JANE HASLEM/Downtown is having an unusual show: one new painting by Billy Morrow Jackson. An Illinois realist in the Wyeth tradition, Morrow is best-known for his meticulous oils depicting the vast opalescent skies and rain-soaked fields of his native Midwest. He also paints sunlit interiors with single figures placed in quiet isolation. A sense of silence and isolation is pervasive in Jackson's work, even in people-filled urban scenes such as "Station" -- his newest and most complex painting.
It took a year to stage and complete this 4-by-6 oil, which depicts 30 figures, each caught up in his own thoughts in a bus station waiting room. Several working sketches reveal why: Though the painting began in a specific place and includes highly specific portraits, the end result is pure invention. No easel was set up in this station, nor was the scene painted from a snapshot of a single moment. Rather, each figure -- sons, daughter, grandchildren, wife, friends -- was studied in the studio and then assigned a place in the final scene. Jackson never takes the easy way, and he surely has not done so here.
But such a modus operandi permits the sort of subtle complexities that keep a painting interesting. Interrelationships are established: A young woman carrying a bunch of flowers, for example, sets up a symbolic dialogue with the figure of an old woman in a flowered dress, who -- compact in hand -- attempts to add the bloom of youth to faded cheeks. Prolonged looking reveals other internal connections as well as provocative conundrums: Daylight is observed outside one door, and night outside another.
It is a scene Norman Rockwell would have enjoyed, though Jackson does not caricature nor does he pry; he merely implies a series of separate human dramas of the sort we all tend to speculate about when stranded in such places. If the painting has a flaw, it is that these intriguing little episodes fail to merge into a unified whole, but that's nit-picking. This tour-de-force will be on view at 406 Seventh St. NW through Nov. 13. Ann Purcell Show
Premature success can be a curse for any artist not ready for the limelight. Abstract painter Ann Purcell, in our view, has been -- and continues to be -- the victim of such a circumstance. Catapulted into prominence when Jane Livingston selected her for a five-person new talent show at the Corcoran in 1976, Purcell enjoyed the inevitable fallout of such an event: one-person shows here and in New York, and the acquisition of her works by the Corcoran and the Phillips. She moved to New York and has, by all accounts, done well ever since.
But what of the art? Purcell's current show at Osuna--like those that preceded it -- makes one wonder what Livingston saw, or thought she saw. There is one large, brightly colored, Hans Hoffman-derived abstraction with collage elements titled "Caprichos" that would lend a cheery air to an office lobby. But beyond that, these are chaotic compositions in dreary colors that suggest an artist at a loss for something significant to say. The show continues through Nov. 19 at 406 Seventh St. NW, Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11 to 6. IFA Goes Private
After 32 years as area art dealers and framers, Manuel and Bernice Baker of IFA Galleries have decided to liquidate their stock and deal privately. Forced by escalating rent to abandon their longtime Connecticut Avenue location last June, they have moved their inventory of original prints, frames and sculpture stands into a small studio at the rear of 2625 Connecticut Ave. NW (entrance on the alley) and are selling it off at reduced prices. The sale will continue Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10:30 to 1 and 2 to 4:30. Agam, Altman, Boulanger, Chagall and Leonardo Nierman are among artists whose prints have been shown at IFA.