Many flaming DC-10s go down in the punk art show at d.c. space. Some splat into birthday cakes covered with brown fuzz. Waitresses serve chili, vacuum cleaners howl.
They want to call it New Wave now, but New Wave is too French, too wet.
Punk is still the better work. Punk is chopped. It clangs.
"Up From Punk: New Wave Washington" -- a noisy show of prints, photographs, paintings and sculpture -- is in a noisy restaurant at 7th and E streets NW. The people in Lucian Perkins' photographs listen to the music of the Insect Surfers, the Bad Brains, the Bad Seeds, Four Out of Five Doctors and other local bands. Decadents and dandies, they wear dog collars and spit curls, chains and homemade greatcoats. Some would scare your mother with their jagged haircuts, jagged faces, jagged brains.
You have to like the ugly, the scary and the stupid just a little bit to like punk art a lot.
Punk art may be many things -- anarchic, aggressive, juvenile, jarring. But it isn't wavy, and it isn't new.
Is has been some years since Alice Denney organized Washington's first punk show at the WPA. The new Red Gallery, 1726 Wisconsin Ave. NW, now specializes in the stuff. MOTA, Madam's Organ and Hardart all have offered punk art and punk music at one time or another.
It is nice to think that rockers here share their lives with pictures -- that there is, at last, some sort of music scene stewing in this city in which art plays a part. But the art itself is second-rate, less fresh than famililar. Unconscious of its precedents, it does not look new.
If you took away all its Dada whimsy German expressionist jaggedness, abstract expressionist messiness, black humor and fauve color, there wouldn't be much left.
Consider, for example, Christophe Ascher's great gray greatcoat. It appears thrice in the show at d.c. space: once, worn by its maker, in a photograph by Perkins; then in a drawing by Anne Doran; and finally, in splendor, hanging on the wall. It would seem more original if the giant handmade garments of Oldenburg and Duchamp, and the bathrobes of Jim Dine, had not been seen before.
"I like Perkins' pictures and the toy soldiers in Jim Duckworth's battles, the drawings of Doran and those of Jody Mussoff, but the exhibition as a whole reaches for intensity it does not attain.
The group show at the Red Gallery is similarly mixed. By far its finest paintings are those by Stuart Schmalbach. Their brushstokes slash; their colors jar. They sometimes include rabbits. The show suggests a mood of anger -- a mood that its total lack of wall labels and dates does much to enhance.
This art is thin and playful. Its freshness is as frail as that of fashion. Artists who ignore the past nonetheless repeat it. Carol Blizard wrote the catalog for the show at d.c. space, which runs through April 19.
Westerners who hold that only Socialist realist pap, and no art of high distinction, can be made these days behind the Iron Curtain should see the work of Stanislav Kolibal now on view at Henri's, 21st and P streets NW. Half painting and half sculpture, half rigorous and half free, these hanging compositions of string and wood are sophisticated and subtle. All were made in Prague. Kolibal somehow wrenches ambiguities from the simplest of forms -- cones and cubes and spheres whose statements contradict themselves, whose orders are all broken. He would seem wholly up-to-date were he working in New York. This is an impressive show of new and serious art. It closes Friday.
Stare hard at your TV screen and you can see its images break up into dots and moving lines. The opposite takes place in Bernard Martin's paintings now at Gallery K, 2032 P St. NW. Martin paints interiors full of solid and familiar things -- a telephone, a table, a pot of geraniums, and in each work a small TV set. Then he has everything dissolve before the far more solid images that show up on the screen of that TV. He mostly watches westerns, the old ones made in black and white, "Stagecoach" and "High Noon" and, of course, "Red River," the best western of all.
When he paints a hitching post, John Wayne or Gary Cooper, he does so in subtle, shaded tones of gray. When he paints the furniture that fills his interiors, he does so with bright, uninflected colors kept from one another by wiggly black lines. When looked at out of the corner of the eye, the light and colors seem right. But looked at directly, these things all fall apart. Martin's work is worst when he attempts to paint the figure. His women look like multicolored maps on which dark worms crawl. His show closes April 5.
Photographer Joel Breger, whose portraits are on view at the Georgetown Art Gallery, 2611 P St. NW., spends most of his time taking photographs of paintings for Washington museums, artists and collectors. He says he's not an artist, but a craftsman, a mechanic. Those who see his show will not dispute his judgment.
The artists he portrays pose most often with their paintings. Gene Davis (white bald head, black suit) admires one of his own black and white stripe paintings. Sam Gilliam is seen in his color-splattered boots. Robin Rose (who incidentally performs with the Urban Verbs) stands before one of his sublte paintings (It is not punk at all). Manon Cleary poses with three of her self-portraits. Kevin MacDonald stands beside a daylit wall of the sort he draws. We also see Joe Shannon standing in his studio, and Jennie Lea Knight accompanied by her pet chicken. Breger's photographs are all in focus. Most are unaffected, unsurprising and affectionate. The fun of his show is the fun of a reunion. It closes April 19.