If the "American Light" show at the National Gallery whetted a thirst for 19th-century American art that zooming prices have rendered unquenchable, take heart. "Works on Paper, from Thomas Cole to Andrew Wyeth," just opened at Adams Davidson Gallery, 3233 P St., NW, could provide the serious collector with some relief. For the less acquisitive, there is the purer pleasure of just looking.
The 64 watercolors and preparatory and finished drawings, assembled from all over the country by gallery owner Ted Cooper, aren't cheap. They range from a pencil drawing of a young girl by the little-known George Smillie ($450) to a pricey John Marin landscape ($42,500) and a Winslow Homer watercolor of a fish ($48,000).
But there are little gems in between, such as luminist John F. Kensett's drawing "Steamship by the Shore" ($950) and an irresistible sheet of three sketches by the late Hudson River painter T. Addison Richards ($1,400), both worth shaking out the cookie jar for.
And there is more in this rare gathering of museum-quality merchandise, including two Bierstadt "Butterflies" of the Rorschach-type he made to amuse visitors; and John Haberle's pencil drawing of an artist in a sketch class, inscribed 1884. Both catch the artists at their ease, an alluring aspect that only drawings can offer. Famed Harper's Weekly illustrator Arthur B. Frost is represented by an amusing gouache showing some boys ready to sneak in under the circus tent. N.C. Wyeth has all the stops out in his huge charcoal study "Crusaders before Jerusalem."
Upstairs there is more recent work, including a very boring Andrew Wyeth watercolor ($44,000) and several of his sketches for Christina Olson (not for sale). A fine Childe Hassam pencil drawing, "Skimhampton Road," seems fairly priced ($4,800) as do some Prendergast-like beach scenes in pencil by someone called William S. Horton ($1,100). Prendergast himself, along with William Glackens, George Luks and Everett Shinn, bring the show up to the mid-20th century. It concludes with a portrait of Andy Warhol by James Wyeth, an uneven artist, but considerably more interesting here than are many of the portraits Warhol has been grinding out of late.
The show continues through June 3.
The angry feminist art of the '70s seems to have given way to a gentler view of the world. That, at least, is the message that seems to be emerging from several unself-conscious, domestically oriented shows of women's art now on view.
"domestic Disorder," for example, the theme of a new photo show by "Zinnia" at Touchstone Gallery, 2130 P St. NW, happily monumentalizes the mess that this young photographer (and many of the rest of us) lives in -- the jampacked closets, the disheveled living room, the egg-caked dishes in the sink.
But these photographs romanticize, never reprimand, and even the most nagging of husbands is bound to be warmed by the scene of a rumpled double bed strewn with Sunday papers, all redolent of a happy, relaxed day in progress. The message here would seem to be "Don't hate your mess, savor it." That's what I call true liberation. The show continues through May 11.
"Photographs" at the Washington Women's Art Center, 1821 Q St. NW, reaffirms this intimist tendency among area women photographers, along with the tenderness of vision that seems to characterize most of the work on view. In a high-quality selection made by Corcoran instructor Mike Mitchell, 10 artists here openly address the home environment emptied of other people -- quiet interiors, a stack of telephone books, abstract color compositions on a back-aley fence. "I've lived my own environment very intensely," says Zinnia, who is also included in this group show. So, obviously, have many of the others.
Margaret Kauders, a young Corcoran Art School graduate, is a standout here, with delicate yet strong abstract compositions distilled from highly textured bits of architecture.The play of light and shadow is the chief subject matter of Joy Florentz and Carol Samour, both seemingly influenced by Margot Kernan, while Krystyna Edmondson and Mansoora Hassan pursue the beauty they find hidden in visual chaos. The portraits by Zinnia on view here, all involving friends ensconced in outdoor settings rigged to express her fantasies about them, seem a bit too contrived. The show ends May 10.
At Foundry Gallery, 2121 P St. NW, Virginia Nolan Jannotta is showing small oils, quiet still-stiff-life paintings that focus, again, on the paraphernalia of domestic life; Jannotta, however, is currently involved soley with painting white-on-white -- while porcelain bowls against a white background, or a cake of Ivory soap on a white dish.
What Jannotta is exploring here is variation in surface texture, and she attempts a broad range. If the eggs don't seem quite right, the new cake of soap is rendered with a delicious smoothness that makes her own sensuous pleasure in its surface available to all.
Judy Bass, who will solo at the Phillips Collection in October, is also featured at Foundry, with mixed media abstracts on paper that suggests a strong, intelligent artist developing at full tilt. Bass has chosen a difficult route -- expressive abstraction of the Diebenkorn variety, often involving collage. If this show might have been more selective, its high points confirm the faith that Walter Hopps expressed by including her in "Emerging Artists" at WPA last fall. Bass, who currently teaches at Mount Vernon college, is already included in the permanent collection at the Phillips.
The strongest work in this show is in the smaller gallery, a series that began with an abstract lithograph and was expanded, with variations, by the addition of color Xeroxed collage elements and hand-coloring. This suite grew from two small collages made in San Francisco in 1977, and reveal her to be a master collagist. The Foundry shows continue through May 3.