The night time streetscapes of Mark Clark now at Middendorf/Lane, 2009 Columbia Rd. NW, are both fresh and flawed. In certain pictures here, whole passages are botched. There is a man in one of them who seems to lack a shoulder; in another, an umbrella looks like half of a squashed grapefuit. Were they lesser paintings, they would not survive such episodes of awkwardness.
We have seen urban neon, tall lights and street lamps, shining cars and shop-window reflections many times before. But affection warms these pictures. What is special is their mood.
If you have ever wandered this city's streets at night, you may have paused to look at the buildings Clark portrays, the Little Tavern (the one on Wisconsin Avenue where they sell the flowers), or the Washington Playhouse (where they show the skinflicks), or the Cafedon (the Columbia Road tavern also known as Cafedog). These are peaceful paintings. Clark's night does not threaten: No muggers haunt his shadows; his streets aren't mean or lonely. His light is somehow kind.
Though he works from photographs, his pictures easily avoid the flaccid shininess of most photo-realist streetscapes. His street scenes do not have the ominous simplicity that one finds in Edward Hopper's.The white glares of Clark's street lamps wear halos of bright red or blue. These paintings glow with kindness. This is a pleasing show. It closes March 23.
Washington's Val Lewton, who also works from photographs, and paints this city's streets, is a very different sort of painter. In his current exhibition at the Studio Gallery, 802 F St. NW, are many views of downtown H Street, its gas stations and street signs, its skyline and its cars.
Lewton is accurate and careful. The sunlight in his watercolors is so bright you want to squint. When he portrays H Street, he gets its likeness down. What he misses is its soul.
There are no people in his city. His are paintings without effect. His brushwork is not mechanical, what is mechanical is his eye. His art is somehow chilled. His show at the Studio will close March 29.
The Jack Rasmussen Gallery, 313 G Street NW, is showing the luminous and cracking abstract paintings of Tom Green. Though he dips his brush in color now, his 7-foot wide pictures are not painted, they are drawn.
These active, hint-filled pictures with their squiggles and zigzags, dots and straight lines, look like wiring diagrams for some 23rd-century toy; like jungle gyms for germs or, perhaps, like the maps for subways in Never Never Land. Their spaces close, then open, their symmetries consort, then clash. These works are original. Green's show closes March 29.
Though some dismiss the photographs of John Gossage as emotionless and cluttered, I find them terrific. His new pictures now at Harry Lunn's, 3243 P St. NW, are subtle, rigorous and sometimes very funny. He is not an artist who confesses deepest feelings or tries to shock. The bland things that he shows us -- hedges, houses, plants and fence posts -- are not themselves amazing. His portraits used to call to mind those of Diane Arbus. Now his pictures summon the ghosts of Atget and of Evans. He seems at least to me the best formalist photographer in town.
Watch how he works symmetries, how he leads the eye from foreground into background, how he plays the strict against the organic, the shadow against sunlight, the straight line against curves. His images are dense, highly sophisticated, eventually surprising. My favorite here is a Seattle hillside seen through a screen of blooms and leaves. His exhibition closes on March 22.