The Art Dealers Association of America came down hard last week on the proliferating business in reproductions, and with good reason. Among those under attack was Nelson Rockefeller, who is marketing color photographs of big name paintings and casts of sculptures from his private collection.
Given the cost of these copies-now selling for between $65 and $7,500 at Neiman-Marcus-wouldn't an original work of art be better for giving (or getting) this holiday?
A swing around area galleries, many of them off the beaten path, reveals an array of drawings, small paintings, sculpture, prints and photographs well within the reproductions price range, and usually under $200.
One of the freshest, most amusing shows in town at the moment is at Govinda Gallery in Georgetown, 1227 34th St. NW, where Pratt Institute lithographer Michael Knigin is showing paintings and recent prints in which startling juxtaposition is the chief device.
While early works, like Roy Rogers and Trigger romping near the East Side Highway, are a bit too obvious, the recent hand-painted lithographs entitled "japanese Suite" and "osaka Series" are utterly captivating. Here Knigin takes passages from famous Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock prints and super-imposes them over photo-images of the present-day New York skyline. With provocative effect, a Hokusai wave moves up the East River past the U.N. Elsewhere, a Hiroshige bridge confronts a photo image of the Brooklyn Bridge.
There are also some large and often bizarre paints which seek to make environmental statements, but the latest and most subtle "classic Heiress" is the best.
Incidentally, Govinda is showing the Knigin prints in beautifully designed natural wood frames with rounded corners, a refreshing change from the harsh metal and lucite look.Through December.
A mechanically inclined friend would not doubt love something from "art and Technology," the show now at Gallery K, 2032 P St., which includes four artists who fiddle with electricity, polarized light, fibreoptics and solar cells. The artists are Adam Peiperl, Lolo Sarnoff and Gene Young from Washington and, best of all, Allan Erdmann of North Carolina. Much of the rest falls into the expensive executive toy category, but toys can be fun, especially for Christmas.
Erdmann makes no-plug, solar-powered music boxes which have more to offer the ears than the eyes (all plexi and wires), but in his case that's enough. "sun Sound Side by Side," for example, makes beautiful space-age music, while "a Tells B Silently" has two machines talking, moaning and arguing with each other.
Adam Peiperl's glass globes filled with irridescent floating plastic forms, continue to be soothing and hypnotic, the perfect gift for a friend who can't relax. Through December.
It isn't necessary to travel far from home to find a good group show of moderately priced work; they are everywhere, from the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria to the offices of Government Services Savings and Loan at White Flint Mall, where 12 Washington artists, including John Grazier, Michael Hunter, Rockne Krebs, Kevin MacDonald and Joe Shannon, are showing drawings.
At Duke Ellington School of the Arts at 35th and R Sts. NW, a visual arts faculty show includes paintings and photographs, as well as ceramics by talented Martha Jackson. (Mondays through Fridays only.) And the Washington Women's Arts Center, 1821 Q St. NW, is featuring a large selection of "art for Gift's Sake."
But of all the group shows scanned this week, Plum Gallery, 3762 Howard Ave. in Kensington, has one of the best, with prices ranging from $45 for a tiny early Jonathan Meader print, to $300 for a fine small bronze by William Calfee.
Meader is also showing some endearing new drawings and prints, ever more subtle and profound, along with new color Xerox works by Stephanie Weber, poetic drawings in ink and epoxy by Frank Bunts (representing his best work to date), and works on paper by Luciano Penay, Minnie Klavans and Janet Wheeler. Fern Guthman is showing some wonderful expressionist paintings, and Roderick Slater, collages made with foreign stamps. If you don't see something you like, ask to see more in the drawers.
Foundry Gallery, 2121 P St. NW., is showing several small works on paper and photographs by gallery artists, most of them priced under $100. Alice Krait, artist-Fellow at the National Collection of Fine Arts, has painted on old visiting cards to nice effect, while photographers Margot Kernan and Joyce Cohen are showing good current work. Silvery collages by Lou Jones, Marie Ringwald's plug-in drawing. "christmas in the Bronx," and Terry Braunstein's wonderful most recent book are other highlights.
In the Annual Bader Christmas Show, 2124 Pennsylvania Ave., Hiratsuka, Bride Lazzarino and Dora Lee deal variously with views of Washington, while Mark Leithauser offers his newest etching-always an event worth noting. Naul Ojeda again provides the biggest buy in town with his strong, and very inexpensive woodcuts, while collages by Dale Loy and fanciful sculptures by Berthold and Slaithong Schmutzhart add other dimensions.
Studio Gallery at 801 F St. has a whimisical watercolor of "pawley Island" by Avis Fleming which could warm the heart of just about anyone on Christmas morning, while Pat Barron's "press Conference" could be the perfect gift for any friend who bears the burden of dealing with the press. An amusing "rhino" after Durer by Linda Thern-Smith, a Val Lewton watercolor and a small landscape by Rose Goding all make a stop at Studio worthwhile.
