"I've dreamed of having a real bus at my opening," says John Grazier, whose drawings of buses and other fascinations went on view last week at the Lunn Gallery, 3243 P St. NW, in Georgetown. After the opening, dealer Lunn Fulfilled the artist's dream and took him for a ride around the block on a Metrobus rented for the occasion. "The bus driver couldn't believe that anyone would make drawings of old buses, says Grazier.
This 34-year-old artists's career has been unusual from the start, and began, for all practical purposes, the day he walked into the Fendrick Gallery with some drawings and without enough money to buy either paper, pencils or a place to live. Barbara Fendrick made him a small advance and set out to promote and sell his work. By 1978, with her help, Grazier had not only a one-person show at Fendrick but another at the Baltimore Museum of Art, and was included in the Davidson Print and Drawing Competition and in the permanent collections of the National Collection of Fine Arts and the Library of Congress. "Barbara did wonderful things for me," says Grazier.
But war is war, and last year Harry Lunn offered Grazier a deal he couldn't turn down. Lunn deals only a few "new talents," but he is one of few in the business -- and probably the only one in Washington -- who can afford to put these artists on a monthly stipend. Grazier took the offer, and the current show is his first at Lunn.
The faith of both dealers was obviously well-founded, and though Grazier is still developing and refining his style there are some top-notch works. The artists has always had a strange angle on things, and this show begins with his typical, sharply angled views of Victorian architecture that become more and more exaggerated as he plays around with perspective, first implying depth, then denying it. Sometime there' too much distortion, and too little overall unity. The early bus drawings, though amusing as subject matter, sometimes get bent too far out of shape to no larger purpose.
But as the cycle of 13 drawings develops, Grazier begins to combine angled architecture and buses, adding the use of multiple reflections in glass and ultimately combining all three motifs into compositions that read as complex surface patterns as well as mere subject matter.
In one of the best of these works, "End of the Line," Grazier begins to move beyond visual reality into images that verge on the surreal. "Empty Vessels," the most recent drawing, has become explicitly surreal. For in this silent, unpeopled interior with empty coffee cups, overlooking a parking lot full of buses, clearly something has transpired, but we don't know what. In developing this narrative aspect, Grazier has added to the tension and, ultimately, the mood of emptiness and loneliness says he seeks to express. It's one of his best works to date.
Grazier's technique -- mere graphite pencil on paper -- cannot go unheralded. He starts with an overall design in his head, draws in the basic lines with a ruler and the fills in the images with free-hand cross-hatching that retains the integrity of each line. It is yet another aspect that adds fascination to work that keeps getting better. The show continues through May 31.
Print collectors will be happy to know -- if they don't already -- that there's a new print source in Georgetown called Atlantic Gallery Graphics, located on the towpath at 1058 Thos. Jefferson St. NW. The stock is mixed and includes reproductions of old prints, along with some purely decorative contemporary work. But there are enough 19th- and early 20th-century etchings -- mostly by English artists, but also by some French and Americans -- to make a visit worthwhile.
The penchant for maritime subjects that dominates the taste of the parent Atlantic Gallery (across the street in the Foundry Buildings) spills over here as well, and people who love boats and the sea -- and also good art -- may well be able to satisfy themselves here for as little as $15, which will buy a nice little early-20th-century etching by English artist Nelson Dawson.
There are also some drypoints of London and New York by a certain William Walcot, architectural etchings by D. Y. Cameron and more marine subjects by Arthur Brixcoe and W. L. Wyllie. Daumier lithographs (from "Charivari"), portraits by Anders Zorn and a few scattered examples of Americans Joseph Pennell, Whistler and Gerald Brockhurst are also worth checking out.
Another welcome new addition to the gallery scene here is the Volta Place Gallery, 1531 33rd St. NW, which deals exclusively in African art but hopes to expand into other ethnographic art as well. The small stock is authentic and of high quality, and the gallery is owned by longtime collectors Mona and James Gavigan. Mona Gavigan, who runs the gallery, also serves as a docent at the Museum of African Art, and is well versed in the work she handles. She deals only in pieces that have had some use. Hours are noon to 6, Tuesday through Friday; 11 to 6 Saturdays.
A new wrinkle in the gallery scene is the proliferation of art/crafts establishments. Fendrick Gallery has long been the headquarters for the best of this genre, and the current show is no exception. It features work by two of the best artists now using glass as an art form: Dale Chihuly and Tom Patti. That show closes today, but more work by both artists -- and many more -- can be seen in the show that inspired it: "New Glass," on view at the Renwick Gallery through Aug. 24. i
The Renwick show has called attention to several galleries now featuring glass. Among them is The Glass Gallery of Eveleth & Summerford, a small space at the rear of an antique shop in Bethesda, at 4918 Del Ray Ave., which has been plugging along since 1971 at selling contemporary studio glass by many of the artists in the Renwick show.
Following the trend is the new Branch Gallery at Tifanee Tree, 3112 M St. NW (in Canal Square). Here some lesser work by Chihuly is currently on view, along with some captivating teapot-shaped objects by Californian Richard Marquis. But the overall emphasis is on production items, including several Art Nouveau-derived goblets and lamps.
Another little-known Georgetown establishment, now 2 years old, is Seraph Gallery at 1132 29th St. NW, where a broad range of art/craft (or in this case, craft-art) items include work in wood, silver and less expensive studio glass, notably some goblets by Fred Warren. Currently featured in the adjoining exhibition space are sculptural baskets by Douglas Eric Fuchs, "twined totems," he calls them, inspired by American Indian baskets. Some other baskets made from fruiting-blooms of palm trees by Fran Kraynek-Prince and Neil Prince merit special attention.