English artist David Adamson has come a long way since he arrived in Washington with $300 and a pocketful of talent back in 1978. A master printer, he swiftly launched Washington's only lithography atelier, became an assistant professor at the Corcoran School of Art and -- in his spare time -- developed a highly successful line of computer software for architects and designers. It is now being marketed by Image Bank Software, of which Adamson is president.
Three years ago he also opened the David Adamson Gallery on the top floor of 406 Seventh St. NW, largely for the purpose of showing and selling lithographs by Gene Davis, Kevin McDonald, Wang Ming and other Washington artists who came to work in his atelier. With the help of manager Laurie Hughs, it has become the most vital contemporary print gallery in town, with clients across the country. Curiously, most Washingtonians still don't know it's there.
The current David Hockney show should cure that. Made up of more than two dozen rare early etchings and lithographs from the '60s and '70s, along with two splendid drawings (one a gift from the artist to Henry Geldzahler), the show consists chiefly of rare artist's proofs. Several are also bon a tirer prints (proofs upon which the artist wrote the traditional note meaning "good to pull," signifying that the plate was ready to be editioned). These are, for the artists, among the finest impressions, and they are highly prized by collectors. Several of these proofs are also from sold-out editions, which makes them doubly rare.
All come from two impeccable sources close to Adamson, the most important being Maurice Payne, Hockney's etching printer in the early days. But some were also printed by Hockney himself while he was still a student at the Royal College of Art. The earliest example here is "Study for Rumpelstiltskin," dated 1961, one of two prints that reflect an interest in Grimm's fairy tales, a subject he later pursued in several works. Both reveal not only his youthful mastery of line, but also his sly and quirky wit. For in Hockney's interpretation, the rotund little Rumpelstiltskin -- who spun gold from straw -- also appears to have made the poor queen pregnant.
From the '70s are a charming "Homage to John Constable" and etched portraits of Gustave Flaubert and George Sand, both issued in small editions of 25 and represented here in artist's proofs. Despite the additional rarity, by the way, prices for these proofs are the same as for numbered, editioned prints -- a very good deal. There are also several large etched portraits of Celia Birtwell, a friend and favorite model of Hockney, including a set of 1974 bon a tirer proofs in color for which a Washington museum and a New York museum are seeking a donor. If such a donor is found, Hockney and Payne have offered to sweeten the gift by donating to the museum the original copper plates as well.
For Hockney fanciers on limited budgets, Adamson has added several posters starting at $60, with some signed ones at $250. This dream show for Hockney print fanciers will continue through June 27. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Stephen Tanis at Haslem
Delaware painter Stephen Tanis has made great strides since his first show at Jane Haslem four years ago -- mostly tables and chairs wrapped mysteriously in patterned or textured cloth, and then painted head-on, as if they were still lifes. Since then his realist oils have become larger and more complex, culminating in a show two years ago made up of large studio scenes that for the first time successfully incorporated human figures, as well as famous works of art.
By comparison, this show seems unambitious, though three large new studio interiors show a continued determination to move ahead. The most significant, titled simply "Studio Interior," is a fine painting-within-a-painting, and carries with it the moody stillness of his best work. It also incorporates his first landscapes, observed through the studio windows and doors.
But the show also includes several small still-life paintings that, though competent, hint broadly at an artist who has not had enough time for serious work, as if he has rushed to fill the walls for a show for which he was not really ready. This show continues through June 1 at 2121 P St. NW. Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays. Drawings by Avis Fleming
Avis Fleming's "Color Field Drawings" at Studio Gallery are not the diaphanous color abstractions the title suggests. They are, in fact, lyrical color pencil drawings of grassy, hay-filled fields, the best of them dotted with clusters of "Expectant Ewes," "Lambs at Feeding Time" and other woolly charmers, all lovingly observed as they laze and graze in various seasons. Taken together with several strong figure studies, these drawings reflect the artist's expanding vocabulary. Fleming's strongest show to date, it continues through June 1 at 420 Seventh St. NW, in the Lansburgh Building. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.