Like so many galleries before it, the Washington Women's Arts Center has opened new exhibition space on the Seventh Street art strip, following the Studio Gallery into Lansburgh's Cultural Center.
Its housewarming exhibition is titled "The Home Show," appropriately enough.
It is paintings, photographs, collages, sculptures, even an afghan, all making the esthetic case for, against and about the home as everything from art subject to art object.
The theme contrasts with the professional spaciousness of these new quarters.
After seven years of launching new careers in art from the basement of a small Q Street house (which it will keep), the nonprofit WWAC, now 800 members strong, is free at last from small doorways and low ceilings. The Women's Center now has a chance to show larger works and more of them.
More important, it also could have more stimulation and exposure. Neighbors include other nonprofit arts groups resident in Lansburgh's (such as Studio Gallery), the largest concentration of commercial galleries in town, and--just down the street--the Washington Project for the Arts. All share a common hope that Lansburgh's, despite its funding difficulties, will ultimately be transformed from a vast and scruffy edifice into a bustling arts center.
"The Home Show" deals with the home as idea: "The domestic realm is by tradition ours, and we are expected to preside over it, serve it, sustain and enrich it," writes American University art historian Mary D. Garrard in the exhibition catalogue.
By the looks of the 40 works juried into this show by a committee of peers, some artists find more joy in domesticity than others. Jude Asher seems to see it as a form of benign imprisonment, expressed by a somnolent nude female doll lolling inside a real bird cage, with only a radio and a telephone to link her to the outside world. The "doll" idea turns up often, and with some poignancy, in a small clay figure by Alice Sims, who shows us a woman helplessly bound to a baby by a length of umbilical cord.
But there are happier interpretations, including a delightful soft sculpture of the Lincoln Memorial by Joanna Pessa, part of her "Patriotic Kitchen Appliance Cover Set." That's right--it also doubles as a toaster cozy. The best work in the show, ironically by the sole male exhibitor, is Henry Gerstenberg's narrow, panoramic photograph of a plant-filled picture window seen from the inside looking out. Built from repeated and reversed images, it is redolent of the joys of staying home.
More artists of this caliber will, one hopes, keep turning up to replenish the supply of talent diminished each time WWAC launches one of its discoveries into the commercial gallery world.
The show will continue through Jan. 30 and will be followed by a show called "Wall to Wall," which any artist can enter, unjuried, for a $5 fee. Joan Mondale and Olga Hirshhorn will be honorary patrons of the fund-raising event, which will open Feb. 1. Gallery hours are 11 to 6, Tuesdays through Fridays, Saturdays 11 to 4. It is at 418 Seventh St. NW. Sculpture by Bill Shanhouse
If Bill Shanhouse has ever had an original sculptural idea, you won't find it in his survey show at Slavin Gallery. A former industrialist and engineer, as well as a former vice president of both Hofstra and Iowa universities, Shanhouse came to Washington a few years ago and got serious enough about art-making to take up studies in sculpture at the Corcoran--something he had dabbled in for years, both as maker and collector.
He's still dabbling.
Starting with a 15-year-old piece whose style is swiped from the lexicon of Harry Bertoia (dealer Slavin feebly argues that Shanhouse did it first), Shanhouse later began to mount cut aluminum floral and bird-like shapes in large shadowboxes. From there he moved to bending ribbons of what look like scraps of thin aluminum into occasionally graceful (though often stilted) curves, underlining the obviously accidental nature of the results with titles like "Flame" and "Swallows."
In his latest phase, Shanhouse has switched his allegiance to de Stijl, and has taken to building sleek, shiny, three-dimensional Mondrian-type constructions from brightly colored acrylic--a series he calls "Harmony." There is not an iota of originality about them, except for the sheer gall of their existence, and the fact that you can buy "Harmony 4" in the one-foot, four-foot or the four-foot rotating size, and "Harmony 6" in the one-foot or six-foot size.
It seems not to have occurred to Shanhouse--who sells better than most--that increased size and expensive mounting are no substitutes for content, and add only to the pretentiousness of his work. The show, at 404 Seventh St. NW, closes today at 5. Guided Tours at Corcoran --
Painters Gene Davis and Leon Berkowitz will lead tours through "Acquisitions Since 1975" at the Corcoran Gallery today, and photographer Mark Power will do likewise for "August Sander: Photographs of an Epoch." These rare events will highlight an open house at the Corcoran School of Art between 1 and 4 p.m. today, designed to introduce the faculty and facilities of its "Open Program"--90 art courses offered for credit and noncredit for the term from Jan. 17 to May 7.
Demonstrations in all media will be held, along with walk-in life-drawing sessions and calligraphy and airbrush workshops. Similar events will take place simultaneously at the Corcoran's Georgetown campus, in the Jackson School on R Street NW, between 30th and 31st streets, where Bill Christenberry will talk on current student work. Call the Corcoran School, 17th Street and New York Avenue NW, for further information and specific times.