Assemblage artist Lila Snow wants to recreate the visual experience of Japan: the brilliant hues of the fabrics and handmade papers, the textures of weathered bronze and stone, the classic shapes of bowls and boxes and--above all--the traditional tying and wrapping, an art form in Japan.
To that end, she has filled her ambitious show at Gallery 10 with invented sculptural objects--boxes, bowls and wall-hung "Omos" (her invented word)--most of them cut from plastic foam and then wrapped with Japanese paper, cloth, tapa bark or nylon tape. Finally, they are covered with paint, metal dust, gold leaf, rubber stamps or postage stamps.
The more successful pieces are evocative indeed. The tall, flat "Tea Ceremony Omo" is unmistakably Japanese in its distinctive red/orange/purple coloration, though unspecific in its meaning. "Ladder Omo" is one of several chunky, primitive-looking, stele-like objects that capture the color and texture of weathered bronze or stone. A "Shrine" installation features an amusing lineup of shoes at the door (ubiquitous in Japan)--though Gallery 10's parade of shrines by various artists over the past several months has become tiresome indeed.
The problem with this show is that several lesser works could have--and should have--been eliminated. As a maker of collage and assemblage, Snow in the past has had difficulty transcending the junky, cluttered look that plagues so much work in this genre. The simplification in the individual objects here suggests a potential breakthrough for Snow's art, even though the spare, minimal esthetic of Japan remains sadly absent from the installation.
The show continues at 1519 Connecticut Ave.through May 21. Hours are 11 to 5, Tuesdays through Saturdays. Photographs by Allan Janus
Photographer Allan Janus first turned up on the art scene here as the man who made the old-fashioned tintype portraits in the Smithsonian's "1876" exhibition. Since then, he has been out on his own, exploring other 19th-century photographic processes and winning museum exhibitions and grants for his moody landscape studies. His winning show at Kathleen Ewing is the first to present him as a fully mature artist.
Using a Widelux camera--an updated version of old panorama cameras in which the lens moves, taking in roughly three times what the eye can see--Janus has set out to study the landscape in and around Washington. Since the 1860s, such cameras have been used to capture breathtaking subjects--vast canyons, whole cities seen from mountaintops, gigantic graduation-class photographs.
Janus, however, uses the lens to make small-scale, intimate panoramas: a lone garden chair at Dumbarton Oaks, a menacing gaggle of geese in an Accoceek barnyard, a stone statue of Adam and Eve in the winter-killed Ladew Gardens near Baltimore. There is wit and warmth and poetry in Janus' work, along with a gift for bringing inanimate objects to life.
Also showing at Ewing is well-known Washington photographer Claudia Smigrod, whose new gold-toned portraits and intimate domestic still-lifes lack the power of her earlier works. Both shows continue through May 28 at 3243 P St. NW. Hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11 to 6. Barron, Fleming & Keeler at Studio
Pat Barron is the headliner in a three-person show at Studio Gallery, where her snapshot-like, photo-realist drawings and lithographs continue to gently satirize campaigning politicians and big-business wheeler-dealers. She also makes a poignant point by juxtaposing a giggly group of young "Sorority Sisters" and a still-smiling group of older "Cruise Widows" who, like it or not, find themselves in the same boat--literally, a cruise ship.
Avis Fleming's delicate, bucolic color pencil landscapes (some are a bit too stiff) and David Keeler's uneven and unfocused collages (some with art-related subjects) round out this show, which continues at 420 Seventh St. NW through May. Hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11 to 5. Works by Yoshi Takahashi
Painter-printmaker Yoshi Takahashi has seen a good bit of the world, and his art shows it. Born in Japan, schooled in Germany and now teaching in Switzerland, he builds the canvases at Baumgartner Galleries from fields of Jackson Pollock-like drips and splatters topped with large, central gestures based on Japanese calligraphy. The initial impulse to dismiss these oils as decoration is tempered by a slowly dawning admiration for the artist's way with color, especially in the muted gray-brown and green palette.
His delicate and masterfully made still-life etchings--which cross Japanese woodblock prints with the whimsical Paul Klee--suggest that printmaking may be Takahashi's premier medium. The show continues at 2016 R St. NW through June 12. Hours are 11 to 6, Tuesdays through Saturdays. graphics/photo: Janus' Widelux camera view of a stone statue of Adam and Eve in Ladew Gardens near Baltimore