After years of oblivion and frustration, former Washington artist Robert Stark finally burst upon the scene two years ago with a dazzling debut of pointillist pastel landscape drawings at the Phillips Collection.
Since then, his primary subject matter has remained the same: the gardens, woodlands and streams near his home in Union Dale, Pa. But Stark's style has moved from a pure, rather rigid pointillism to looser, more expressive and self-assured strokes and more complex overlays of color. His most recent pastel drawings and oil paintings -- now at Baumgartner Galleries, 2016 R St. NW -- are his most beautiful to date.
"I try to draw and paint out-of-doors so I can get as much of my own reaction into the picture as I can," explains Stark. That exquisite sensitivity to fleeting color changes of light and shadow -- and his ability to capture those changes in chalk or paint -- make his work unique. Not surprisingly, he avoids the use of photographs and the "frozen exactness" of photo-realism.His works never seem to stand still, and the eye never tires of exploring within them.
The range of mood is broad in these time-specific works, from the sensuous studies of a sun-drenched garden and the glittering blue of "Millstream Reflections" to the subdued "Unfinished Millstream," the same site sparsely rendered in a fall palette.
The stream also is the subject of the two finest oils Stark has produced, here shown on adjoining walls. The larger "Big Millstream" originally was painted in a frozen-pointillist style and has now been entirely reworked to reveal a dancing, phosphorescent rush of water. The show continues through November.
Though Washington has become a world-class print-collecting city, commercial galleries here still deal almost exclusively in contemporary prints, with a sub-specialty in recently rediscovered early 20th-century Americans like Martin Lewis, Howard Cook and Louis Lozowick.
What happened to the old European masters? Or at least the turn-of-the-century masters like Toulouse-Lautrec, Villon, Piccasso and Matisse? Since Harry Lunn switched from prints to photography, they've been unseen here -- except occasionally at the Hom Gallery, which today concludes a fine show of Whistler lithographs: the largest to be seen in this country since 1919. Hom's new location is at 2103 O St. NW.
Long eclipsed by his better-known etchings, Whistler's black-and-white lithographs are here revealed to have the same look as his spare, delicate pencil drawings. The same moody intimacy and charm pervades these views of London, the Thames, portraits of family and friends. Produced between 1877 and 1897, the final decades of his long career, these 171 images have been vastly underrated.
"Prints of the Belle Epoque by Jacques Villon" -- opening today at the Angus Whyte Gallery, 406 7th St. NW -- is another big event in the graphics world here, as is the recent arrival of the gallery itself.
The show deals exclusively with the rare, early prints that French artist Villon (1875-1963) -- older brother of Marcel Duchamp -- made during his first decade in Paris, between 1900 and 1910. After that, Villon was exposed to the new cubist style, which was to dominate his subsequent graphic work.
These 31 early images, however, are typically fin-de-siecle : elegant women with upswept hair, big hats and bustled skirts cascading over Victorian chairs. The mood is summed up in a splendid drypoint etching, "La Parisienne," shown both in a black-and-white trial proof and another proof pulled from the fifth and final state with color aquatint added.
Villon's etched plates required numerous alterations before color editions of 30 or 50 were finally made and what this show reveals -- through early states, working proofs and rare color variants -- is a complex search for perfection. Often, the soft, feathery etching line virtually disappears behind subsequent flat areas of color, suggesting the Japanese prints that also affected contemporaries like Toulouse-Lautrec and Mary Cassatt. "Boudeuse," a pouting woman in dark stockings sprawled across a bed, is the most captivating of several images strongly influenced by Lautrec.
The show, a must for connoisseurs opens today and continues through Dec. 6. Several other openings will also take place at "406" this afternoon between 2 and 6.
Vint Lawrence's caricatures are not mere political cartoonery: Like all good political art, they retain impact and meaning even after their specific news context has passed. Dozens of his recent caricatures dealing with Reagan, Carter and Anderson -- along with numerous would-bes and has-beens -- make up an entertaining and irreverent show now at Barbara Fiedler Gallery, 1621-21st St. NW.
The show, which continues through Nov. 26, also is accompanied by a new book of political drawings by the artist(including several on view) that could make an apt Christmas gift for Washington politicos.