Both for his own etchings and for the etchers he has trained at Yale (Peter Milton among them), Gabor Peterdi has long been admired as a leading figure in the post-World War II American print boom. In recent years, several shows at Jane Haslem Gallery have also revealed Peterdi to be a painter and colorist of considerable dimension. His current Haslem show fortifies that view, adding drawings and watercolors to his lengthening list of high accomplishments.
Love of nature and landscape is what weaves all of this Hungarian-born artist's work together, whether in close-up ink studies of the energetic outlines of plants and flowers, or in distant views such as "Red Mesa," built from fiery, short strokes of red and orange. Other paintings on view have their ups and downs, the new "Wetlands" series being the most disturbing, with their literally rendered beach grass and wholly arbitrary color--a combination that simply does not resolve, visually or esthetically. Several paintings, though more satisfying, have a peculiar format problem: They seem to have been overly cropped at the sides, making them vertical instead of square--the shape they somehow seem to yearn to inhabit.
But the big surprise of this show--and its greatest pleasure--is in the brightly colored abstract watercolors dating from the '50s to the present: "Poppies" is a multicolored bouquet of broad, single strokes of color; "Kahulu IX," a total abstraction that, nonetheless, manages to evoke a palpable sense of Hawaii. Despite the rather offhand selection of paintings, the show does make the case that Peterdi's talent is somewhat broader than he has been given credit for. Haslem will continue the show at 2121 P St. NW, through Feb. 27. Hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11 to 6. Judith Turim at Touchstone
In her last show of drawings at Touchstone Gallery, Judith Turim introduced the subject matter with which she has since been so productively preoccupied: the satyrs and nymphs and ancient gods of Greek mythology who are usually seen stiffly parading around the fat middles of ancient urns. Turim releases them here as if from a frieze-frame. Thus transformed into living beings--which, in fact, they never were--they begin to act like sophomores on spring break in Fort Lauderdale, dashing across the paper in hot pursuit of each other, dancing, cavorting and carrying on in endless revels. Most uncharacteristic behavior for such venerables--which is, of course, what gives them such a kick.
Bigger, bolder and funnier than before, these works also take on new forms: In addition to the outline drawings in ink, Turim also has begun to paint her figures in broad brushstrokes, using watercolor to good advantage. New complexity results in two-part pieces such as "Nymphs and Satyrs," in which a chorus of satyrs doing a sort of mambo are confronted by a bevy of women who are clearly unimpressed. Feminist? Probably. Funny? Absolutely. This show, at 2130 P St. NW will continue through March 7, and is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11 to 5. 'Made in L.A.'
The Federal Reserve--eschewing its problems with the economy--has gone bravely on with its fine arts program, which now brings us "Made in L.A.," a small but lively display of contemporary crafts from California. Selected from a more comprehensive show organized last year by the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles, this selection includes 43 recent works in clay, fiber, glass, silver and wood by 26 craftspeople from the L.A. area--many with national reputations. As one might expect, the works range from classic to kinky.
John Cederquist's giant, beehive-shaped humidor made of leather and poplar is one of the more outrageous offerings, with Jerry Rothman's luster-glazed "Ritual Vessel"--based on the forms of a classic Chinese bronze--running a close second. There are a few nice pieces of silver jewelry and delicate containers made from fiber, but the strongest showing is in clay, with Kris Cox's stoppered jar and Peter Shire's highly impractical "teapots" among the highlights.
Overall, the works that at least have their roots in functional forms--like Shire's teapots--come off far ahead of more pretentious efforts at "art," such as Gifford Myers' "Cube"--a Sol Lewitt ripoff that has no meaning either as art or craft, beyond a display of virtuoso hand-building in clay. The gallery is open to the public Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, 11 to 1, with sign-in required. The show runs through March 17 at the Federal Reserve Board building, C St. NW, between 20th and 21st streets.