Washington is bursting with good artists who work in the territory between painting and sculpture, a boundary artists have been storming for years, and have all but obliterated. Gallery 10 has assembled the work of 11 such area artists in a show they call "Painterly Sculpture." Overall, it is a rollicking good time, full of color, imagination and emerging talent.
Dolores Milmoe has the most highly "finished" work in this often rough-hewn show and is represented by three handsome wall constructions made of found wood, beautifully painted, that might more precisely be called "Sculptural Paintings." The same categorization surely fits the installation by trompe l'oeil painter Judy Jashinsky. Her updated version of the "Annunciation" occupies the entire corner of a room, including the surrounding walls and ceiling, where four putti and a winged male angel (in chic contemporary garb) hover over the cutout figure of a young woman sitting at a table, reading Life magazine (Christmas issue) and eating grapes. The painted illusions, as well as the iconographic allusions, give the piece added dimension.
Sculptor John Dickson's "Contemplation on a Theme Bye Man" seems almost diabolical by comparison: It is assembled from a desk and one of several old typewriters he seems to have come upon. He has made forbidden territory of these traditional writer's tools by surrounding them with jagged shards of mirrors and his customary, thorny painted surfaces. Is he daring a writer to speak ill of his work? Or does he mean to evoke the forbidding nature of writing itself? Whatever his intent, it is a provocative piece.
Washington has become a major world exhibition center, and the importance of the growing numbers of good, contemporary art shows here is becoming more evident than ever before. A case in point: painter Lynn Schmidt, who says that both the Corcoran Gallery's eye-opening "Black Folk Art" show and the Washington Project for the Arts' "Poetic Objects" show prodded her to move from painting into making the explosive little painted objects on view here, all of which seem about to detonate. Such shows seem also to have had an impact on Libby Zando's happily evocative objects, including her brightly painted, striped "Allegro Houses" on stilts and her crate-like "Charm Box," from which several striped snakes seem to be making an easy getaway.
There is much more, including work by John Harne, James Hansen, Rex Weil, Walter Kravitz, Betsy Packard and Howard McCoy, the sole minimalist. But it is precisely because there is so much good and unfamiliar work in this show that the installation and inadequate labeling are so annoying and reprehensible.
The space is small, so the gallery might, perhaps, be forgiven for putting works by the same artist in different rooms (though if I were McCoy, who is thereby kept from making a coherent statement, I would surely kick and scream). But there is no excuse whatever for the gallery's lazy-man's labeling system: barely discernible little numbers (sometimes missing) keyed to a list of artists and titles that one has to go hunting for. It's hard enough to get people into galleries to look at new art; it makes no sense whatever to frustrate them just at the point when their interest has finally been aroused.
The show will continue at Gallery 10, 1519 Connecticut Ave. NW, through Feb. 1. Hours are Tuesdays though Saturdays, 11 to 5. Sunday Viewing Reviewed
Though last week's column on "Sunday Viewing" caused joy in some quarters (heavy attendance confirmed that Sunday is, indeed, a popular day for gallery-going), it also caused some grief for those who trudged to Henri Gallery expecting to find it open. "It was the first Sunday I have been closed in 28 years," apologizes sole proprietor Henri, who lives over the gallery and was in, but was suffering from food poisoning contracted Sunday morning. "The bell kept ringing, but I was too sick to move," explains Henri, who is now fully recovered and plans to greet visitors as usual tomorrow from 2 to 6, as well as every other day (except Mondays) from 11 to 6.
It also should have been noted last week, but wasn't, that the 10-year-old Touchstone Gallery at 2130 P St. NW is always open Sunday afternoons, along with Henri, Jack Shainman, Marie Martin and Capricorn (in Bethesda). Touchstone is currently featuring a pair of shows: sculptural clay wall pieces titled "Nests and Landscapes" by Dave Yocum and lighthearted paintings of cows by Dona Gunther Brown. Hours are Sundays noon to 5, and Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11 to 5.
Tomorrow at 3 p.m., by the way, the Arlington Arts Center, 3550 Wilson Blvd., will offer a special treat: a public gallery talk by Washington artist-photographer Allen Appel, who organized "The Altered Image," the center's current show, which includes 52 works by 40 area artists who manipulate, or add to, the photographic image.
Also speaking about his concurrent exhibition, titled "Correspondence," will be the center's former director, Robert Cwiok, whose 31 paintings and drawings are from his recent "Envelope Series," in which handmade envelopes serve as the central motif and departure point.