"Add a little color to your life -- give art and support local artists!" beckons Local 1734, a silkscreen co-op at 1734 Connecticut Ave. NW, where the annual holiday show features inexpensive prints and original calendars.
"Give art" is the word around town and in the suburbs, as galleries offer a varied array of art and craft, from 19th-century prints by the Japanese master Hokusai ($40 at Shogun Gallery) to the ultimate in chopping blocks by 20th-century furniture-maker Wendell Castel ($3,900 at Fendrick). Innovative gifts are available in almost every price range.
Fendrick Gallery, 3059 M St. NW, is showing several unusual items, including Castle's delicately carved music stand and walnut "Victory" desk. For insect-lovers, there are Bill Suworoff's large and funny ceramic "Bugs" -- punning species such as "Ziegus Fieldus," a ladybug with showgirl legs. Less amusing but more useful are some unusual pewter serving pieces with handles cast from real asparagus spears ($25 to $37.50) and the limited-edition handmade evening purses ($135) and gentlemen's evening vests ($300) by Sao, just issued by Fendrick Objects.
Another recent entry into the fine crafts field is Greenwood Gallery, 2014 P St. NW, where the current contemporary porcelain show includes examples by several artists now on view in the Renwick's American Porcelain survey. Plum Gallery, 3762 Howard Ave. in Kensington, is also featuring "Art Objects" by artist-craftsment in porcelain, glass, wood, enamel and fiber. At Plum's in-town branch at Charlie's Georgetown, a mural-sized paper sculpture by Charles Hilger could be the perfect gift for that real-estate developer with an empty lobby.
Graphic Antiquity, at 1214 31st St. NW, is a relatively new establishment specializing in low-priced photographs from the 19th century -- tintypes, daguerreotypes and albumen prints -- ranging from early views of American cities and the West to famous stage and circus personalities, nudes and Abraham Lincoln.
Now on view is a show of hand-tinted photographs that offer an intimate glimpse at 19th-century Japan, notably in a poetic image of an "Umbrella Maker" ($150). The bins are filled with other matter images from $20, including an 1898 view of two bustle-bedecked women on the White House lawn. It would make a perfect gift for any first lady, coming or going.
At the Old Print Gallery, 1212 31st St. NW, no fewer than 20,000 prints -- many taken from 19th-century American periodicals such as Harper's Illustrated Weekly -- await the imaginative shopper. Prices start at $15 and rarely exceed $100. Prints are filed chiefly by subject matter: sailing, politics, hunting, fishing, tennis, birds and flowers. Works by big-name illustrators like Winslow Homer, Thomas Nast, A.B. Frost and Currier & Ives are both numerous and more costly.
Several galleries have mounted traditional holiday shows of reasonably priced prints.And as usual, Bethesda Art Gallery, 7950 Norfolk Ave., is foremost among them. From their regular stock of early 20th-century American prints come Marguerite Kumm's tiny takeoff on art lovers titled "Goya's Maja" ($40), Harry Shouldberg's silkscreen of New York in the '30s ($35) and Harry Shokler's "Asters." Prentiss Taylor, Howard Cook, Thomas Hart Benton and Joseph Hirsch are also well represented. There's always more to see in storage, so don't hesitate to ask.
If you can tear yourself away from the art books and calendars at Bader Gallery, 2001 I St. NW, a group show there of work by gallery artists may offer something irresistible. Then again, it may not: This show is not as interesting as some in the past; but there are enough good works by Alice Acheson, Pat Bellan-Gillen, Wendy Eisenberg, Pim Leefsma, Robert Nelson and Joan Root to make a visit worthwhile.
Studio Gallery, 802 F St. NW, Washington's oldest co-op, is introducing four new members in its annual holiday group, and David Wolfe makes a particularly strong debut with two abstract color pencil studies. Val Lewton's Washington cityspace is particularly strong and Linda Thern Smith's tiny wall-hung sculpture made of ceramic and wood is provocative as ever.