Chanukah and Christmas fall on the same day this year, and two good Israeli shows have turned up here this month. What is surprising is how good they are. After decades of warmed-over, Paris-inspired religious art and scenes of old Jaffa, Israeli art has now grown, developed new forms and entered the mainstream of world art today, and the avant-garde mainstream at that.
The sleeper of the month is a show called "printmaking in Israel Today," now at the Goldman Gallery of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington, 6125 Montrose Rd., Rockville.
Included are lithographs, etchings and silkscreens by 13 artists selected by Yona Fisher, contemporary curator of the Israel Museum and prime mover in the mid-'70s establishment of new "think-tank" print centers both at the Israel Museum and in the Jerusalem Print Workshop. The results are fresh, handsome and sophisticated prints which imaginatively exploit the media in which they are made. They would stand up beside other abstract, conceptual work by American artists at either Fendrick or Protetch/McIntosh. Pinchas Cohen-Gan, who, in fact shows at Protech McIntosh, is represented by three fine and inexpensive works. Also included are artists Larry Abramson, Moshe Kupferman and Joshua Neustein, about whom we will no doubt hear more, as well as Agam, about whom we have already heard quite enough.
Though born in Philadelphia, Hava Mehutan has lived in Beersheba, Israel since 1946, where she has completed several major public sculpture commissions. Her sensuous abstract sculpture in teak and marble are currently on view at Jack Rasmussen, 313 G St. NW. Entitled "landscapes of the Negev," they conjure up through curving abstract forms, precisely that, the undulating dunes and endlessly varied, shifting landscape of the desert. Her silkscreens and collages, while in the same mood, are less satisfying.
Rasmussen is also showing wall-hung pieces by Ruby Grady of Washington. All made from chrome foil singed at the edges and wrapped around a backing, these flimsily constructed pieces look lik exotic packages from Neiman-Marcus-the kind you have to pay extra for. If you're looking for something inexpensive, take a look in the back room which has several low-priced items by gallery artists.
Another most delectable segment of the art market here is devoted to early 20th-century American prints, and it wouldn't be Christmas without a stop at many a print collector's favorite spot, the Bethesda Art Gallery, 7950 Norfolk Ave.
Each year, though prices climb and material gets scarcer, proprietor Betty Duffy manages to get together a selection of prints in the $25 to $500 range, with most under $100. Miraculously, she's done it again this year, and has on view striking scenes of New York in the '20s and '30s by Douglas Gorsline and Samuel Chamberlain and a tiny, moody woodcut by Lynd Ward called "under the El," which costs only $20. Always among the favorites, and increasing in popularity as the supply diminishes, are the wonderful lithographs and wood engravings by Howard Cook, whose work epitomized the urban optimism of the period. Mabel Dwight's popular "book Auction" is still available at $135.
If even downtown Bethesda is too much of a hassle, consider buying a photograph from a private dealer.
Kathleen Ewing in Northwest Washington (call 244-4696 for an appointment) usually specializes in new contemporary photographers, but for the holidays has assembled several inexpensive vintage photographs for beginning collectors culled from English and Scottish antique shops. Included are century-old Albumen, platinum and silver prints, most of them showing the mountains of Switzerland ( $30 each), and the cathedrals of England, including a 1902 photogravure of Westminster Abbey ( $25). Topping them all is a tiny locket with 12 albumen prints inside, including images of Queen Victoria ( $75).
Ewing is also showing contemporary landscape photographs by William Clift (shades of Ansel Adams), Mark Power, Joel Fried, Joe Cameron and Steve Szabo. Don't fail to see David Gengler's romantic beach scenes at $75, as well as the handtinted photographs of Christopher James, who was included in the "mirrors and Windows" show at the Museum of Modern Art.
Another good private photography dealer is Sandra Berler, who handles several photographers of international reputation, including Mexican old master Manuel Alvarez Bravo (who showed recently at the Corcoran). Americans Robert Frank, Bruce Davidson and Inge Morath, and the poet of the color photograph, Joel Meyerowitz, who stole the "mirrors and Windows" show at MOMA. Call 656-8144 for an appointment.
Apart from the other regular photography dealers, Harry Lunn, Sander Gallery, Intuitiveye and Photo Graphics, photographs by contemporaries are turning up all over town, and "new Washington Photography" at WPA, 1227 G St. NW, features seven new talents, including Lyn Allen, Frank Lavelle, Maxwell MacKenzie, Chip Simone, Claudia Smigrod, Shirley True and Ann Zelle.
And if you like really digging for it, the "y'All Come" show organized by Walter Hopps at the Museum of Temporary Art, across the street from WPA, has several interesting photographs, as well as other works on papers.
Most are for sale.
Other items, noted in brief around town, include:
Paintings by Byron Goto of Hawaii at the Washington World Gallery, 3065 M St. While there, see Mary Jane Overall's fabulous woven tent.
After all of this, if you still can't find what you want, call up your favorite artist and buy that piece you've yearned for, but never had the courage to buy.No matter what it costs, it will be a better buy than a color photograph of something Nelson Rockefeller had all the fun of buying.