MORE THAN a quarter of a century has passed since Carol Summers took his place in the pantheon of 20th-centruy American printmakers. Working in woodcut, Summers took a medium that is traditionally small scale and black-and-white, and introduced lush color on a giant scale. His images were joyful and easy-to-take: stylized mountains and rainbows, hearts and flowers, sunbursts and waterfalls. All had a painterly, handmade look.
As white walls became de rigueur in '60s interiors, a need grew for art to hang upon them. Summers offered the perfect solution: more colorful, upbeat, reasonably priced art per buck than any printmaker of the time.
His subsequent popularity was no surprise, nor was the rise in the prices of his small editions, some of which went up tenfold. In the late '70s, however, Summers' reputation lost steam among critics who found the work too decorative, lacking in depth, repetitious and overexposed. Now an avid out-of-town collector has put more than 60 Summers prints up for sale, and the resulting show at Fendrick Gallery constitutes a mini-retrospective of sorts. It also offers a chance to reassess the work.
Though little has changed in terms of subject, form or intent over the years, Summers' work has held up better than some might expect. There are still high points: the poetic, starry "Nightfall" is a jewel among his prints, along with other night landscapes. There are also low points, such as the silly "Sierra Madre," wherein a mountain range turns into a nude.
But overall, there is no arguing with the outspoken sensuality of his splendid hues--rich blues and purples, hot reds and pinks--nor with the lush hand-printed surfaces of the Japanese paper, especially those in which color has been bled or blotted. Decoration--a dirty word in recent decades--is newly acceptable now, and that should make it easier to see the work anew. Also on view are seven new prints from the past few years, now made in relatively larger editions of 150, but at $300 still a bargain. The show will continue at 3059 M St. NW. through Sept. 27, after which the prints will be available for viewing upon request. Hours are 9:30 to 5:30, Mondays through Saturdays. Open Studio '83 ----------
Time to get out your walking shoes. This weekend and next, more than 190 area artists will open their studios to the public. This rare opportunity to scan the Washington art scene firsthand and visit artists on their own turf is the happy brainchild of the Washington Project for the Arts, which has organized similar--but smaller--events the past five years. "Open Studio '83" will take place this Saturday and Sunday and next Saturday and Sunday (Oct. 1 and 2) from 11 to 6 each day. All studio visits are free.
A different area will come under scrutiny each day, with no repeats. Downtown studios will be featured this Saturday, uptown studios on Sunday. Maryland and Virginia artists will get into the act for the first time on Oct. 1 and 2, respectively. Maps for the event, with suggested routes indicating concentrations of studios and their locations, can be obtained free at WPA, 400 Seventh St. NW; at Herb's Restaurant, 2111 P St. NW; Columbia Station, 1836 Columbia Rd. NW; and the 9:30 club, 930 F St. NW.
"This is a community event in which quality was not necessarily the primary factor in choosing artists," says Holly Block, program coordinator for WPA, who invited all area artists living inside the Beltway to participate. Visitors can make their own discoveries among the unknowns or stick to established names. There's also a vast array of emerging talent in between. For more information call WPA, 347-8304.