A SPECIAL KIND of electricity ran through the crowd at A Osuna Gallery last Saturday afternoon -- the sort generated when a talented young artist seems on the verge of launching a successful career.
In this case, the occasion was the opening of pattern-painter W. C. Richardson's first one-man show. At 29, "Chip" Richardson already had cut something of a swath in Washington art circles by attracting attention in group exhibitions organized by Hirshhorn curator Howard Fox (the new Pied Piper of Washington artists) and selling works to some big-name buyers.
In other words, momentum was well underway by the time of Richardson's debut.
The work does not disappoint--no small accomplishment under the circumstance. Rather, these large, square canvases -- which at first look like segments of patchwork quilts -- reassert a distinctive and polished look, something we might not expect so early in a career. Though not all of equal interest, these are original, sophisticated abstractions that manage to generate visual excitement.
Working from small drawings, Richardson begins by laying down a diagonal grid with vanishing points off the canvas--a device used by the late Jack Tworkov, among others. Using acrylic and oil paint, he intuitively fills in selected areas with rhythmic color patternings made from arcs, stripes, polka dots and other forms that often recall printed cloth. Most important, before applying the paint, he animates his non-hierarchical surfaces with charcoal drawings, adding triangular, bird-like forms, dotted lines and other linear devices that serve to keep the eye in constant motion.
Though the patternings are what initially engage the viewer, it is this ability to animate and energize the underlying grid that keeps Richardson's work interesting -- if occasionally overly busy. The proof comes in the fact that his black-and-white drawings -- notably a three-part charcoal and ink piece titled "Jaco"--are among the strongest works on view.
This impressive debut will continue at 406 Seventh St. NW through Jan. 7. Hours are 11 to 6, Tuesdays through Saturdays. Studio Redux
Et Resurrexit! Again.
Studio Gallery, the city's oldest artists' cooperative, re-opened last week in the Lansburgh Building, 420 Seventh St. NW, after a two-year hiatus. It is the fifth space this indomitable group has occupied since its founding in 1960.
Neither the gallery nor the art has ever looked better.
Several gallery regulars are still here, but none has made a more astonishing breakthrough than painter Rose Goding, whose always-joyful landscapes are now richer and more beautiful than ever.
Also back -- and most welcome -- are the works of satirist Pat Barron, whose small, good-humored lithographs, "It's a Deal" and "Senior Partner," might make the perfect Christmas present for the wheeler-dealer on your list. Val Lewton's recent watercolors of downtown Washington under threat of the wrecker's ball show another gallery mainstay in top form, though his handsome design for the new space is the scene-stealer here. Linda Thern Smith's mysterious sculpture, Avis Fleming's delicate drawings and Elloise Schoettler's lyrical collages are also all well-represented.
Photographer Margery Paris and painter Sylvia Wederath are among the newcomers whose future solos should be of interest. Studio, which now has nearly 20 members, is looking for more good artists willing to share the modest monthly fees. Several large show windows on Seventh Street are a unique feature of the gallery bound to make other dealers green.
This show continues through Dec. 22, and is open 11 to 5, Tuesdays through Saturdays.