At special times of day, or at special seasons, certain sorts of pictures seem to come alive.
Seascapes do so most at sunrise or atdusk. The still life that pays homage to plenitude and fruition seems reblessed each harvest time. Now, with twig tips pale green and daffodils exploding,is the time for landscapes. Is it winters's end, the brightening of sunlight, that liberates in all of us the upward glance? Is it just coincidence that landscapes of all sorts are everywhere on view in the galleries thisweek?
Generous Val Lewton, himself a landscape painter, organized "D.C. Landscapes: Washington Artists Look at Their City," the group show at the Studio Gallery, 802 F St. NW. The painters he has chosen are less wild than conservative and their pictures try to calm.
Most avoid the grandiose to portray the famaliar.Prentiss Taylor paints the morning mist that shrouds the Potomac. Lewton shows us gas stations, Mark Clark Victorian row houses. Arthur Hall Smith, in a pun on Piranesi, foresees the ruins of the "Buffalo Bridge" that crosses Rock Creek Park. The finest pictures manage to suggest the special washed-out whiteness of this city's light.
It sometimes seems pale the year round. In William C. Reynold's roof-scape, the light is winter-white. In John Robinson's fine picture of lilacs in the dooryard, one squints intothe brightness. Portraits have a friendliness -- they fill your house with guests. But landscapes of this sort instead punch windows through your wall.the show closes on April 26.
"D.C. Scapes," now at the Cramer Gallery, 2035 P St. NW, is a show far less successful. Its objects suggest Washington, but only at a distance. fIn contrast to the Studio show, this one seems to be full of affectations.
J. A. Sempliner, for instance, likes brush strokes that cast painted shadows -- that abstract illusionist cliche. His art is not subtle. In the black night sky above the Capitol's dome, he hangs three red cherries and then adds the legend "Cherry Blossom Time," in case the viewer did not get the point.
Two works in this group show seem stronger than the rest. One is Pat Autenrieth's portrait of the Connecticut Avenue storefronts at 17th Street NW. The other -- the work that steals the show -- is Nizette Breenan's model for a sculpture that belongs beside the knife-edged marble towers of the East Building of the National Gallery of Art. "Badlands -- Washington" by Roy F. Woelfer shows the Mall eroding and falling into dust, although the Air and Space Museum has managed to survive. His drawing is amusing, but no more than that. Most of the works in Cramer's show fail to do justice to the real town outside.The exhibition closes on April 26.
Richard Ziemann's etchings, on view at Jane Haslem's, 2121 P St. NW, are modest, inexpensive, honest, lovely and convincing. For more than 20 years, Ziemann has been studying the pastures and the woods, the ferns and trees and rock faces of his beloved Connecticut. In those two decades, a hundred different fashions have disturbed the art world, but they have not touched Ziemann's work at all. He looks, he loves, he prints. He shows us fields of flowers, maple leaves, cloud shadows on hillsides. He was trained by Gabor Petardi at Yale, andlike other Yalie artists -- Chuck Close, Peter Milton -- is now a firstrate etcher. His prices, nonetheless, are extremely low. Nice prints are on sale here for less than $60. His new enormous etchings cost $350. His show closes April 16.
Peter Fleps and Alice Aycock, the two good artists showing now at Protetch-McIntosh, 2151 P St. NW, straightforwardly portray the strange artifacts that may be discovered on thiscity's streets.
Fleps, a skillful carpenter, recreates in painted wood the fluted columns, pediments, triglyphs and pilasters that ornament our older buildings. Seen in isolation, hanging on the wall, these familiar adornments assume the somber, stately look of formal abstract sculpture.
Alice Aycock, meanwhile, displays her wholly unaffected drawnings -- the sections, plans and isometrics that she used in building "The Game of Flyers," the spare suggestive piece whose wheels, ropes and props, shallow graves and towers, may still be seen in three dimensions at 12th and G streets NW. Both shows close April 18.
Of all the landscape shows in town, perhaps the most impressive is that of Dan Kuhne currently on view at Rasmussen's, 313 G St. NW. Not so long ago, Kuhne was an abstract paintermuch moved by the examples of local color painters Morris Louis and Ken Noland. But Kuhne's imagery has changed now, he paints the Land.
There is within his pictures something driven and untamed.
The spring breeze that disturbs the curtains at his window turns the cloth to rays of sun that seem to twist and writhe. His trees have bark that is fiery orange. Their branches become figures -- bodies that appear to dance, heads that seem to kiss. Kuhne, who now dwells outside Annapolis beside the Magothy river, looks beyond his porch, past the water, past the trees, and paints the things before him as if he were somehow maddened by their beauties, tortured or bewitched. There is something of Van Gogh in the fire of his colors, and he sometimes resembles a calm Edvard Munch or an enraged Monet. His show closes April 26.