The Corcoran's trio of new shows is diverse in media and moods, woodcuts to watercolors to photographs.
Watercolors by Billy Al Bengston, a California artist best known for his early-Sixties acrylic paintings and spray-painted metal pieces, occupy two rooms upstairs in a major show. The grouping in early pieces, colorful collage-like watercolors in floral designs that give an airy feeling. His "Honolulu Watercolors," made from 1979 on, sprout in the second room. Several use cut-out techniques, most employ circles, leaves and fronds, and all contain tropical warmth. It's a warming show for midwinter.
The prints in the show "From Craft to Art: Wood Engraving and Woodcut in the 20th Century" represent the revived interest in the medium among graphic artists. Subjects range from New England landscapes to fishermen, a children's carnival to a delicate crystal vase. Knowing a bit about the techniques make them even more compelling. Two relief processes are used: In wood engravings, lines cut into the "endgrain" block of wood create finely detailed white lines -- imagine drawing on black paper with a white pen; in woodcuts, lines of the image are left raised on the "sidegrain" block -- like drawing in black pen on white paper.
Forty recently acquired photographs by 25 artists, a handful of them local, span a range of styles and processes. Mardi Gras images, bi-chromates (an early process now revived, using a brush to bring out soft, feathery qualities), a series of abstract "harlequins" using ploarized light through layers of colored cellophane by Tim Kilby, silver prints in black-and-white and time exposures of plants are included.