It is difficult to pinpoint just where and how Oleg Kudryashov's prints generate their emotional force, but that of course is true of all substantial art. Kudryashov's works, on view at Robert Brown Contemporary Art, 1005 New Hampshire Ave. NW, are nonetheless especially intriguing for the number of hints they supply, and the absence of hard answers.
The images are unquestionably abstract and yet we are told in some biographical notes that Kudryashov works from nature: "a view from the window, a tree, a house, a tram, passers-by, a factory yard and even interiors to which he has become attached." As Kudryashov is a superb printmaker and lives in London (to which he emigrated from his native Russia in 1974), this makes us think immediately of Whistler.
The comparison is not altogether inapt. Kudryashov's line is lively, like Whistler's; and his images, too, are at once shadowy and filled with flickering light. But Kudryashov's forte is drypoint, whereas Whistler was at home with etching and lithography; and though Kudryashov's images have an urban feel, they are abstract. Whistler's, of course, are true cityscapes.
There is something in the works -- the fractured planes, the idea of working through reality to abstraction -- that suggests Cubist analysis of form. But Kudryashov's forms are practically weightless, and dispersed across the surface. His emphasis on the diagonal and his drive to transform lines into three-dimensional relief constructions recall similar forces at work in the art of El Lissitzky and other Russian Constructivists. But Kudryashov's work is very personal, even secretive. All of this suggests that such "hints" may be nothing more than one viewer's way of encircling the works to get at their layered meanings.
Kudryashov's means are conventional -- a sharp tool, a zinc plate and conscientious attention to the details of the craft -- but his attack is aggressive and thoroughly his own. He treats the plate as an abstract expressionist painter might, working directly upon it with concentration and great speed. Frequently he does not stop with the plate itself but continues on the surface of the paper, scoring it with a sort of mad precision, or reinforcing the shadowy planes with paint. He rarely prints more than one image from a plate, we are told, although he does at times print variations on a theme, reworking the plate or, indeed, cutting it to pieces and reassembling it before printing.
It is the intelligence and furor of this attack that account for the freshness of Kudryashov's work, which has an exile's intensity. The show is on view Wednesday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m., through Dec. 20. Sculpture at Phoenix II
Anyone familiar with V. V. Rankine's shaped abstract paintings of the late 1960s -- sharp, clear shapes of one or two colors that hung on the wall like long masks or shields--will experience a special shock of recognition upon seeing the figural sculptures in her present show at Phoenix II. It is as if, after more than a decade, the paintings have stepped from the wall to walk among us.
The sculptures "Homine I and II," a particularly archetypal life-size pair, stride purposefully into the room; "Demeter," likewise made of sheets of burnished black plexiglass, stands massively above us, 98 inches high. Like all of Rankine's best work, these sculptures are mythic in character, and their geometries are honed right down to the bone. Their presence in our space, however, is somewhat disturbing; their purpose is not fully decipherable. Clearly they have been much on the artist's mind of late. She has filled large canvases with charcoal drawings focusing upon some of the possibilities of their existence: violence, spiritual striving, metamorphosis.
The figures have much more vitality, and somehow their scale is more impressive, than the architectural monuments in the show, which Rankine has been making for a number of years. Although these works are interesting intellectually, suggesting, among other things, the many-faceted power of the obelisk form, as sculpture they fall somewhat in between: too large to be architectural models and too small to amaze us with their size. The exhibition continues through Dec. 4 at 1875 I St. NW, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday and Saturday. Paintings at Bader
Stories of long-term mutual satisfaction and admiration between artists and viewers are rare enough to celebrate. Dealer Franz Bader and artist Anita Bucherer-Godeffroy did so this month in the most fitting way, with a well-rounded exhibition of her work commemorating the 20th anniversary of their professional association. Bader gave the artist, a German who divides her time between Munich and Mexico, her first solo exhibition 20 years ago and since then there have been seven such shows at his Washington gallery.
Bucherer-Godeffroy is a storyteller, fantasist and moralist who reminds us with some humor of our sins, errors, foibles and fate in small scale oil paintings, watercolors and drawings. The scale is just right for these finely felt little images combining reality as observed, imagined and prophesied. The Bader Gallery is located at 2001 I St. NW. The exhibition closes today at 6 p.m.