David Staton is no ordinary farmhand. But it is the stuff of farm life -- the forces of nature, the landscape and earth artifacts such as stone and wood -- that have always inspired his art.
His show at Gallery 10 -- the first in several years -- is no exception, though it does have a witty and winning new dimension: black and white woodblock prints of cows and other farm animals, all boldly cut, grain and all, and squared off into bold, simple forms that recall Milton Avery. They are a sharp departure from Staton's austere floor pieces in stone, three of which sprawl through the galleries here.
Made from slices or chunks of flat gray stone stacked or laid out on the rug in simple configurations, these environmental sculptures are derived from the landscape, though only "Trace" makes its point, or has the esthetic clout of his earlier sculpture in wood. Here, through a field of irregularly shaped flagstones, long, thin lengths of flat stone trace a lightning-bolt-shaped pathway, giving direction and thrust to inanimate matter. The "found" stones, though obviously worked at some point, are left largely in their natural state, moss and all.
Staton can be a sculptor of great evocative power, though this show -- apart from the woodblock prints -- seems rather cramped and unfulfilled, as if it yearned to be outdoors. In that sense, it could be taken as a metaphor for the artist himself, who, despite successful shows at Jefferson Place, the Corcoran and the Washington Project for the Arts, abandoned the Washington art world some years back to be closer to nature as a Virginia farmer. His new prints are added evidence of his innate expressive powers. They will be on view through Jan. 26 at 1519 Connecticut Ave. NW, where hours are 11 to 5 Tuesdays through Saturdays.
By the way, while at Gallery 10, don't miss the minishow of small sculptures by 13 gallery artists, especially the three iron houses on stilts by newcomer Mary Annella Frank, each made different in mood by the varying calligraphy of the melted solder on the surface. "House for van Gogh," with its swirling sunburst forms, is especially strong. Frank has shown previously at Maryland Art Place, the vigorous and imaginative young artists' space in Baltimore that is now giving WPA a run for its money. Works by the Phillips Staff
The Phillips Collection has always supported young artists in numerous ways -- among them, the hiring of artists as guards and curators and the exhibition each year of their work. This year's show, tucked away on the third floor, reflects not only the greatly expanded staff, but the profound predisposition among them (or is it the influence upon them?) toward the painterly, representational art to which the Phillips has always been partial. Such influence is especially vivid in the small group of accomplished Vuillard-inspired still lifes by the late Phillips curator James McLaughlin, to whom this staff show has been dedicated.
No fewer than 42 artists are included in this year's show, including at least one well-known pro, museum curator Willem de Looper, though most are painters in much earlier stages of their careers. Notable among the newcomers are Christopher M. Stephens, who has made an intimate, brushy painting of some big old houses along "34th St.," and Stephen Hayes, who has made a fine portrait in graphite of Victor Kord. The most ambitious and independent work in the show: Denise Ward-Brown's striking sculptural assemblage made from a cluster of old frames filled with bits of cloth. Also out of the mainstream here is Robert Bailey's cheery painted sculpture in wood, which seems to depict melted markers at a railroad crossing. The show, which is largely for sale (the Phillips takes no commission), continues through tomorrow. 'Conversations With Artists'
Not so long ago, the National Gallery actually had a rule against showing work by living artists. But starting tomorrow, they'll be exhibiting live artists-in-the-flesh, starting with Robert Rauschenberg, who will kick off the gallery's first-ever, three-part Sunday afternoon series titled "Conversations With Artists." Starting at 4 p.m. in the East Building auditorium, the free public interview will be conducted by Rauschenberg biographer Nan Rosenthal, associate professor of art history at the University of California at Santa Cruz.
"Conversations With Artists," Part 2, will feature David Hockney, who will be interviewed by Henry Geldzahler on Jan. 20; followed by Roy Lichtenstein on Jan. 27, when the interviewer will be Jack Cowart, the National Gallery's new curator of 20th-century art. Organized in conjunction with the National's current exhibition of Gemini GEL prints, the series was designed to go beyond prints to deal with the artists' art and careers as a whole. Questions from the audience will be entertained. Early arrival is advised.