Another artist has blossomed in Washington.
And another gallery is closing its doors, at least for now.
Mindy Weisel is exhibiting her best paintings to date in what will be the last show for the Jack Rasmussen Gallery in its present location--313 G St. NW. "I'm not going out of business, but I need a better space," says Rasmussen, 32, who has concluded that his gallery has suffered long enough from being remote from other galleries. "I'm tired of meeting rich collectors who don't know where I am." Rasmussen says he will reopen in the fall, but doesn't know where yet.
Meanwhile, an artist Rasmussen believed in--and took on before others considered her ready to show--has come to maturity, and her joyful new paintings justify his faith. Born in a relocation center for refugees at Bergen-Belsen, Germany, Mindy Weisel gained attention after her last show--dark, moody abstractions that served as a catharsis for her feelings about the Holocaust. Though they command respect--they will be shown at the Jewish Museum in New York City in June, along with works by Kitaj and Alain Kirili--those paintings lack the vigorous self-confidence that shines through in the new works.
The series on view, titled "Lili in Blue," began just after the artist's 35th birthday, when she found a rich, royal blue turning up in her work, conjuring memories of a dress her mother (Lili) had worn when she was 35. "I phoned my mother, who lives in California," recalls Weisel, "and she sent me a photograph of the dress. It was exactly the blue I had remembered."
That blue soon broke through the darkness of the Holocaust paintings and filled the new canvases with energy and light. Each one began with Weisel's recollections of her mother; "White Shoulders" was inspired by a whiff of the perfume she once wore, and "Friday Madness" is a joyful remembrance of the chaos of Sabbath preparations. In all of these newly structured oils, Weisel works intuitively, placing areas of color all over the canvas, and then building and energizing the surfaces with vigorous, expressive shapes, daubs of color and squiggles of calligraphic line--sometimes in the form of Yiddish letters, sometimes in words. "The Shensta" ("The Prettiest")--appropriately named--is the most beautiful work here, though two paintings on paper come close.
This show--and the Rasmussen Gallery--will close on May 29, though both will surely be heard from again. Also on view, and well worth the trek upstairs, are some collages and drawings by a talented, if still somewhat tentative, newcomer named Farhad Ostovani. Hours are noon to 5, Tuesdays through Saturdays.
Sculptor Brower Hatcher
In his last show at Diane Brown, 406 Seventh St. NW, Vermont sculptor Brower Hatcher showed large, billowing domes of aluminum wire mesh, within which tiny cubes and ribbons of metal seemed to levitate like flotsam in outer space. Since then Hatcher, like many abstract sculptors, has sought to introduce a narrative element into his work. He has succeeded by using the same wire "cage" forms as before but replacing their floating innards with storytelling elements in copper and bronze, such as an alligator chasing a bird, or a tiny figure making his way past a quarter moon. How well these floating fantasies work as sculpture varies dramatically, but they all rouse their quota of magic.
In some of these works--all intended for out-of-doors--the wire "cages" are also given recognizable form; two are shaped like fish, and they work the way Oldenburg's "monuments" work--they are funny. But Hatcher can get serious too, as he does in "Impact," which reeks of impending doom as a giant bomb makes its way between a battered copper planet and a small airplane. Though the outer shape of the cages remains a problem here and elsewhere, Brower's ability to conjure narrative is of a high order, and merits his further attention--and ours. The show continues through June 3, and is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11 to 6.
Sculptor Elizabeth Falk
At Middendorf/Lane, Elizabeth Falk is also showing narrative sculpture, but of a more traditional sort. Her pedestal-size tableaux depict small bronze figures going through their daily paces: walking to work, making their way through revolving doors, going up and down elevators. While her earlier works were all bronze, these figures now act out their workaday roles in limestone or marble settings that add the cold, formidable look of big-city banks and office buildings. One could argue that the stone is not only too literal, but superfluous as well. But it makes its point.
One could also argue that Falk's work comes too close to that of George Segal, but despite this influence she works on a very different scale and makes her own statement, particularly in the expressive poses of the figures themselves. In single works as well as on the whole, Falk successfully comments on a fact of contemporary life: that--aware of it or not--we are all trapped by the mechanics and bureaucracy of "the system."
"The Elevator" is the most ominous piece, for here we observe the innocence with which people commit their very lives to a machine suspended by a few cables. A less physical kind of entrapment--no less debilitating--is the subject of "The Controllers," in which a woman is rendered helpless before a bevy of bureaucrats. "The Gate," however, is the most affecting piece in the show, and the most subtle.
The show continues through June 5. Hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. yo 6 p.m.