Stuart Land is not afraid of dinosaurs or dragons. Or of slavering Venusians. His work is on view in the group show at Zenith. The macho and licentious fantasies he conjures are more frequently experienced in science fiction paperbacks than in galleries of art.
Land's work calls to mind an Eddie Bauer's for barbarians, a sort of armory and costume shop for warriors from the future or from the distant past.
Want to rescue a countess from the Death Star, or a Stone Age princess wearing panties made of pelts? Want a ray gun or ray dagger? Land's got what you need.
He's got capes of leopard skin and bracelets for your biceps. He's got space helmets, tiaras and doublets of chain mail. He's got shining silver swords. He's got belts and sheaths and badges and little metal shields for your elbows and your knees.
And if you need a woman, not a real woman, but some lissome, long-limbed lovely to prompt your derring-do--say a slim slave for your couch, or an Amazonian ally to help you run the spaceship--Land can help you, too.
His ray guns and ray daggers are made of pieces of found metal, brass doorknobs, bits of copper pipe and pieces of computers. Baroque and futuristic, they've been designed to satisfy Tarzan and Buck Rogers and the Three Musketeers.
For time-travelers in search of, say, the 1950s, Land has sculpted "Cindy," a statuesque statuette. She's wearing heels and a garter belt. She's taking off her bra. For those wishing to wage war in the Japan of the Shoguns, here are small bronze geishas, samurai with spears and a metal bonsai among whose copper leaves sits a tiny panther lady whose hands aren't hands but claws.
Land, 35, has been a hairdresser and a D.C. police officer. His well-crafted figurines--of steel, bronze, copper, silver and opal--are for the most part tiny, as if to make the viewer feel heroically enormous. The group show at Zenith, at the rear of 1441 Rhode Island Ave. NW, includes Renee Balfour's brightly patterned paintings and Chas Colburn's torch-cut steel sculptures. It closes Sept. 10. Martyred Charcoals
No silliness is present in Magdalena Abakanowicz's large charcoal drawings at the National Academy of Sciences, 2101 Constitution Ave. NW. They are strong and bold but void of joy. She is Polish, and it shows.
One feels before these pictures the martyr's pain and the sound of muffled yells. Her subject is the figure, but not only the figure. A sense of energy oppressed, of the creative crucified, burns darkly in her art.
The drawings she calls "Heads" have the squashed, distorted look of faces stuffed in stockings. They seem faces of the dead, or of the nearly dead. Her charcoal lines are vigorous, they crackle with vitality, but the faces they evoke have been wrapped in shrouds.
Her "Torsos" all are crucified. Each body has a male chest, and yet each one appears pregnant. Something seething and chaotic and less than embryonic--a tangle of dark string-like lines, a group of snakelike curves--fills each swelling abdomen. These works are full of mourning. They do not promise birth.
Abakanowicz, who began to witness horrors during World War II, has represented Poland in scores of much-admired European shows. She is best known for her fiber art. Her show, a part of her recent retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, closes Sept. 9.