheduled for next year. Which is, of course, the real reason why this show has been assembled now. For dealers of the avant-garde, there is great importance in staking out new territory first.
Viewers unfamiliar with these artists, however, will find themselves as lost as ever because the most profound element they have in common is that they still cannot be read without a script, and no script is clear enough; Jud Nelson's mousetrap meticulously constructed of styrofoam confounds reality. But as for the rest, there is still much obscurity. The time would seem to have arrived when a Washington museum could help out in this respect, but short of the seemingly hopeless dream, Protetch will have to continue to bring - and explain - the new to Washington.
On the site of the former International Schol of Law, in a carriage house behind 1441 Rhode Island Ave. NW, a new gallery called Zenith has risen, and in terms of handsome gallery space, it promises much for the future. Its first show, however, is a crashing bore - paintings by several artists who are competent but have been little to say. The only exceptions are Ramon Santiago, who makes Europeanized Pop images, and Margery Goldberg, who makes sensuous wood sculptures that are sometimes art and sometimes constitute the underpinnings for coffee tables. Goldberg is part owner of the gallery.
More interesting than the moment are the studio spaces that adjoin it, now occupied by several craftsmen, mostly woodworkers and restorers. There are five more empty buildings nearby, which could also be developed into much needed studio space for Washington artists. It is a complex that could be turned into something important, and with luck and imagination, will be.
An event of major importance to collectors of early 20th-century American prints will occur today and Sunday when June 1 Gallery of Connecticut opens up its suitcase at the United Inn of America at 8130 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda, and produces a retrospective exhibition of prints by Martin Lewis (1881-1962). the incomparable etcher who captured the light and shadow of New Yord city in sun, snow and darkness.
Only recently re-discovered, Lewis' Print prices have already soared, so this is no paradise for bargain hunters. Bargains still can be found elsewhere in Bethesda, however where prints by George O. "Pop" Hart - still modestly priced - are being shown at the Bethesda Art Gallery, 7950 Norfolk Ave. Prints by Lewis are also-available here upon request.