Carol Goldberg has found an ingenious solution to the pictorial overcrowding that reduced her recent paintings to high-energy decoration.
The new work at Osuna Gallery is still filled with her distinctive, squiggly-outlined figures, fantasy flora and storybook animals. But as if propelled by their own energy, these former inhabitants of Goldberg's paintings have burst from the canvas to become free-standing, cutout wooden sculptures. The best of them have also begun to deal with significant subject matter.
Jigsawed from 3/4-inch sheets of wood, painted and then assembled into tableaux and decorative screens that look like stage flats, these new sculptures have transformed the gallery into a jungle-like paradise filled with exotic plants and vines that rise out of the floor and climb the walls.
In the sheer exuberance of this mise en sce ne, one hardly notices at first the stalking leopard, lion or lumbering armadillo hidden among the sculptural underbrush. But as eyes settle down, something far more ominous comes into view: helmeted men with automatic weapons squatting here and there, all taking careful aim at each other.
Are they kids playing games or men making war? Should we laugh or run? It is difficult to know, and the ambiguity is reinforced at every turn -- by the playful poses and by clothing that has a distinctly comic, Red Grooms-inspired look. These warriors wear outfits that are half camouflage, half tropical beachwear. One, dressed in patchwork pants and a palm-tree shirt, brandishes a gun; another, in a Ralph Lauren tie and a "Mommy" tattoo, takes careful aim.
The war (or is it a war game?) finally breaks out in the large, four-part environmental sculpture titled "King of the Hill," in which four figures in shorts and sneakers shoot -- at point-blank range -- at four others who reel backward or explode into the air in oddly balletic poses. The sense of casual death-dealing comes poignantly to the fore as one gunman playfully fells his victim by shooting without even looking. His face is blank, but his body clearly brags, "Hey, guys, look what I can do!"
Leon Golub has dealt with this sort of dehumanized killing in far more serious paintings, and may well have influenced Goldberg's thinking, if not the look of her art. "King of the Hill" may be a child's game, but the undertow of allusions -- to aspects of foreign policy, the way in which governments toy with people's lives -- seeps through her comic guise.
If Goldberg answers no questions in this, her most compelling work, she certainly poses some humdingers, and she does so with an explosive vitality and new complexity that demand respect.
The show will continue at Osuna, 406 Seventh St. NW, through June 7. Hours are 10 to 5 Tuesday through Saturday.
Dorothy Yanik at Haslem
Though Dorothy Cavalier Yanik is a well-known teacher of design both in Washington and at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, where she now resides, her art has not been seen here in depth. In her first solo at Jane Haslem, she proves more than equal to the challenge: Clearly a virtuoso draftsman and fine colorist, she is also an intensely cerebral artist who easily solves the formal problems she so enjoys setting up for herself.
The highlights deal with still life, notably four color pencil drawings of eggs set out carefully upon a mantelpiece. Yanik captures several fine variations on this theme, each with a different angle, texture and light, but each anchored in a composition that seems perfect and eternal.
There are other subjects and other media in this small show, including hand-colored photographs and one print, most dealing more directly with the artist's stated preoccupation with formal elements, such as volume, geometric structure and color theory. A student of Josef Albers at Yale, Yanik learned her lessons well and has developed a highly theoretical basis for her work. But she is far more interesting when she lets her imagination go, as in a color photograph titled "Southwest Shadows." It is a superb photograph on its own, but it also relates to the still-life drawings with eggs, including within it not only the original eggs and mantelpiece but an arrangement of the drawings based on them. The resulting confusion about which is which, and which is "real," is a high tribute to Yanik's drawing skills as well as to her ability to pose interesting questions with a camera.
This show, long overdue, will continue at Jane Haslem, 406 Seventh St. NW, through June 14. Hours are noon to 5 Wednesday through Saturday.
Vintage Photos at Govinda
Govinda Gallery in Georgetown is showing 16 images from "The Golden Age of British Photography 1839-1900," a portfolio of photogravures published in a limited edition of 300 last year by London's Victoria and Albert Museum. Intended to give students and collectors a closer look at rare, early images by British photographic pioneers such as William Henry Fox Talbot, David Octavius Hill and Julia Margaret Cameron, the selection also reflects the romantic, theatrical and moralizing aspects of Victorian society.
Though these are not original photographs, they have been reproduced with great care from original negatives, where available, and admirably capture nuances of tone and detail.
The show will continue at 1227 34th St. NW through 5 p.m. today.
Moving Sale at Gallery K
Collectors take note: Gallery K, 2032 P St. NW, which is moving to 2010 R St. NW next fall, will have a moving sale starting Tuesday and continuing until the end of the month, when the P Street gallery becomes history. According to director Komei Wachi, many good paintings, watercolors, drawings and sculpture by gallery artists will be sold at reduced prices. Hours are 11 to 6 Tuesday through Saturday.