Painting may not be dead, but these days more and more painters are seeking the livelier possibilities in sculpture. Gayil Nalls, a quirky expressionist painter, is the latest defector, and her new show at Brody's Gallery traces her recent transition to bronze. It also culminates in a cycle of unique bronze bowls that represent her most sophisticated work to date.
These are in no way ordinary bowls, though when viewed from the top, they are smooth, luscious, well-proportioned and beautifully patinated containers. Turn them over, however, and you have highly sculptural "landscapes," as the artist calls them. The animating elements in these landscapes are the cast bronze shapes -- snowballs, animal bones, tails of shooting rockets -- that are attached to the bottom and also serve as supporting legs.
The series overall attempts to evoke the seasons of the year. "Snowball Bowl/Winter," for example, has its bottom covered with round, snowball-like masses that somehow manage to conjure up a wintry night, as does the mysterious "Nodule Landscape Bowl/All Seasons." "Spring Birth Bowl," with its all too obvious female-torso imagery, is the only real flop in this series, but "Summer Liberty," which deals with a very different kind of female body, is likely to be the favorite. It is most intriguingly held up by parts of a dismembered "Statue of Liberty."
There are some large paintings in this show, along with some far more interesting smaller paintings on paper that reinforce the notion that Nalls comes off far better when she sticks to a smaller format.
And there is also ample evidence of her persistent pursuit of the third dimension, not only in a vinelike lamp and some plaques cast in bronze, but also in the experimental -- and altogether unsatisfying -- paintings that have fungus, plastic toys and even a Raggedy Ann doll attached to canvas with a slather of paint.
Despite such digressions -- or perhaps because of them -- Nalls has come a long way in her search for significant three-dimensional form. Her last show included some small bronze plaques, but they were less sculpture than bronze translations of her expressionist paintings. It will be interesting to see what happens next.
The show at Brody's, 1706 21st St. NW, will continue through May 31. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, or by appointment.
At first encounter, Walter Dusenbery's romantic marble sculptures and plaster maquettes at Fendrick Gallery look like ruins and fragments of ancient Greek and Roman portals, colonnades and temples.
But they are, in fact, models for large public sculptures that are profoundly postmodern in spirit, invoking the romance of the past to add warmth and human scale to hard, cold public spaces.
Combining basic architectural elements -- columns, plinths, arches and walls -- in altogether nontraditional ways, Dusenbery most often carves large, welcoming portal forms that first rouse a sense of the timeless past and then keep the experience interesting by juxtaposing the old with the new, the rough texture of the ruin with the smooth and beautifully worked surface, the sense of openness with that of comforting shelter.
One outstanding example among many here is Dusenbery's handsome red travertine "Porta Lucca," the American Institute of Architects prize winner that adds such a sense of welcome and grandeur to the Prudential Insurance Co. lobby in Boston. But there are other, smaller scaled sculptures as well, all reflecting not only a large and ambitious sculptural imagination, but also the masterful carving techniques and subtle way with form and color learned from Dusenbery's master, Isamu Noguchi, though it must be said that there is now little similarity in their work.
The show will continue through June 5, and is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., including Memorial Day.