Australian Brigid Cole-Adams has created her installation at Gallery 10 out of cheesecloth, paint, paper, wire and found objects.
Using materials such as these gets her esthetic points for taking art out of the coarse world of mere commodity. Better yet, on this higher plane, it also makes the art hard to sell, but she gets around that problem by offering to sell bits and parts of her three-room installation when the show is over.
Her subject is "House and Garden" and you can tell which room is meant to represent what because the house area contains a damaged chair and the garden area contains a damaged duck. The unifying element is the cheesecloth -- yards and yards of it -- stained and painted and torn and draped and stretched around the rooms.
The "house" installation is predominantly white and coolly surrealistic: A chair tilts without visible support, an empty, stiffened shirt seems blown by a mysterious gale, and sweeps of diaphanous drapery work hard at creating an aura of fantasy. But this room has neither a real presence nor a coherent theme. It is hard to see it as illusion, or appreciate what it is as such.
The first "garden" room is much more successful. The effect is that of a cave of mysterious dark fecundity. Pendulous swollen objects in purple and mauve and gold grow out of the ceilings and the walls. This is nature on the move, aggressive and threatening -- a garden completely out of control.
The second "garden" room seems an afterthought. The elements are related only superficially -- or perhaps even accidentally. From the romanticism of the veiled and shrouded wall to boldly colored blossoms that bloom behind the picket fence in the corner is a considerable distance, both in style and mood. The juxtaposition is forced and ineffective.
The temporary nature of this art is made apparent by the use of the fragile, worthless and discarded materials. Unfortunately, it is that aspect of valuelessness that triumphs here. The idea of "dematerialization" is to allow the concept of art to rise above the material values. For the most part, the material drags this art down with it. The installation can be seen through Feb. 23 at 1519 Connecticut Ave. NW, Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eugene Leake's Landscapes
Whatever concerted critical opinion may say about the position of landscape painting in contemporary art history, there will always be a place for it over the sofa. The paintings of Eugene Leake, which will be on exhibit through Feb. 16 at the National Academy of Sciences, 2101 Constitution Ave. NW, are as soul-satisfying as a plate of fried chicken and gravy. Not haute cuisine perhaps, but the stuff of which solid comfort is made.
Leake, whose followers will remember him as the former director of the Maryland Institute, paints en plein air -- lugging sometimes huge canvases into a position of direct confrontation with nature. Though he is a realist through and through, it is ironic that his most successful work is his most abstract. "August Trees" is one of his largest oils, but its close viewpoint and gestural technique give it the spontaneity and charm of a small oil sketch.
His other works record, more literally than romantically, the Maryland countryside he has surrounded himself with, at its most propitious moments. Leake's flaw is that his gaze wanders too far afield. His view might be a panorama in one work, a copse of trees in another, and in a third, a slightly out-of-focus close-up of bushy undergrowth. In the close quarters of this setting, these shifts of perspective are unsettling and detract from the authority of his voice. Nevertheless, for those fond of traditional landscape painting, this show is worth a visit.