A century from now -- if the world and Sotheby's survive--they could be auctioning off some of the works on view at Fendrick Gallery. They'll call them decorative arts--possibly some of the finest produced in late 20th-century America.
Since 1975, Barbara Fendrick has championed the work of America's best artist-craftsmen, such as furniture makers Wendell Castle and Albert Paley, glass artists Dale Chihuly and Thomas Patti, and potter Richard Devore. At the same time,there has been a great resurgence of interest in both making and collecting decorative art--no doubt in part a reaction to the fact that such visual pleasures were strictly forbidden within the modern esthetic.
Fendrick's show includes Castle's exquisitely carved tables and a $40,000 cabinet that is a tour-de-force in English walnut with silver inlay, Paley's curvaceous steel tables and plant stands seemingly wrought from twisted licorice sticks, Chihuly's sensuously shaped and lusciously colored glass objects. All are like work widely collected by museums and corporations, as well as by individuals who can afford it. These artists also are commissioned often to do works for public spaces, such as Paley's tree grates and benches for Pennsylvania Avenue and his gate for the Renwick Gallery.
These works will carry word to the future that there was more to late 20th century American culture than built-in obsolescence. The show continues at 3059 M St. NW through June 18. Gregg Hannan at WPA
In his first solo show at WPA, Washington poet, performer and art activist Gregg Hannan reveals himself to be an energetic painter as well--albeit one still in search of a mode of expression he can call his own.
Starting with cut plywood reassembled into irregular formats, Hannan has painted several ambitious works, which, taken together, look like a group show. Strong influences are in evidence: a Rauschenberg-type combine painting with a chunk of patterned linoleum attached; an appealing "new image" painting featuring a buoy bobbing in an abstract expressionist sea, and a wholly obscure neo-expressionist piece titled "Stuka" (a World War II German dive-bomber), which seems to hint at disaster in the tropics. Could this be a metaphoric reference to the invasion of the American art scene by German painters?
There's no knowing what Hannan really means, except in a small sculptural piece in which a revivalist billboard conjures the South in the manner of William Christenberry. "Not Going to Church" is the most original and gripping work, anelusive image of a figure either asleep or dead on the front seat of a car. Hours are 11 to 5 through Saturday at 404 Seventh St. NW. Dance on Paper
"Tracking, Tracing, Marking, Pacing," also on view at WPA, is a special treat for dance aficionados, and a revelation, too. Since the lines between dance and art began to disappear back in the '60s--with Rauschenberg performing and Merce Cunningham making art--there has been something of a revolution in dance notation, or at least an expansion in its forms.
This show, the first survey of its kind, was organized by the Pratt Institute in New York, and consists of drawings that either represent or were inspired by the notion of movement. Artist/performers like Vito Acconci and Robert Longo may be the most familiar names in art circles, but the delicate etchings of Lucinda Childs, the delightful "Mail Order Dances" by Remy Charlip, the hilarious performance notations of Pooh Kaye and Laura Dean's jewel-like grids suggest that beautiful and imaginative art on paper is no longer the domain of visual artists alone. This show closes May 28. Smallwood & Kravitz
Michael Smallwood's new abstract paintings at Addison/Ripley Gallery, 9 Hillyer Court NW, have an air of both whimsy and confidence acquired since his last show. Still working with monumental, pyramidal forms set against a scumbled ground, he has softened the hard, straight edges of his triangles into long, swooping curves, suggesting the gentledrifting of kites or waves. There is also more depth and transparency in the backgrounds, and a generally bolder hand at work.
Also featured are new acrylics on paper by Walter Kravitz, all with the look of subterranean fantasyscapes. Most intriguing are the illusionistic passages that appear to be thick swirls and squiggles of brushed paint, but are, in fact, flat areas masterfully highlighted with pencil. "Wally's Thin Things" is an especially fine piece, and a dangling installation of dancers and circus figures made from cut and painted plexiglass offers Kravitz's usual playful delights.
Both shows continue through May 28, and are open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11 to 5.