Peter DeAnna's oils at the Studio Gallery, 2014 P St. NW, are simple, calm, a little rough, and almost daringly old-fashioned.
He made the oldest picture in his show, a still life of a lemon, a knife, two fish, a basket, in 1943. It must have looked a bit dated even then. His newest picture, a self-portrait, was done earlier this year. Art's many revolutions have not touched him at all. He says he feels "a greater affinity for such painters as Chardin, Corot, Homer" than for his contemporaries. It shows.
His portraits, landscapes and still lifes, with their formal compositions and anachronistic subjects, might seem academic, but the academy that they evoke dissolved decades ago. DeAnna's peculiar blend of affirmation and refusal today seems almost new.
His is quite capable of painting with delicate precision (as the open window of "Julie's Cottage"), but he rarely tries. He seems, instead, to prefer the intentionally rough-hewn. His bottles look like columns. The little girl in "Contadini" has a face that is a mask.
His brushwork is not smooth, but his roughness is no flaw. It gives to his paintings a kind of pleasing weight. DeAnna is no master, but he is an honest painter. He likes to quote Corot: "Follow only what you understand and can unite in your own feeling. Be firm, be meek, but follow your own convictions." DeAnna, from the start, has followed that advice. His show closes April 14.
Kevin MacDonald, whose new color pencil drawings are now at Harry Lunn's, 3243 P. St. NW, is an improving artist whose soft and haunted pictures are surely of our time. They represent the real-a closet or a storefront, a landscape, a front porch-but they also acknowledge the rigid grids and open fields of recent abstract art.
In almost all his drawings one sees the almost-empty: a wall with nothing on it, a flat and weedless lawn, a pool still as a mirror that reflects a cloudless sky. The rectangles he sends marching through his pictures recall the grids of Agnes Martin even as they represent tabletops and window frames and the ordered tiles of a bathroom wall.
MacDonald shows us both organic and amorphous forms-trees that look like blobs, flowers there are formless, strict, precise geometries, ruled lines, circles and squares. It is what one sees between these poles, the look of colored light on uninflected surfaces, that is the subject of his art.
MacDonald is not yet a good figure painter, but he is on his way. Unexpected viewpoints, odd croppings and strange angles led a mood of mystery to his spooky, subtle drawings. They will remain at Lunn's through April 24.
Few galleries in town have a personality as distinct as that of Gallery K, 2032 P. St. NW. Most of the pictures shown there are eerie, wacky and a little bit outrageous. The group show on display there now does not break with precedent. Its images evoke giggles, shivers, or both, but the five artists are so skillful, and draw with such control, that together they present one of the most impressive exhibitions of new local art seen here in some time.
Washington's Fred Folsom screams in his self-portrait. He also shows us junkies, assassins, seedy rooms, and a nude about to beat her grandma with a club. The thoughts he thinks aren't sweet, but how sweetly Folsom draws. The images of Alan Sonneman are a bit more pacific-clouds scud in night sky, a young girl lies asleep-but his images are haunted, too. Why is that trout among the clouds? Why do his windows and his mirrors reflect the sky outside and not the inside of the room?
Jody Mussoff's figure drawings are as frenetic and ferocious as the songs of the New Wave. Her subjects, with their red-blue wild hair, pound us with the stares of their open zombie eyes. Despite the tales Folsom tells, her portraits are the most gripping drawings in the show.
Thomas Schiefelbein of Charlottesville blends not-so-fine representational drawing with abstract art's conventions. In his target drawing, one ring shows dry wood twigs, the next a kitchen drawer full of rolling pins, graters, fondue forks and other kitchen tools. His images seem forced.
Those of Anders Shafer are, in contrast, wacky.In one, an act of homage to the English artist Hogarth, a monkey with a monocle is reading a description of Shafer's Hogarth drawing. That gives the idea. The comic relief that Shafer offers finishes this fine, disturbing show quite nicely.
It closes April 30.
Maxine R. Cable and Margaret H. Kressley went together on a tour of Egypt in 1978. That trip, or the Tut show, seems to have inspired their joint exhibition at Gallery 10, 1519 Connecticut Ave. NW.
Isis, Horus, Thoth, Shu, Nut, Ramses, and may lotus blossoms march stiffly on the walls. Most of Cable's works are prints. Kressley shows us collage drawings as well as hard-edge color paintings inspired by temple gates. The images they show us, and the materials they employ-acrylic fields, sheets of Plexiglas, string, pushpins, torn paper-seem somehow out of sync. Their show suggests a clash between the Potomac and the Nile, Cairo and .C.
It closes April 28.