in the art department gallery at Catholic University -- is a cube of floating fancies. It hovers in the air. The painted, twisted cut-outs of plastic and aluminum he's suspended in its volume -- on threads you barely see -- are remarkably ambiguous. Some are opaque, some transparent, some are funny, others fierce. They will not stay still. Nor will the thoughts that fly from them. Kravitz's peculiar forms conjure, as you stare at them, weapons, whimsies, wonders, flames or curling tendrils, monsters or machines, shavings, limbs or profiles, wings, feathers or whole birds. Breathe, and they respond with slow pirouettes. Move, and they move, too.
Attacked by its profusions, its surfaces and voids, the eye does not know where to rest. Neither does the mind. Most works of art wear labels. This one dodges and dissolves them. It's not two or three-dimensional, earnest or exuberant; it's not a painting or a sculpture, an assemblage or a drawing; it is not free or planned. It is all of these at once.
Kravitz's installation -- and his paintings and his drawings -- suggest a kind of trance, an automatic writing that threatens to relate tales without meaning or referenceless abstractions, but never quite succeeds. Something holds these works in check, pulls them back from nonsense, ties them to the real. The daubs and dots and curlicues of his installation suggest plants and animals. The spines and spears and spirits with which Kravitz fills his drawings somehow fit into a space as measurable and palpable as that of the landscape. His objects, big and small, carry all the hallmarks of abstract expressionist invention -- they're active, swift and passionate -- but though improvised spontaneously, they tell tightly plotted stories that we can almost read.
Kravitz teaches art at George Mason University. His handwriting is elegant, his pictures and his hovering installations are original and witty and as rational as dreams. Unlike most other field painters, he fills fields with ideas. He has plunged into abstraction and come out the other side. His small exhibition at Catholic University closes Sept. 25. ------
While Kravitz is showing at Catholic University, Tom Rooney, the chairman of that institution's art department, is exhibiting new sculptures at Gallery 10 Ltd., 1519 Connecticut Ave., NW. Rooney's timing is unfortunate. Like Kravitz, he eschews the wall, preferring to suspend his curving, colored objects between floor and ceiling. He writes, "A major element in all my sculpture is movement . . . the pieces are constantly changing, revealing themselves as being more complex than they first seem. Spacing is very important . . . as the works turn they act with one another." Kravitz could have said the same. His works are full of life and lightness. Those of Rooney aren't.
The mood they cast is leaden. The curving painted staffs he hangs are made of wood "reinforced with Fiberglas and epoxy, coated with several layers of gesso to hide the wood grain." They sound heavy and they are. The round bases they are anchored to accentuate their heaviness. They are supposed to turn, but don't unless you shove them. Gravity defeats them. Even with the window open and breezes in the gallery they refuse to move. Rooney paints and stamps circles, saw-teeth, ovals, triangles and dots on the narrow planes of his hanging timbers. It is sad to see an artist try so hard and miss. This show closes Sept. 26. ------
"Washington Viewed: Ten Photographers," the group show at the Art Barn, 2401 Tilden St., NW, is blessedly free of postcard views of politicians, monuments and sunsets on the Mall. The exhibit, organized by Mary Swift, is most successful when it's most mysterious. The best pictures in it -- Carolyn Martin's wrapped statues, Mark Gulezian's spooky, day-bright color shots of the Willard Hotel crumbling, Mel Curtis' ghostly arrows glowing on Memorial Bridge, Richard Rodriguez's jarring formal streetscapes and those of David Allison -- make the familiar fresh. But Swift's show at its fringes is not wholly free of photography's cliche's. So many artists -- Atget, Louis Faurer, even Norman Rockwell -- have presented us with studies of reflections in store windows, that those of Maria Velez here, well thought out though they are, strike the eye as slightly stale.
The same goes for Azar Hammond's well-made color pictures of people protesting for peace or anarchy or Khomeini, or against war or the draft. His pictures, too, are undercut by the thousands on the same themes we have seen before. Paul Kennedy is yet another photographer who likes to portray strippers. Edward Owen's subject, not a new one, is the blur. Joan Giesecke's rather academic pictures of leaves, ferns, and children posing in the garden tell us next to nothing about Washington; they might have been taken anywhere. The show closes Oct. 4.