Justifiably proud of its posh new five-story facility for teaching art, George Washington University is celebrating with a survey of work by alumni artists. The new art building is part of GW's new Academic Center; the exhibition, a project of GW's Dimock Gallery, located in the basement of Lisner Auditorium. Oddly -- and unhappily -- the art department and the gallery have not been joined in the new art facility. Other than that, the exhibition makes a strong statement on behalf of art at GW.
Most impressive is the fact that there is no visible department "line." Though the GW faculty is long on realist painters -- notably William Woodward, Frank Wright and Arthur Hall Smith -- only a few clones are visible, and painterly realism does not dominate the show.
There is, in fact, a refreshing variety in style, if not media (most are painters), and strong examples of brushy abstraction, neo-expressionism, new image painting and even surrealism suggest that artists of imagination have been left to make their own statement, having once acquired the requisite skills. Outside judges (artist Hilda Thorpe, critic David Tannous and Corcoran associate director Jane Livingston) selected the show from entries submitted by 116 alumni artists. All art-degree-bearing alumni were invited to submit and 41 were chosen.
Among the figurative works, Bradley Stevens' painting of the National Gallery's "East Garden Court," Linda Hendrick's light-filled Torpedo Factory studio scene and Ruth Ansel's renaissance-style portrait with the Washington Monument do well by Washington subject matter. At the other end of the figurative spectrum, Peggy Diggs, Valters Lindbergs and Aimee Young Jackson all show strength in the fashionable "New Image" mode.
Wayne Paige's highly imaginative surrealist paintings on carved wood look especially professional here (he shows regularly at Gallery K), as do Mary Nash's mysterious narratives in a folk art guise. Minimal imagist Wil Brunner, conceptual photographer Claudia Smigrod and sculptor Linda Thern Smith are other artists on view who show regularly in commercial galleries here. There is much more, all of it for sale, and often at bargain prices.
Until the '70s, GW art students did their studies at the Corcoran; since then they've been stashed away in four different buildings--all of them inadequate to the task. Though alumni obviously got along fine without motor-driven louvers in the skylights, color photo labs and giant lithographic presses--all features of the new art building--none would go back. "This is something we've all dreamed of," said one faculty member. "GW's art department has taken on a new life of its own."
The "Art Alumni Invitational Exhibition" will continue at Lisner, 21st and H streets NW, Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., through Oct. 15. The GW faculty, 24 artists in all, will show together at the Art Barn in October. Franz Bader's Sampler
Franz Bader Gallery, 2001 I St. NW, usually saves its survey shows for Christmas. But this year it has started off the season with a sampler to help acquaint new visitors with its stable of artists. There are new works by gallery regulars, and new names--among them Patricia Bellan-Gillen of Pennsylvania, who makes a strong debut with a large color drawing titled "Still Life With Five Bunches." Robert Marx is an expressive figurative artist also showing for the first time here, and Stan Washburn is a new printmaker with wit and an old-master look.
Among the old standbys, Prentis Taylor, Arthur Hall Smith, Naul Ojeda, David Bigelow, Paul Arlt and Dora Lee are especially well represented. The show closes Sept. 25, and hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.