Neither Brian Wood nor Woods Davy nor Betty Woodman works in wood. But by happy coincidence they're all showing concurrently at McIntosh/Drysdale Gallery, 406 Seventh St. NW, and they're all worth getting to know.
A survey of photographs by Canadian-born painter/filmmaker/photographer Brian Wood, 36, is the featured show, and it offers a chance to see not only the broad range of his work over the past decade, but also the high quality that has made him so widely admired -- and acquired -- by the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum, among others.
The show begins with a pair of vivid color photographs showing a swath of green paint across the side of an orange Saskatchewan barn -- an evocation of a Rothko painting, which it uncannily resembles. This eye for color reflects Wood's early training as a painter, as do his Cubist-inspired photo-collage images of family members, also dating from the mid-'70s. These works, in fact, seem to presage the later and far better-known photo collages of David Hockney.
Next, Wood expanded his narrative possibilities by hanging clusters of plexi-boxed photos in abstract configurations that sought to provoke thought and evoke mystery through the use of juxtaposed images. Only one piece is titled "Altar," but several are hung in ways that recall church altarpieces, and all have a silent, meditative aura about them.
"Sanctuaries," for example, is set up like a triptych featuring photos of three barren landscapes, one with a "No Trespassing" sign. Below is a predella-like frieze of 10 photos that zoom in on the movements of a German shepherd dog that seems both frightening and frightened, both guarding and seeking some sort of sanctuary. Similar works relate to nature, notably "Landing," which only after a long look, reveals the frozen body of a snow-covered animal. Meanings never wholly reveal themselves, but Wood is skilled at keeping the fascination going.
His most recent work has taken another sharp turn, not only into black and white, but into the large-scale single image. The most striking new work on view is a giant close-up of the bottom of a human foot, focusing on the surprising beauty of its intricate, swirling patterns. Wood's show will continue through Feb. 28.
Woods Davy's Sculptures
Washington-born sculptor Woods Davy, now of Los Angeles, seeks nothing less than to reconcile the forces of nature and technology -- natural combatants in the urban landscape -- in large, site-related public sculptures. As we see in the dozen maquettes at McIntosh/Drysdale, he attempts this by "balancing" (they are really attached) naturally rounded riverbed stones on rust-colored steel beams sliced and bolted into vertical and horizontal elements. The results: tall, sentinel-like sculptures that have about them both an endearing innocence and a modest bravado.
They also have a formal sophistication, as we see in the slim, eight-foot-tall "Talpa," the one full-scale sculpture on view. Oddly, the precariously perched Los Angeles Riverbed stones -- some standing alone, others glued together in clumps -- seem to deny their own hardness and solidity by appearing to melt over the edges, hanging and balancing like blobs of soft, warm wax. If this is a reconciliation between nature and technology, it is one in which nature clearly wins. But no one is likely to argue with that.
The sculptures by Woods Davy will continue through Feb. 28.
And while you're there, look up to the balcony and see Betty Woodman's mock-noble and highly original ceramic urns that hark back to the ancients by way of the comic strip. Though these are all real containers, each one has a flat, false front, or cartoon-like facade, that has painted upon it the outlines of an ancient urn. Hours at McIntosh/Drysdale are Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 to 5:30. Ron Haynie at Watkins Ron Haynie's sunny show of recent paintings at Watkins Gallery, American University, offers a warm and welcome respite from the winter gloom. Mostly beach scenes captured in opaque, painterly watercolor during a summer stay at Rehoboth, the show focuses on boys playing in the surf, children building castles in the sand and skinny ladies in bathing suits just soaking up rays. If there is any sound implied in these quiet, intimate works, it is distant laughter and the lapping of a gentle surf.
But the charm of these watercolors is more than skin deep. Only recently returned to figuration after some years as an abstract painter, Haynie here reveals not only his ability to capture movement and gesture with just a few sweeping strokes of his brush, but also his special gift for making an atmosphere out of color. In several of these works -- both the watercolors and the large acrylics based upon them -- the figures are enveloped in the dappled golden yellow of the sun and the deep azure of the sea and sky. "Green Goddess" stands out among the large paintings, along with the still-life "Two Plants," which all but dissolves into yellow light.
Haynie's show, his first in Washington since his 1981 solo at Jack Rasmussen, can be seen today from 1 to 5 and Monday from 10 to 5, after which it will close to make way for the Watkins Gallery's 40th anniversary show of paintings from the C. Law Watkins Memorial Collection (opening Feb. 17). The Watkins is located on the American University campus at 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Prints at David Adamson
David Adamson, 406 Seventh St. NW, has put up a lively show of prints from inventory that remind us of how many good printmakers there are out there, and how much good work can be had at reasonable prices.