Embassy Dairy donated the punch and Artransport donated the hauling for "City Art 1981," the juried sculpture show that just opened at Studio Gallery, 802 F St. NW. But while other donors kicked in with cash or services, one important thing was still missing: the large-scale outdoor sculptures one expected to see atfer "City Art 1979," which had spilled out of the Studio, flooded the pedestrian mall in front, and trickled down 7th Street as far as the Raku Gallery Sculpture Park at 7th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
Whatever the reasons, the big site sculptures are scarce this year, and the excitement is instead focused inside Studio Gallery and in Lansburgh's windows along 7th Street, where a full-scale wooden lawn mower by F.L. Wall, a laminated wood "Cog Chair" by Eugene Geinzer and Michael Gessner's outrageous carved wooden "Archetypal Fish" are snagging the attention.
Back in the gallery, Raya Bodnarchuk's "Racing Turle" and other sand-cast aluminum beasties are the highlights, along with worthy examples in various media by Ingrid Cromel Rehert, Sirpa Yarmolinski and Thomas Rooney, who is showing three tall, suspended squiggles of color. Jeanette Oliver's welded assemblages and Garrett Strang's evocative abstractions introduce two newcomers. Alan Stone intrigues with a piece that looks like the Washington Monument with a beehive top. At 7th and Pennsylvania, Robert Fergerson and Mike Shaffer have made the most ambitious outdoor contributions. The show -- Studio's last at this location (they will open in the Lansburgh's building next year) -- continues through this month. Oliver Chaffee
In 1908, while Robert Henri and other painters of the Ashcan School were scandalizing New Yorkers with their seamy scenes of city life, another, more adventurous group of avantgarde American artists was hard at work in Paris, seeking out new expressive forms. What they saw there were retrospective exhibitions of Cezanne, Van Gogh and Gauguin, along with new work by Matisse and the fauves, Picasso and the cubists. Max Weber was there, as were Arthur Dove, John Marin and Alfred Maurer -- all artists subsequently championed by Alfred Stieglitz in his New York gallery "291." Dozens more were there as well, but most have since slipped quietly into oblivion. One such artist was Detroit-born Oliver Chaffee, whose reputation is currently undergoing well-deserved resuscitation Fiedler Gallery, 1621 21st St. NW.
Chaffee (1881-1944) had his feet in both avant-garde camps, not to mention the then-churning cultural cultural waters of Provincetown, Mass. He had studied with Robert Henri in New York before heading off to Paris to live in 1906, and elements of what he learned both in New York and Paris wafted continuously through his work.
But in the bold strokes and brilliant colors of his "Pine Tree," the earliest work in this show, it is clear that the strongest influence came from the fauves and from the German expressionist group known as the "Lue Rider." "Pine Tree" was exhibited in the famed Armory Show in New York in 1913, the same year that Chaffee first showed in the Showed in the Salon d'Automne in Paris. At age 32, he was doing well in avant-grade circles on both sides of the Atlantic.
Before the outbreak of World War I, Chaffee returned to Provincetown, where he helped found the Provincetown Art Association along with Marsden Hartley, Charles Demuth and Stuart Davis. Back in France after the war, the artist lived in Vence until 1928, where he continued to make strong Cezanne-inspired landscapes and colorful, often whimsical semiabstract still lifes.
Only when he was back in Provincetown, in the '30s, did Chaffee finally stop experimenting with prevailing "styles" and begin producing images that seem to have come entirely from within himself: highly expressive tropical fantasies bursting with primitive masks, palm trees, exotic birds and even a friendly alligator or two. The Fiedler show is not a retrospective. So much about the artist -- including this late, rather passionate outburst -- remains a mystery, pending further investigation. Meanwhile, it is clear that Chaffee was a highly talented painter who deserves far more credit than he has had, both for his art and for the part he played in bringing modernism to America. The show continues through June 26. Peter Thomas
Anyone who has been alone in a museum after hours will appreciate the magical spookiness of Peter Thomas' large new charcoal and acrylic drawings currently on view at the Corcoran. After years as teacher and then dean of the Corcoran School, Thomas wanted both to share the special feeling of being alone in that great building and to produce a series of 25 graphic variations on the same theme -- a format he has used successfully before. He has managed to do this and more in these quirky, intimate views, all of which seem to suggest that whether the guards are around or not, there are spirits in the works of art themselves that keep an eye on the place.
Since the show is tucked away in the Mantel Room, where crowds rarely venture, viewers are likely to be alone in muted light when they come upon it -- a perfect setting.This suite of work, titled "Corcoran After Hours," attests to the imagination and mood-making ability of the artist, as well as to the fact that artists who don't teach have more time to work. All of these drawings were made since April, when Thomas left the Corcoran to become design chief for the Federal Reserve. The show continues through June 28.