Rebecca Davenport paints weather-beaten fac,ades and weather-beaten faces, fancy sofas and unmade beds -- some with people, some without. A much-admired, widely exhibited Washington realist, she is justifiably best known for her powerful portraits, especially the merciless, unrelentingly detailed images of herself that were the highlights of her last show.
Her new paintings at Osuna are portraits, too, but this time of her farm animals: pigs, goats, bulls and cute little dogs, all blessed with lovely long lashes and hairy coats she has depicted with meticulous care. In fact, Davenport seems to reserve for these animal portraits an indulgent tenderness one sees far less often when she deals with humans.
These animals, in fact, refer to human types: from a self-satisfied, mud-covered pig, titled "Chairman of the Board," to a dandified "Goat" with bulging yellow eyes, and a nasty, confrontational black "Bull," who doesn't much like being interrupted as he munches hay. There is individuality and clear definition of character reflected here, no question. But on the whole, these paintings do little to advance Davenport's art, except that they introduce loosely brushed landscape elements to her work.
The show also includes one very large, virtuosic rendition of a ramshackle back porch on an Arkansas mountain farmhouse, but it is empty of content, except for the cliche'd allusion to decay. Meaningful content and profundity are major issues with which Davenport doesn't always grapple. She has surely skirted them in this show, which will continue through June 18 at Osuna Gallery, 406 Seventh St. NW. Hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11 to 6. Judson Wilcox's Ceramics
Judson Wilcox, also at Osuna, is showing ambitious ceramic sculpture that reconfirms the monumental and expressive possibilities of clay. These full-scale constructions (which stand against the wall) imitate, in glazed white porcelain brick, segments of the fac,ades of old buildings. All are not equally interesting, but two bricked-up windows -- "Bricked Arches" and "Warehouse Gothic" -- have a certain evocative power. There are also some cast-clay objects -- such as a box filled with glazed ceramic tools -- which are essentially one-liners, though well done. Wilcox, a ceramic sculptor from Cleveland, will continue at Osuna through June 18. Andy Warhol's Ad Campaign
Andy Warhol is an expert on fabricated myths. In fact, he is one. As a commercial artist in his early years, he designed advertising campaigns not only for I. Miller Shoes and NBC, but for one of the most saleable items in mid-20th-century America: himself. "Ads," his new portfolio of 10 silkscreen prints at Govinda Gallery in Georgetown, marks a return to this world, which he so fully understands.
Warhol -- now appearing in the new TV Coke commercials -- has taken as his subject matter magazine advertisements from the '50s: Ronald Reagan touting Van Heusen's "won't wrinkle ever!" drip-dry shirts; Judy Garland wearing a "what becomes a legend most" Blackglama mink coat; Mobil's now-grounded flying red horse.
It is a show that's easy to like, thanks in large part to Warhol himself. For years, he's been rubbing our noses in popular culture, forcing us to look hard at images we'd become inured to, from Campbell's soup cans to electric chairs. Because he's been so noncommittal as to the point of these provocative images, people have been forced to think for themselves and extrapolate meanings. In the process (and with the help of many other Pop artists) we've become more visually aware -- and skeptical -- about commercial attempts to seduce us with fabricated myths.
There is inevitably an element of nostalgia in these ads for products and movies from the past, such as the deliciously colored five-cent Life Savers ad that reads "please do not lick this page!" But there is irony as well as poignance in the Warholized figure of James Dean in a blood-red poster advertising "Rebel Without a Cause" -- in Japanese; and the legendary Judy Garland, appropriately rendered in black-and-blue as she models mink.
The most uncannily timely ad is that of the "won't wrinkle ever!" Ronald Reagan in a drip-dry Van Heusen shirt, with the line at the bottom crediting his then-latest film: "Law and Order." The image has been tipped slightly to give the appearance of a movie freeze-frame -- something that did not happen in the original ad. Warhol reveals his wit and sense of irony in the way he has altered this and other images, though ever so slightly. In all of them, he caresses the image with his nervous line -- a classic part of the Warholizing process.
Also on view is another new Warhol series: four silkscreen variations on Cologne cathedral, with diamond dust adding glitter. They were published in Germany in an edition of 60. The black-on-black is perhaps the most haunting, given the dark history of the cathedral during World War II.
The "Ads" portfolio, printed in an edition of 190, was commissioned by Ronald Feldman Fine Arts. This print show -- one of Warhol's best and most approachable in recent years -- will continue at Govinda, 1227 34th St. NW, through June 30. Hours are 11 till 5, Tuesdays through Saturdays.