DORA LEE, who was born in Peking and who studied painting with traditional Chinese master painters, has become in the last decade or so a skilled painter of the views, the buildings and the light of Washington. An enticing selection of her recent work in this vein, along with a few more traditional paintings, makes up her solo exhibition at the Franz Bader Gallery.
Lee is not a view painter in the western mold, not a precise recorder of the grand scenes and lively minutiae of urban existence. Her watercolor technique combines the controlled freedom of oriental brushwork with a knowledge of western painting, particularly of Post-Impressionist color.
This deft mix of urban subject matter and an unusual technique--graceful brushwork (sometimes reinforced with quick strokes of the pen), a very liquid medium, luminous colors and the surface bounce of unpainted paper showing through--produces highly personal and thoroughly enjoyable city views.
Sometimes these pictures are prettier and livelier than the real thing. In her hands, for instance, a view of Rhodes Tavern and the Treasury Building fence takes on the exotic splendor of Byzantium. But even these views are saved from total improbability by the artist's basic tact, her sharp sense of organization and her underyling comprehension of the visual complexities of the city. It is a unique melding of a place and a joyfully romantic spirit. The exhibition continues through Sept. 10 at 2001 I St. NW. Hours at the Bader Gallery are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Works by Washington Women
Each of the six artists in the late summer group exhibition at the Midtown Gallery is a painter, a woman and works in the Washington area. But the works they make are quite different in most key respects.
Susan Luttenberger's pastels on paper, misty blends of pleasing colors with more or less indefinite forms bleeding in and out of the mists, are the prettiest works in the show--too pretty, really, to have much lasting impact. Ellen Gordon Gordon, in modest abstract paintings on canvas that are at once clear in organization and pleasingly informal in execution, strikes a more persuasive balance between hard and soft, cold and warm, logic and intuition.
Contrasting formal and emotional qualities also distinguish the paintings on paper by Marianne LaRoche. Narrow, vertical, linear marks are set, for instance, against curved forms that have an impressive sweep (like the edges of a planet or star). This creates interesting ambiguities of space and subject. LaRoche's colors are, as usual, provocatively idiosyncratic.
Mary Anne Reilly's paintings of Washington fac,ades are dramatic in form (window grids seen from a low vantage point) and quite warm in paint handling, although the emotional stance they take is curiously deadpan. Her rooftop scenes, with the Washington Monument always peaking above the roof lines, are marred by an unfortunate combination of painting techniques--tight and illustrational in places, loose and atmospheric in others--rather as if two different painters have worked on the same canvas.
Ronnie Spiewak's quickly executed works on paper are vivid, personal notations on landscape or urban themes. The motifs, colors and rhythms of the images vary accordingly. Larger works on canvas such as "Within You and Without You," a faceless skeletal figure outlined in bright bands of color, are more carefully plotted and somehow not so intriguing.
Patricia Dubroof, who is responsible for the preposterously cute mural on an exposed brick sidewall on the west side of the 1700 block of Connecticut Avenue--I see it almost every day and it spoils a fine view of the cityscape--does much better at smaller scale with boldly painted head-and-shoulders figures. These paintings on paper are crisply designed and at least mildly provocative in psychological terms.
The Midtown Gallery, located in the ground floor of a new office building at 1630 Connecticut Ave. NW, has been open for four months. This exhibition "represents just the beginning of what will be a continuing commitment by the Midtown to local artists," says gallery director Linda Singer. The show continues through Sept. 9. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday.