In the early '60s, the Washington Color School questioned prevailing criteria for art and expanded the concepts of what a painting could be. As such, it is entitled to a permanent spot in art history, and from that perspective it is admirable. Hinging the success of a canvas on a swath of diluted pigment is always risky. So much rests on so little, and oh, the adventure of it all.
Charles Pollock, elder brother of the late Jackson, and a resident of Paris since 1971, paints in that style. His exhibition at the Dimmock Gallery, on display through Jan. 11, includes 10 gouaches and a series of acrylic paintings on canvas. The works rely almost entirely on color -- broad pastel veils of it, enlivened only by faint calligraphic flourishes and oblique strokes of a more intense hue.
But the effect depends upon a complex interaction that is often missing.
In the acrylic series, called "Passim," Pollock has organized his swatches of color with a kind of controlled abandon. But most of his paintings seem a timid echo of an emotion that's hard to revive.
It is the use of color -- pure energy stirring the senses -- that makes this style successful. When it works, the composition is unimportant; when it's not working, nothing helps.
Pollock confirms this with one masterly work. In "Passim #36," his field is a deep, intense mustard. On this unusual hue float his typical strokes of rose, blue and mauve. The colors push and pull with an almost electrical animation. Here, at least, the style succeeds. Holiday Group Shows
Several Washington galleries have geared up for the holiday season with gift-giving clearly a priority; as a result, an excellent variety of works has been displayed for sale. Much is reasonably priced.
The Franz Bader Gallery is an old hand here -- this is the 40th year it has sponsored a holiday group exhibition -- and the inventory is vast. But there is a broad range in price and quality, here and elsewhere, so it is wise to choose with care.
It is possible, for instance, to pick up a drawing -- not especially good -- by Bonnard, for $3,500. On the other hand, $160 will buy a wonderful work by Pim Leefsma, a Dutchman whose tiny gouaches combine modernism and the medieval with a fierce intensity. Bader will feature an exhibit of more of Leefsma's work in January.
Another good choice would be the dramatic monoprint by Richmond printmaker David Freed titled "Dark Autumn." Priced at $700, this work signals a new direction for Freed. An etching by Helmtrud Nystrom, "Traveling Down South" ($250), and a large mixed-media work, "Still Life With Frog" ($750) by Patricia Bellan-Gillen, also deserve consideration.
Gallery K claims simply to offer an overview of the artists it represents, but here, too, there are reasonably priced works for sale. One of the best bets is the mixed-media work by Richmond artist Mark Scala at $330. Scala combines Expressionism with an allusion to the oriental, but this work avoids the trendy.
The name Barbara Bjanes may be unfamiliar, but it will surely be recognized if the two oils she exhibits here are any indication of her talent. These are paintings about painting -- works that explore the history of modernism with humor and a well-developed sense of color.
And for those who went to Yuriko Yamiguchi's last exhibition with plans to buy -- only to find it sold out -- there are consolation prizes available. Gallery K is offering two drawings of her wall works for $950 each. Two years ago that probably would have bought an entire wall, but such is the cost of procrastination.
Even more moderately priced are crafts. The American Hand has a broad selection, from a striped and polka-dotted rectangular container ($38) by Barbara Miner to a minimal white porcelain dish by Ikuzi Teraki ($35). Hidden away in the back room is an unusual celadon teapot in the same price range, by Walter Hyleck.
All of these offerings will be available through Saturday, and some beyond that date.