ARTIST Randy Lee White is a teller of tales, a keeper of histories. Born to a Brule-Sioux mother and a French father in South Dakota, he spent his youth moving from one reservation to another, soaking up Indian life and lore. At 31, he is a storehouse of facts, feelings, images and ideas about everything from the chivalry of the plains and the rivalry between Sioux and Crow to the recent threat to blow up the Washington Monument.
All of this he combines into an art that is arguably the most inventive now being produced by any American Indian painter. It can currently be seen in a show at the Baumgartner Galleries, as well as in three examples selected for the Corcoran Biennial.
But the works at the Corcoran--all large paintings on canvas--are misleading. White has explored many media, from small monotypes to drawings on old ledger paper to large paintings. But he has done his most distinctive work in handmade paper, cast into the shape of Indian artifacts--buffalo hides, tepees and ceremonial shirts--and painted with pictographic narratives recounting tribal exploits and anecdotes from the past, as well as the present.
"Wins a Wife," for example, is a cast-paper shirt collaged with real cloth fringes. It tells a tale of how a warrior wins his wife by scalping (but not killing) her father's adversary. Rendered in outline, with expressive marks (such as wavy lines representing speech), the pair ends up happily wrapped together in a courting blanket.
To add to their visual power, these cast-paper works are often collaged with cloth, leather, beadwork and cast-paper feathers that conjure the real thing, rather than depict it as paintings do. The show also includes paintings, but they lack the power and immediacy of the more original work in paper.
The Baumgartner show will continue through Feb. 26 at 2016 R St. NW. Hours are 11 to 6, Tuesdays through Saturdays. Auction at Haslem Gallery --
If you'd rather give art than a heart for Valentine's Day, Jane Haslem Gallery, 406 Seventh St. NW, offers a sweet alternative. On Saturday more than 150 paintings, drawings, prints, posters, cartoons and comic strips from regular stock will go on sale in a silent auction, with bids starting at 30 to 70 percent below retail, according to Haslem.
Minimum prices range from $15 for posters by Rauschenberg and Rivers to $2,600 for a Billy Morrow Jackson oil and $5,000 for a painting by Gabor Peterdi. Prints by John Sloan, Thomas Hart Benton, Grant Wood, Mauricio Lasansky, Carol Summers and dozens of other American artists will be on view, along with cartoons by Pat Oliphant and drawings for Winnie Winkle and Tillie the Toiler comic strips dating from the '30s. All works are already on display, and can be seen today and tomorrow from 11 to 4, and Saturday starting at 11. Bidding begins at 1 on Saturday. Drawings by George Staempfli
Scratch an art dealer and you'll often find an aspiring artist: photographer Alfred Stieglitz, sculptor Betty Parsons, or Washington's own poetic cameraman, Franz Bader. Stieglitz aside, such work is usually modest and unassuming, more in the realm of pleasureable preoccupation than passionate pursuit. The penciled nudes and still-lifes by New York dealer George Staempfli, now at Capricorn Gallery, are firmly in this tradition.
Trained in Germany as an art historian, the Swiss-born Staempfli had no formal training in making art, but his knowledge of Grunewald, Du rer and other northern masters seems to have inspired the strange mix of meticulous realism and persistent surrealism that characterizes his work. He combines them to good advantage in his pure still-lifes, notably in a fine, hard-point rendering of a porcelain cup shimmering with light.
His female nudes, however, are a very different story. One or two are mildly provocative, but most look like illustrations for romance magazines, or--even worse--like the ads in the back. Apart from one amusing drawing of a nude wearing a leather jacket and seen from the rear (possibly a takeoff on Claudio Bravo, an artist Staempfli sells), this formidable dealer should have done himself a favor and left the leather and garter belts at home. The show closes Feb. 27 at 4849 Rugby Ave. in Bethesda. Hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11 to 5, Sundays 1 to 5.