The exhibition entitled "Five Colombian Masters," at the Museum of Modern Art of Latin America, is a reminder that the modernist movement is international, in both its joys and cliche's.
Sculptor Eduardo Ramirez Villamizar creates cool white pieces of a geometric precision. These works would feel comfortable in any contemporary setting. Unfortunately, however logical and intellectual they may be, they also seem little more than modernist cliche's.
The sculpture of Edgar Negret, on the other hand, while equally international, has individuality. Negret makes his sculpture of painted aluminum that is carefully shaped and fastened with rivets, and the shaping, overlapping and fastening become an essential aspect of the work. These are strong pieces.
The paintings of Alejandro Obregon, although it loudly asserts its Latin origin, suffers from the fact that its style -- the submission of a representational subject to cubist and surrealistic interpretation -- is one that has become trite through overuse.
Fernando Botero's vision is unique and timeless. Here, he takes themes from the history of art, then bloats and inflates the figures in the style that is his signature, creating interpretations that are both comic and profound. It is a treat to see these three paintings, all from local private collections.
The real surprise, however, is the work of Enrique Grau, a Colombian artist who now lives and works in New York. Although the examples in this exhibition are somewhat uneven, his painting "Rita, 10:30 A.M." is exceptional. His satin-robed model is the essence of contented wanton indolence -- a paradigm of decadence for any time or any age.
The museum is also exhibiting works from the convent church of Santa Clara in Bogota, built before 1650 and decorated in the years immediately following. The paintings, produced in a surge of creative activity, were created by local artists, usually from European prints and engravings. If they seem awkward and unconvincing when compared with Spanish and Italian works of the same period, it would be wise to remember what was -- or rather what was not -- being painted in the American colonies at that time. In that light, this work seems quite remarkable. The exhibition will remain at 201 18th St. NW through Saturday. Lea Feinstein
Lea Feinstein's exhibition, "Transformations," is an effort to find a new reality with works that resolutely remain, for the most part, simple groupings of organic debris: feathers, shells, driftwood and bits of sea creatures.
She adorns crabs with tiny pink beads for eyes. She makes a pyramid of them and sets it atop a cobalt blue bottle of fake pearls. This is not likely to produce art. Cuteness, unless it is smothered in irony, is deadly to art and when the least of these works falls victim to this disease, the rest are weakened by the association.
Don't blame the throwaway nature of her materials for this failure. One work, made of mussel shells and an egg carton, actually achieves the metaphorical/ethereal quality she seems to be seeking despite its humble beginnings. Rather it is her substitution of nature nostalgia for any more ambitious goal that prevents her more frequent success. When Feinstein's preoccupation with environmental minutiae is restrained, as it is in her small, well-composed collages, the results are competent, if not exciting.
But tucked away at the rear of the exhibition are drawings that reveal that Feinstein has been wasting her time scavenging. These magnificent studies for ceramic vessels, executed in pencil and watercolor washes, are strong and self-assured. They reveal an artist of thoughtful individuality that the assemblages do not.
The exhibition will remain through May 9 in the cool, techno-chic interior of the Wallace Wentworth Gallery at 2006 R St. NW. CAPTION: Picture, Lea Feinstein's "Antelope Alphabet," in wood, shells, sand and bone. Copyright (c) Breger & Associates