THE BRIGHT, edgy, somewhat bizarre and insidiously appealing quality of the imagery in Tema Zak's paintings, on view in a three-person exhibition at the Addison/Ripley Gallery, mistakenly leads one to guess that Zak must have gone through the art school mill either in San Francisco or Chicago, where irony, humor, an off-the-wall sort of vulgarity and abstract narration have become staples of a general look during the past two decades.
There is a little lesson here. Quick and easy categorization doesn't do. Zak, a young painter schooled at the Philadelphia College of Art and at Montclair State College in New Jersey, works in New York. After learning this fact, one can discern a few clues in the work. Her paintings, which often suggest landscapes inverted or stacked atop one another, are a little too pretty for Chicago and a bit too classical for the bay area.
The painting "Three Phase Inclusion," for instance, is an adroitly concocted window on an attractively zany world. Each of the myriad details in this world--lively zigzags, tiny triangles, teardrop and thread shapes and so on--is seen in crystalline focus, and yet the whole is rigorously fitted together in terms of colors, textures (metallic salmon, matte purple, bright turquoise, soft greens) and underlying rectangular geometries. The painting hardly overwhelms, but like much else in the show it coaxes and cajoles with intelligence.
Susan Hardy and Susan Rose of Washington complete the Addison/Ripley show. Hardy paints drily luminous land- and seascapes (gouache and acrylic on paper, mainly) in which the elements are simplified to basic interlocking shapes. They are a bit too codified, though it is hard to say in which direction--toward more atmosphere and detail, or less--she should go. Two small canvas-and-paper collages are especially impressive.
Rose seems obsessed with the metaphorical implications of the grid, which is at once the formal matrix for her three-dimensional pieces hung on the wall and a container, perhaps a prison, for all sorts of things: name tags, thumbtacks, plastic doll legs, sparkles and spangles. Each of the shows continues through July 3 at 9 Hillyer Court (enter through the Phillips Collection alley). Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. D.C. Talent at Gallery K
Recent works by Timothy Beard, Kay Jackson and Cynthia Beth Rubin make up a "new Washington talent" show at Gallery K. Beard's small, square paintings are oddly persuasive geometric icons. Jackson, an MFA student at George Washington University, paints very much in the manner of figurative artist Frank Wright, who teaches there. Rubin paints big, floral abstractions with a sour, and messy, sort of energy. Through July 3 at 2032 P St. NW. Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Rudy Agra Reopens Gallery
To see genuine Old Master paintings for sale, just like that, on the walls of a Washington gallery, or for that matter any gallery anywhere, is a rarity. And yet there they are in the Agra Gallery: a panel painting of a madonna and saints attributed to Bernardo Daddi, the 14th-century Florentine painter thought to have been a student of Giotto, and an impressive tondo (a circular painting) depicting Adam and Eve attributed to Piero di Cosimo, the magnificent Florentine eccentric who died circa 1521 and of whom Vasari wrote, "in all that there is to be seen by his hand one recognizes a spirit very different and far distant from the other painters."
These and two other paintings, explains dealer Rudy Agra, who reopened his gallery here after a 10-year hiatus during which he operated a gallery in Palm Beach, Fla., were acquired from the estate of a collector in Phoenix, Ariz., who prior to his death had loaned them to the Phoenix Art Museum. (A spokesperson for the museum confirmed the fact while lamenting their removal from the museum's walls.)
The assortment of paintings Agra assembled for his return to Washington is at once curious and impressive. Besides the Old Masters, he has on view works by contemporary painters such as Jack Perlmutter and Warren Brandt; 19th-century American genre scenes by Francis William Edmonds; a Fauvist figure of a boy dated about 1910 by Vasilef Kransky, a Russian painter; a beautifully painted laundry-washing scene by the late Fernando Amorsolo, identified by Agra as the "most famous" Filipino painter of the 20th century; and lots more. The gallery, at 2600 Connecticut Ave. NW (second floor), is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.