Though they look like abstract paintings, Annie Gawlak's pictures, now on view at Jack Rasmussen's, are only partially abstract. They suggest all sorts of stories -- tales of the jungle, of rainy city streets, of windy days at sea. One reads in these pictures a dialogue between the witty and the ominous, the little and the large.
Gawlak sets black shapes afloat on a sea of rhythmic color. Her looming forms are many things: moons, elephants and spinnakers, seals and umbrellas. Most frequently umbrellas. Umbrellas are suggestive things, sometimes silly, sometimes scary. Turned inside-out by gusts of wind, they look like sight gags -- or like bats. And umbrellas have about them something slightly pompous. In the last act of Thornton Wilder's "Our Town," they summon thoughts of death.
The fields that they sail on -- marching rows of arcs or S's -- are built by the painter with small flicks of her brush. Like those flat umbrella-bats, the seas of active brushwork may be read in various ways.In the canvas she calls "Sail 1," those flicks of gray and pink and blue conjure troughs of waves. In "Reclining Elephant," they become pointed jungle fronds. Gawlak seems to know exactly what she's doing. Her funny, formal paintings are admirably poised.
Rasmussen is also showing the delicate colleges of Jaime Romano -- they look a bit like walls partly stripped of wallpaper -- and the new, much grayer, works of Corrine Davidov. Gotham is her subject. Skyscrapers zoom upward, the lights of Times Square twinkle; she calls her show "Big Time." The three shows at Rasmussen's (313 G St. NW) close Nov 26.
The Osuna Gallery, 406 7th St. NW, is showing Rebecca Davenport's new and unforgettable portraits of farm animals. No "Peaceable Kingdom" this. All her portraits, and these are no exception, share something quirky, slightly sinister. Is it the look in the eye? The proportion of the face? The dumbness of the glance? There is no way of knowing. Each detail she paints -- the worn hooves of the donkey, the collar of that slit-eyed goat, the nose-ring of the pig -- is entirely convincing and minutely rendered. gYet each of the animals is something of a freak.
Davenport is an extradordinary painter. Her pictures look like no one else's. She is, it is now clear, on the way to stardom.Her current New York show, next door to Sotheby's on Madison Avenue, sold out in four days. yOf the 18 pictures at Osuna's, 15 have already sold. The show closes Nov. 13.
Washington's John Dickson is showing both his sculptures and his rarely seen collages at the Diane Brown Gallery, 406 7th St. NW. As their names suggest -- "Ghost," "Echo," "Flicker," "Darkling" -- his sculptures are slightly spooky. They are constructed, perhaps woven is a better word, of slender wooden dowels, wire, string, bits of cloth. With these delicate materials, he spins graceful sea spouts, waves and open nets - in which have been trapped dark things from the deep. One thinks of sharks, of gaping mouths, of black and headless eels. In contrast, his collages, with their splashes of bright color and energetic scribbles, suggest the bold, the happy. They are made of flat materials -- cardboard, canvas, foam-core -- torn joyously apart. Dickson is an impressive artist. His show closes Nov. 13.
The Shogun Gallery, 1083 Wisconsin Ave. NW, is showing the graphics of Kawase Hasui (1883-1957), a master of the woodblock print. In almost all of them we see Japanese traditions bowing to the West. Their subjects are those of other, older prints. We see Mt. Fuji here at noon, at dawn, at dusk; it is sometimes cloaked in snow (Hasui loved snow), sometimes wreathed in mist; two women bearing parasols walk across a bridge; the full moon shines through branches; petals fall. But these works are quite unlike those ukiyo-e prints whose flat and boldly outlined shapes changed the art of Paris in the 19th century. Hasui, in Tokyo, was equally impressed by the picture-hollowing power of Western vanishing-point perspective. We see him in these works embrace the modern and foreign. A spring rain has just fallen; a rickshaw -- and a street car's power lines -- are reflected by wet pavement. Though fond of paper lanterns, Hasui also portrayed electric street lights. His forms aren't flat and bold; they dissolve in light. He was a master technician. One of his late prints was designated a National Treasure. But their colors are a little postcard-gaudy, and the marriage of East and West that one sees in his pictures is not wholly happy. Too many of them are both overly pretty and discordant. The Shogun Gallery has managed to acquire more than 100 of his prints. They will remain on view through November.