Tiers of peers: The Corcoran Gallery picked 10 Washington painters to be exhibited this summer, allowing each to pick another painter to be included, each of whom picked one more. In the end, 30 artists with three works apiece made the cut for "10+10+10: Washington Painting 1982," an assortment of hits and misses opening Friday and continuing through August 15.
It is a hodgepodge ranging from figurative realism to "new wave" pretension. In general, the artists chose colleagues whose styles are far from their own. Some are exhibited beside works by personal friends. Jane Dow, whose deep, dark canvases show partial figures outlined, notes she was selected by a stranger, Benita Berman.
The 90 works are grouped according to who chose whom: in one room, Robin Rose, who offers layered swatches of color or blackness, with his nominee Chris Fendley, who weighs in with sour funk (Baby Jesus in sunglasses for starters), who chose Mark Clark, exhibiting a photo-realist view of Schwartz's drug store.
Val Lewton's suburban streets and Polly Kraft's flowing watercolors of purse, mirror and pillow are familiar. But there are more engaging, if harsher works, like Sarah Tuft's nudes and Lisa Brotman's startling "Apples Make Me Good-Bad-Good." And there are fun curiosities like Cathy Coyle's floating vegetables.
Artists have been unhappy with what they see as unresponsiveness on the part of the Corcoran, signing a petition and even, in two cases, withdrawing from the first round of invitations in this exhibit. There is no equitable way to mount a survey of the state of painting in Washington. As Corcoran associate director Jane Livingston says, "An art museum is not a democratic institution, and all art is not equal." But she feels that this show is one way to try to be fair to the community, if not the artists. Ultimately "10+10+10" is a selection process that can only encourage artists by yielding some wall space to newcomers.
"10+10+10" -- At the Corcoran, 17th and New York Avenue, through August 15. Tuesday through Sunday 10 to 4:30; Thursday evenings until 9.