"It's been an interesting week," said Chip Nourse as he installed his gallery's latest show, "Ronald Reagan, Matinee Idol." It opened yesterday.
Earlier this week the gallery had hosted "Artists for Democrats," an exhibition of prints donated by Robert Rauschenberg, Lowell Nesbitt, and others to benefit the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
"To tell you the truth, I'm for Ed Clark, the Libertarian," said Nourse, whose gallery at 3212 N St. NW features original posters of all sorts.
The current show surveys 20 years of posters (known as "half-sheets") and "lobby cards" hawking Ronald Reagan movies from "Stallion Road" (Reagan cheek-to-cheek with Alexis Smith) to"Bedtime for Bonzo" (Reagan shoulder-to-shoulder with Bonzo and Diana Lynn).
Hamilton Jordan, deputy campaign chairman of the Carter-Mondale Committee -- possibly hedging his bets for Nov. 4 -- stopped in before the opening and bought two lobby cards, including one for a movie entitled "The Winning Team," picturing Reagan jaw-to-jaw with Doris Day. "Let's face it ," says Nourse, "If Reagan wins, and this gets autographed, it could be as valuable as Lincoln's law books."
Well, not quite. But it must be said that these tinted remnants of pop culture -- at prices from $35 to $300 -- do have their charms. Aside from nostaligia, they also serve as a reminder that the image-makers did a pretty good job for Reagan in those days, too. He never loses his dignity in any of these posters, even alongside Bonzo.
But seen in this election season, they seem full of ironies -- especially a giant poster for a film called "Storm Warning" that reads: "I got power. I'm a big guy in this town. I'm a member of the Ku Klux Klan." Those words, however, never crossed Reagan's lips in the movie; they were spoken by costar Steve Cochran. Reagan, in fact, played the crusading anti-Klan D.A.
A half-sheet for "Voice of the Turtle" is also fraught with significance for 1980. It says: "A hit with 1,000 kisses and a laugh for everyone." As a collector's item, the poster touting "That Hagen Girl" must be the rarest of all. It pictures not only a presidential candidate, but Shirley Temple, who was later to be a U.S. ambassador. The show continues through October. w
New-talent hunters who like minimal abstraction-with-meaning take note: A first-rate young artist is showing at Gallery H at 4923 Bethesda Ave. through Oct. 10. Her work is better than most of the abstractions in the current Corcoran Area Show, and calls to memory both the lyrical stripes of Morris Louis and the drawings of Gene Davis.
The big difference is that Hangok Chang uses no color beyond the broad range of grays she manages to wrest from sumi ink rolled or brushed onto rice paper or white cotton cloth. For example, in "Depression to Peacefulness," which is characteristic of several works in the show, she has used an ordinary hardware-store paint roller and made seven complete turns of the cylinder -- one after the other, from bottom to top -- until the ink gradually disappears. Beside that column of seven blocks, she repeats the process, ending up with a tall rectangular painting composed of similarly textured squares of varing darknesses.In some works the surface takes on an inexplicalbe iridescence, as if light were shining from within.
The intense young Korean-born artist says her work is a form of Zen meditation, that she seeks "to create purity of mind through a continuous search for self-discipline and concentration." Each painting -- whether it is constructed of rolled rectangles or brushed on stripes -- is completed in one trance-like sitting that can last from one to three hours. These works share the intensity and quiet, contemplative quality of the line-after-line-after-line pen drawings of Dan Brush. But Chang's work is far more interesting to look at.
Dale Loy,now showing at Bader, 2001 Eye St. NW, has finally done it. She's torn off one of those "Do not remove this tag" labels for a mattress and used it in a collage.
That is one of several intriguing bits of printed jetsam from all over the world that Loy has incorporated into her densely packed collages, along with fragments of Chinese and Arabic writing, bingo numbers, corrugated cardboard and paint. The question is: Are the collages interesting chiefly because of these intriguing bits, or do they take on new, larger meaning in Loy's combinations? The answer in this show -- clearly not her best -- would seem to be the former.
At Studio Galley, 802 F St. NW, Ellouise Schoettler is also showing recent abstract collages, all cut and torn from colored paper and magazines. Unlike Loy, Schoettler does not lean on the content of her torn-up bits; instead, she reconstitutes them into abstract compositions that reveal a fine sense of color and design.
Schoettler has her lapses. She gets far too cute in "Sisters," which features two doll-like figures in kimonos, and she makes a fussy muddle of "Grey IV." But in two series of "Homages" to Matisse and Miro, she reasserts her mastery over her medium by capturing and evoking the spirit of those artists without imitating them. That isn't easy. The show closes today.