Much of the art crowd will probably be out making snow sculptures today, or contemplating the Washington landscape through the snowy pointillist dots the rest of us call a blizzard. Those who prefer art inside and on the walls, however, will find worthy shows to tramp out and visit (if the gallery owners can brave the snow as well).
At Phoenix II, New York painter Warren Brandt is showing brushy oils of subjects traditional artists have always favored: still lifes on table tops, interiors with models, an occasional lndscape. In fact, at first glance, many of these paintings seem so traditional -- even diffident and awkward -- that they appear to be advanced student work.
But look longer, and to the willing eye Brandt's paintings exude a monumental calm and the rarer sense that there is time -- time for models to loll about on giant pillows while the artist's brush savors oriental-patterned cloth with Matisse-like pleasure; for a friend to stop while dressing for an evening out, and patiently sit, comb in hand, while the painter revels in the shapes and colors in her patchwork skirt. His brushwork is casual, relaxed, masterful.
Ordinary though the subjects seem, Brandt's paintings are most extraordinary in their convincing assertion that life is for living, and painting, and looking, and simply doing as you like -- which is obviously what he does. Looking at his self-portrait (similar to one owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art), one envies his ability to argue against the frenzied pace of the world around him -- and win. But then, these small oases of claim that he paints can be taken home to remind us it can be done.
Brandt, husband of framed New York dealer Grace Borgenicht, will be showing pastels and oils at International Square, 1875 I St. NW, through Feb. 26.
Phoenix II is also showing "Three Washington Artists," two newcomers and well-known area sculptor Hildegarde van Roijen, whose free-standing constructions made from welded arcs, circles, strips and triangles of steel quote too liberally from David Smith, but show strength, nonetheless, in works such as the tall, black" Autumn."
Mary McCoy is showing thickly painted minimal-image abstractions on paper that are still unfocused, but command attention for the energy of her attack. Duncan E. Tebow still seems in the experimental stage with his constructivist-inspired, wall-hung reliefs made from painted Marlite. This show also continues through Feb. 26. Gallery hours are Mondays and Saturdays, 11 to 4, Tuesdays through Fridays, 11 to 6.
Barbara Godwin, artist and nurse, has always managed to steal time from work and family to make art. The ebb and flow of time in the course of that seemingly happly life is the subject of her unusual three-dimensional boxed paintings on paper it Gallery K, 2032 P St. NW.
Godwin starts by drawing on rice paper with a stream-of-consciousness style, shifting perspective as swiftly is she shifts characters and scenarios in a jumple of real and dream-like images both decipherable and obscure. A man plays a grand piano, another pounds a typewriter. Dogs and lovers float by, Chagall-style. All drift across the paper, taking the viewer's eye along a route tied loosely together with patternings.
Mood rather than meaning is often her goal. In "Symphony," for example the eye lights on what seems to be a happy, music session at home while a winged, muse-like lure hovers protectively over a wild painting. "Late Too Soon" seems to say something more omnimus as a businessman with briefcase in hand rolls uncontrollably downhill on a pair of roller skates. In "Like Any Other Day," a clothesline mingles with a trapeze, suggesting the high-wire aspect of everyday existence.
Godwin brings bright color to these works. She also addss a three-dimensional aspect by cutting out certain areas, leaving passages of fragile lattice-work. Finally, she suspends one drawing several inches above another, so the viewer can see through to a second or third plane. The technique is not always integrated or meaningful, but content and potential are there.
Also showing at Gallery K are watercolors, pastels and oils on paper by French artist Claude Darotchetche, who has less happy dreams and experiences to report. In a style that crosses Francis Bacon with the bloated figures of Fernando Botero, he depicts the lonely and the bizarre: a bored couple sitting in a waiting room, or battling in the nude; an armored scarecrow being attacked by a bird; or a clown eating the arm off a doll -- or is it a young girl? These are mysterious, distressing images that lean heavily on established styles, but at their best, they are still affecting.
Both shows at Gallery K continue through Feb. 19. Hours are Tuesdays through Fridays, 11 to 6.