Though the title "Portraits and Self-Portraits" at Gallery 10 is more pretext than preoccupation for the 20 artists in this summer show, there is enough good work in it to make a visit worthwhile.
Along with examples by visiting artists are varied works in various media by gallery regulars. Foremost among them is Noche Crist, who has made a cut-up, cut-out painted plywood portrait of Washington art doyenne Alice Denney. In a wry twist on the traditional depictions of St. George and the Dragon, Denny is shown as something of a performing dragon herself, wearing red, white and blue makeup and a scaly dragon suit as she bows to her audience. It is a strong and funny portrait of a strong and funny woman.
Dog-lover Suzanne Codi's ample imagination stands out in three endearing works, including a portrait of "Asta" (dog star of "The Thin Man" films, shown with costars Myrna Loy and William Powell), and a shrine-like tableau featuring "St. Bernadette" -- a dog in saint's clothing -- which follows Codi's series on Saint Bernards. "Dogalisque," an elaborately framed diorama, features a nude woman sprawled on a bed imitating Ingres' famous painting "Odalisque," as a bevy of dogs and cats imitate her. A portrait? No. Funny? Yes.
Claudia de Monte, another top-notch artist, is showing three characteristic autobiographical constructions, each with a tiny figure fleeing from places most people would be rather fleeing to -- such as Rome and Athens. Colored with bright acrylic paint squeezed out of tiny tubes, these works -- despite the sense of anxiety they convey -- have the color, texture and spirit of kiddie birthday cake decorations.
There are a few traditional painted portraits (by Michael Gast, Henry Niese and Gail Wakins), assemblage portraits (by Maxine Cable and Ted Fields), and two highly expressionistic paintings by Sylvia Snowden that show a new sense of painterly authority, though they look a bit too much like the work of Dutch painter Karel Appel.
The show continues at 1519 Connecticut Ave. NW through Aug. 10. Hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11 to 5. Printmaker George Chung
Even summer doldrums and stifling heat can't keep a strong new talent down. Printmaker George Chung proves it in an impressive Washington debut at the new Washington Printmakers Gallery, 1832 Jefferson Place NW.
A master of both etching and aquatint techniques, Chung is also an imaginative, highly original figurative artist with an especially tender, lyric touch. These are magical and mysterious little scenarios, always gently intriguing, with titles like "Last Cigarette" and "Goodbye." But they all remain ultimately elusive.
In fact, titles often seem designed to put you off the track: "Seagull," for example, is really a dream-like scene in which three women (or is it three views of the same woman?) put on a bathing suit behind a patchwork scrim of color. "Smithsonian" poses a distinct and deliberate conundrum about costumed mannequins, real people and which is which.
Chung's atmospheres are enhanced by the grainy, soft textures of the aquatint, and highly original colors are built up layer by layer over a background of etched lines. Some lines are wispy and calligraphic, others as thick as those of a woodcut, which they sometimes resemble. The result: a broad span of rich, subtle colors that appear to be his hallmark. He often uses checkered patterns to create a virtuoso display of color.
Born in Panama of Chinese parents, Chung grew up in the Canal Zone, studied painting at the Art Institute of Chicago and only in 1982 began making etchings at the studio of the Museum of Modern Art of Panama. He moved to the Washington suburbs the following year.
There are occasional echoes of other artists: of Chagall (in the floating nudes), of Frasconi and Naul Ojeda (in etchings that look like woodcuts). But in the end, this is Chung's work, and if this is his first show in Washington, it surely will not be his last.
The Chung show closes today, but his work can always be seen -- along with that of the 26 other member artists of this nonprofit print cooperative -- either in portfolios or in changing group shows in the rear gallery. In addition to Chung's work, the gallery offers a wide range of printmaking media and styles at very modest prices. Editions are small, and prints handmade and numbered. A new group show of varied gallery artists -- including Ann Zahn, Terry Parmelee, Laura Huff, Magda French, Susana de Quadros, Pauline Jakobsberg, Carolyn Pomponio, to name but a few -- will open on Tuesday and continue through August. Hours are 11 to 5, Tuesday through Saturday.