ANNE MARCHAND'S recent paintings at the Wallace Wentworth Gallery, called "Stations," as in stations of the cross, are abstractions in the vein Wassily Kandinsky introduced into western art three quarters of a century ago in his treatise Concerning the Spiritual in Art. Which is to say they are mystical abstractions, intended to reveal, in Marchand's case, a searing inner reality.
This they succeed in doing . . . up to a point. Marchand's colors, be they deep-night purples or explosive oranges, are extraordinarily intense; her surfaces are hard, lustrous; her edges and geometries are sharp, crisp. Her concern with centering is omnipresent -- within these paintings, shaped like top-heavy crosses, there is always a strong, almost theatrical center, a rectangle of burning orange-red, say, or a vertical line of white-hot illumination. One cannot not respond to such epiphanies. They pack an emotional punch.
And yet one cannot not be aware that they are devices, aspects of a method, a formula. Her concept is to combine elements of western religious traditions (hence the cross shapes and the titles) with those of Native American spiritualism (hence the pictographic symbols that float or burn, almost, upon the surfaces). The paintings are not so much transcendent as they are tension-filled, less about a union of apparently dichotomous spiritual traditions than revelatory of a cosmic clash of cultures. This would not be so disturbing were it not for the strong suspicion that it isn't the effect intended.
This provocative exhibition also contains a number of Marchand's similarly skillful but softer and less resonant landscape abstractions. It continues at the Wentworth Gallery, 2006 R St. NW, through October 10. Gallery hours are 11 to 6 Tuesday through Saturday.
There's a certain incontestable edginess, physical as well as psychological, in James Brinsfield's paintings, on view in a three- person show at the Anton Gallery. The surfaces are rough, tough, in a schooled sort of way -- thickly painted in broad, parallel strokes with a blue-white pigment, they could be inexpertly plastered walls, except that it's impossible not to see the difficulty of the technique. Atop this the artist scratches, rubs, grinds his images in graphite.
Most of the images are almost indecipherable, probably by intention: scrawled skid-row humanoids with clusters of grapes, or ragged still lifes, conceived perhaps in infantine anger at the fact that bacchanalia ain't what it used to be in all those wild, but pretty, western art treasures. Brinsfield's top-hatted, pneumatic boulevardier, making his appearance in two big paintings, is a step up in legibility and, maybe not coincidentally, also in social class. Does the artist intend here a personification, a sort of Everyman of Evil? Whatever is intended, he's not a forgettable, nor a comforting, figure.
David Nez's painted relief constructions employ a vocabulary of symbols -- the tilted coffee cup, the industrial plant, the fetishized foot, the all-seeing or none-seeing eye, and others -- to tell stories about the decline of western civilization and, perhaps, much else. David Brown's works veer this way and that -- there's an abstraction with giant Oldenburgian telephone attached to it, visual and verbal puns, send-ups of traditional religious paintings.
This exhibition closes Saturday at the Anton Gallery, 2108 R St. NW. Hours are noon to 5 Tuesday through Saturday.
The group exhibition at AFR Fine Art Gallery is a relative rarity -- it's not a motley assortment. Black is the predominant color, and minimalism, in varying degrees, the predominant style.
Oleg Kudryashov, the English etcher (by way of Russia) whose fiery art is tempered by intelligence and splendid technique, is present with one of his relief prints; sculptor Jeffrey Meizlick shows four cast-bronze constructions that have the curious look of being made of waxed steel; Haruhiko Fujiwara displays two acerbically elegant shaped paintings; Tazuko Ichikawa graces white walls with two horizontal sculptures, emotionally and physically balanced. AFR owner Andrea Ruggieri, dressed in black, looks like part of the show. She has a good eye.
This exhibition also closes Saturday at the AFR Gallery, 2030 R St. NW. Hours are 11 to 5:30 Tuesday through Saturday.