There is something holier-than-thou about the white-on-white paintings of Anne Truitt now hanging at Osuna's, 212 P. St NW.
These pictures are so quiet, so stringent in their reticence, that they make the world seem noisy. Their imagery is so subtle, and their bright whites are so bright, that they manage to embarrass the walls on which they hang. There is a sense in which these paintings work as psychic mirrors. The more saintly sort of viewer - who explores them calmly, delighting in their light effects, their brushstrokes and their purities - will find these works enlightening. Sinners, on the other hand - who choose not to be reminded of the coarseness of their eyes - may regard them as annoying. It depends on your mood.
Truitt's abstract paintings, whether free-standing or wall-hung, often in the past seemed fragile, lovely and admirably polite. Ignoring them was easy. They were softly colored, gracious, responsive to the light.The white "Arundel" paintings on view at Osuna's seem, in contrast, almost strident. They remind me of the arguer who, instead of yelling, speaks in a low whisper so his opponents are forced to shut up.
These pictures do have beauty. One sees it in the way Truitt shifts her brushstrokes so that her white paint seems sometimes matte and sometimes glossy; there is something close to mastery in the way she orchestrates the "flaws" and threads of her rough canvas, and in the way she lays in a pencil line just so. This show does have its virtues: It is both tough and ethereal. What bothers me about it is its dependence on the chic.
Some paintings here are square: others are slim verticals. Their surfaces are open, full of small surprises, glowing light and air, but I do not trust the freedom that they seem to hymn.
There is something unforgiving, an adherence to high fashion, in the way these paintings have been placed on the wall. Separate these pictures, move them a few inches, or take off their gilded frames, and they will start to fall apart. They seem to invite the viewer's contemplation. Instead, they intimidate with empty Good Design. Truitt's show closes June 9.
Enid Sanford's flashy paintings, now at Protetch-McIntosh, 2151 P St. NW, call to mind deco movie palaces, champagne, and saxophone-accoompanied Hollywood romance. Their titles - "You and the Night and the Music," "Ida Lupino," "Ashley," "My Old Flame" - match their colors (silver, onyx, gold). Sanford used to force us to consider the technologies with which she made her pictures. Here, instead, she hints at skyscrapers, satin, and flirtatious folding fans. Her colors are her own. Her paintings are not heavy, they are full of fun.
Patrick Craig's abstractions on display upstairs are equally high-spirited. Around his central images (a knee? a bull? an arrow?), little colored brushstrokes - they look like eyelashes or squiggles - swarm and dart and play like a moth around a flame. Both shows close June 9.
Hannah Wilke's show at the WPA, 122 G St NW, is an exhibition of exhibitionism. In her self-portrait photographs she stripteases, she flirts, she threatens (she is sometimes armed), she strokes herself and pouts. She calls one work on view "Hannah Wilke: Super-t-art." She thinks of her body as a sculpture. Sure. Those who like to look a handsome naked ladies will enjoy her show. It is cheaper than a skin flick. It is also less erotic, and it does not move.
The photographers - Donna-Lee Phillips and Hal Fischer - exhibiting upstairs also show us pictures that chant Me, Me, Me! Fischer shows us his gay lovers and the coded uniforms they wear. Phillips' piece is called "I am 36 Exposures." She invited 36 of her friends to take pictures of her, and they did just that.
Also at the WPA are the "Neo-Iconographies" of Tsing-fang Chen, who borrows images from Goya, Picasso, Van der Weyden, Braque, Caravaggio, Matisse, and other masters, and then combines them in his touching, rather clunky, perhaps unintentionally witty paintings, as if to tell the viewer, "Look what company I keep." Few galleries in town have ever shown the public more self-indulgent shows. They close May 26.
Long-forgotten Edgar Nye has been rediscovered. The exhibit at Adams Davidson marks the 100th anniversary of the local painter's birth. Nye looked at Cezanne's watercolors, at Picasso's early landscapes, at the American Scene paintings, and at Rock Creek Park-and then paid homage to his sources in his unpretentious, low-keyed pictures. He was only slightly tempted by the moderns. Much as he admired, say, Cezanne and Picasso, he would not put on airs. He painted gas stations, working men, country towns and trees, as if intent on sharing in his softly colored pictures the pleasure he felt in the pleasing things he saw. His show closes on June 23.
The "drape paintings" at Henri's, 21st and P Streets NW, by Chicago's Alan Neider do not look like Sam Gilliams's; they instead resemble the drapes one sees hanging in suburban picture windows or in the furnishings departments of Ward's or Sears. The funkier Chicago painters have long had a fondness for linoleum, formica and other residential decorations. Neider plays with tie-backs, swags and valances as happily as he explores bilious colors, symmetry, and splashed and dribbled paint. His exhibition seems designed to evoke both groans and grins. It closes on June 9. CAPTION: Illustration, Detail of Edgar Nye's "Spring Brook"