If you'd rather give a de Kooning than a computer for a holiday gift, there's a new gallery in town where you can buy an unmatched pair: a charcoal figure by Abstract Expressionist Willem de Kooning and an even better mixed-media collage by his former wife, Elaine.
After a frustrating year of trying to sell work by the de Koonings, Marca-Relli, Esteban Vicente, James Brooks and Audrey Flack from a gallery in Frederick, Md., Phoenix II has now moved to posh new quarters in International Square, 1875 I St. NW. If it can sustain the level of quality established in its maiden show, it will fill an important gap in the commercial gallery scene here.
The inaugural exhibition, all works on paper, is impressive, and serves as a reminder of how many first-rate, well-established artists "of a certain age" never turn up in galleries here, except via their prints. There are, for example: one colored ink drawing by constructivist Ilya Bolotowsky; two fine figures titled "Carbon Color of Julia Robinson" by Larry Rivers; three drawings -- including the poignant "Poverty in Spanish Harlem" by Alice Neel, and -- best of all -- four handsome paintings on paper by sculptor Ibram Lassaw.
The gallery is owned by art collector and publisher John Moscato. It can be reached most easily through the 19th Street entrance. Hours are 11 to 4 Saturday and Monday, and 11 to 6 Tuesday through Friday.
Phoenix II is a block away from Franz Bader's gallery and bookshop, 2001 I St. NW, which is always filled with intriguing art-gift possibilities. Alfred McAdams and Michael Platt have made a particularly strong showing in this year's annual Christmas show. Bader is open Monday through Saturday, 10 to 6, until Christmas. Bookworks
Bookworks, a fascinating little browsers' paradise, has just reopened at 400 Seventh St. NW, the ground floor of its parent organization, the Washington Project for the Arts. One of only a half-dozen shops in the country dealing in handmade and small-edition artists' books, it is also filled with witty and imaginative -- and inexpensive -- gifts.
For example: Know an aspiring artist? Artist Laura Buckles is prepared to help him face the world with an ironic little handmade book titled "Your Future in Waitressing." For lovers, there are several slim volumes: "Courtship Patterns of Chairs" by Rebecca Michaels; "Ruffled Passions," a bow-tied, offset book by Sandra Lerner, which tells its story of illicit love in admirably few words and pictures; and "Wounded Book" by Michael Gibbs, which is open to varied interpretations.
The shop also carries several works by Washington artist Kevin Osborn, including his flip book, "Real Lush," and a triangularly bound book-sculpture using images of the Washington Monument, titled "Repro-Memento." Osborn is coordinator of the print shop at the energetic Glen Echo Writer's Center. Bookworks' hours are noon to six, Tuesday through Saturday. Art at Woodies
Just in case you can't find time to go shopping especially for art, art has come to the shopping district.The downtown Woodward & Lothrop on F Street has a real art gallery on the seventh floor -- just past lamps and mirrors. By "real," I mean to distinguish this handmade art from the junk usually shown in department stores.
This exhibition was organized by the Washington Womens Arts Center -- they've put art in every public space in town -- and though it has its ups and downs, there are works of special interest. They include an assemblage by Barbara Hillerman, intriguing paintings of pebbles by Judy Jashinsky and photographs by Henry Gerstenberg and Zinnia, who is showing a riveting hand-tinted image titled "Pilot Through Time."
Not far away, in Lansburgh's windows at Seventh and E streets, Zinnia is also showing newer photographic work -- small, proscenium-like constructions containing combinations of her images. In three dimensions, as in two, she is an effective conjurer of various moods. One of the most memorable of these miniature works is "At the Dentist," which presents scary images of dangling apparatus, and (for imagined sound effects) a man cutting into the pavement with a pneumatic drill.