Feed a bright Jewish kid herring and potatoes and what do you get?
A Zen painter.
And what does he paint?
Daniel Brush, 32, now showing at Fendrick (3059 M St. NW) has been painting -- or rather drawing -- horizontal lines, non-stop, top to bottom, left to right, with draftsman's pen and rule, since shortly after his debut at the Phillips Collection in 1974. He began this series of compulsive linear meditations, which he calls "Kaold," in 1975, and Jane Livingston featured them in two shows at the Corcoran in 1976 and '77.
Two years ago Brush moved from Washington to a former sweatshop loft in New York, with needles and pins still embedded in the floor. "I became obsese with my family," says the ascetilc young artist, for whom it was a time of rediscovering family roots and bonds.
In the process, Brush also rediscovered the old recipes -- half German, half Yiddish -- of the grandmother who had helped bring him up. His parents translated the recipes and presented them to Brush and his wife. "They brought up memories so vivid we could taste them," recalls Brush.
And so, after a year's hiatus from work, Brush began making studies on paper ("Cantos," he calls them) for a new chapter in his "Kaold" series, this being No. 83, which he entitled, appropriately, "Herring and Potatoes." "I had the title in mind, and kept working on the Cantos to prepare myself," says Brush. "I remember when I got to Canto No. 44 I said to my wife, 'let's cut the canvas, I'm going to run it.'" $
It is as if Brush were some kind of machine constantly scanning his own feelings. The marks he makes, in fact, are not unlike those made by machines that monitor heartbeats.
There are several "Cantos" on paper and three large works on canvas in the Fendrick show, all brown or blue lines or combinations of the two. One area at the bottom of the large, blue "Potatoes" is very faint. "I passed right through me," says Brush. "In Zen they call it 'no-mind.'"
Though these works look much like those show at the Cororan, there are subtle differences, notably, they no longer cover the entire surface. "These are less compulsive," Brush admits. "Now I try to recall specific things in the past -- specific events, rather than simply documenting my current existence. I am more in control."
As for the resulting image, Brush explains, "I've been catalogued as a minimalist and a reductivist, but that has nothing to do with my art or me. I am dealing with a moment that passes through my mind. I don't want these painting read as traditional works."
But where does that leave the viewer? The image, after all, is all we see, and the more traditionally balanced images are more likely to be satisfying to look at. "If they are balanced, it's because I was clear at the moment I made it."
For this viewer, Brush was at his clearest and best in Canto No. 5, though there is a great intensity in all of his work which is much harder to describe than it is to see and feel.
The show continues through November 3.
James Sunddquist, wel-known for his sharply angled lithographs of Washington architecture,is havein a show of collages at Cramer Gallery, 2035 P St. NW. It reveals both formal and lyrical strengths which had not shown up before.
Following a trip to Japan two years ago, Sundquist began using the transparent papers and printed images -- sometimes advertising sometimes wrappings -- that he brought back. In several collages on view here, he has sensitivley combined them with wholly different American magazine and newspaper ads, even pages from the want-ads, which he transformed into beautiful patterns by using them on the diagonal.
These are not the usual visual puns, and the subject matter is only a jumping-off point for highly formal arrangements that work both as flat, often incongruously melding surfaces (like a bird dissolving into the pattern of a comic strip) and as overlays implying depth.
At their best, these are highly evocative works, as in "Dovetail," and "Finale," the last in the series, which combines Christmas wrapping, a Brentano's bag, an old bit of quilt and an envelope from Harry Lunn to make a real visual event.
Surrealist James Bumgardner is back at Gallery K, 2032 P St. NW, with more visual conundrums, At first these paintings appear to be quiet, interior secens -- always with a view out of a window or door into a green landscape. But it gradually becomes clear that something is wrong -- in fact everything is wrong -- the perspective, the shadows, the unnatural quiet, not to mention the flying dogs and the birds inside the room.
But these paintings are far less threatening and claustrophobic than those in Bumgardner's last show, when the rooms were enclosed by the sea, with no means of escape. Also, ther is reassuring evidence of human presence here for the first time, though the suitcases imply someone just arriving or just about to depart. Bumgardner is an interesting painter, more subtle and thought-provoking than most contemporay surrealists, who tend to depend too much on razzle-dazzle. Through Nov 3.
Sculptor Robert Fergerson's new work at Gallery 10, 1519 Conn. Ave. NW, is elegant in both form and execution. Made of silvery, pastel-colored Fiberglass, these pedestal-size abstracts are made of modular curved forms repeated, and sometimes reversed, within the same piece. They are sensuous but decorative, and yearn for an architectural setting. Ends today.
On view at the Foundry Gallery, 2121 P St. NW, are several recent collages by Lou Jones, all made from overlays of Japanese papers and paint. Some are folded, and in "Fold Gray" the wrinkles are poetic. In the disturbed, glued surfaces of many others, however, there is more muddle than magic. Through Nov. 3.