You can almost sniff turpentine in the air at Hull Gallery, where a joint show of paintings by Carleton Fletcher and Gary Goldberg has just opened.
Fletcher is still deftly pursuing a series of landscapes he showed last year, and continues to make juicy little oils with a broad, loaded brush, clearly reveling in the sheer act. But Fletcher here eschews the easy beauty he is so capable of, still challenging himself with intrinsically unbeautiful subjects, such as a hopper car on a railroad siding, or the Alexandria Concrete Co. -- the latter, unlikely as it may seem, proving to be one of the most luscious paintings in the show.
Goldberg, the more precise realist, is a young Washington artist here showing his first really cohesive suite of work: large still lifes of the paint-splattered tabletops in his studio. They are observed from an angle slightly up and over, and are are covered with half-squeezed tubes of paint, jars loaded with brushes and other painting paraphernalia. Most important: They are also used, at least in part, as palettes, and it is in these passages -- showing real blobs of pure color smudged, smeared or otherwise mixed together in the artist's search for the perfect hue -- that these paintings come to life.
These are paintings about the act of painting, and though Goldberg is still finding his way, he seems to be veering off in the potentially interesting direction of trompe l'oeil, not only in the areas involving the mixing of color, but also in areas involving bits of seemingly real (but actually painted) masking tape. A big step forward for this artist, this show makes us curious to see what will come next. Both shows will be on view through Dec. 6 at 3301 New Mexico Ave. NW. Hours are 9:30 to 5, Mondays through Saturdays.