"Abstraction: Pattern and Light," a group show at Addison-Ripley, brings together five artists who play with light like children play with sunbeams. Their source of light is the paper they work on.
Local artist Edith Kuhnle seems to exult in the colors and patterns that she can overlay and place next to each other. "Prelude IV" consists of boxes and squares sprinkled with a shower of her signature crescents. These forms pump more energy into a work that is already filled with lively dabbing and stroking. The flattening of the work and her enthusiastic use of colors are reminiscent of Pierre Bonnard (whose work is in the Phillips Collection, which you pass by on the way to Addison-Ripley).
Like Bonnard, Kuhnle travels in a decorative direction with her three-panel "Night River," and in the bottom panel she does indeed capture lambent moonlit water.
Kuhnle's work is the centerpiece, and the other works have been assembled here to play off it. Lynn Sures, a teacher at the Corcoran, capitalizes on the dense quality of handmade paper. Her untitled abstractions are richly colored, with branching forms that suggest trees. She layers dyed paper until it looks like textured cloth -- moire and cotton with a touch of velvet and a hint of quilting. The artist has captured the light and blocked its escape.
Woong Kim, who works out of New York, lets the light loose in his glowing pastels. One is a play on white, like the birth of an idea. Another is filled with circus colors, the bright lights of the big top, excitement. These are small works, and one wonders what the effect would be on a larger scale.
Steve Sorman's light comes through gently. He borrows heavily from oriental art. In his "Havana Lake," he uses no fewer than four printmaking techniques (including wood block) on three different types of Japanese paper. He collages the fragments together into a sort of hanging scroll. He applies a strip of gold leaf to give it the look of value and age, another Japanese touch. Sorman's de Kooning-like gestural writing is the last stop before the landscape becomes abstract.
Michael Smallwood is no sailor, but he has chosen sails as his emblem the way Jim Dine has adopted hearts. His stylized humpback sail is a comfortable image, with its tricolored battens. It's more the geometry that fascinates Smallwood than the nautical reference. But the interplay of related colors -- orange on pink, aqua on azure -- mimics the sparkle of the sea. You do wonder where the image will take him. Once he paints it, there doesn't seem to be much more to say. But this may be just a stopping place on the journey.
The gallery is at 9 Hillyer Ct. NW, in the alley behind the Phillips Collection. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.
Luigi Campanelli at Shainman Bowls, pyramids, spheres, obelisks -- a dozen cubist forms crowd forward in the handsome paintings of Luigi Campanelli, now at the Jack Shainman Gallery. Beyond the futuristic shapes lies a sea flecked with waves, low-lying barren hills beyond that. But the monumental objects block the view in these scenes from the end of the time tunnel.
The viewer explores the beguiling puzzle of these paintings and discovers that these smoothly shaded monuments -- in earth tones of moss, rust and rose -- are actually tilting and pressing toward one another. The compression accentuates their power. Layered on top of that is a paradoxical serenity and harmony.
What is reality here? These absolutes of the artist's creation? Or the dream landscape that they conceal from us?
To pose these questions, Campanelli has nearly stripped his work of classical influence (though a stylized bust does appear in one painting). He manufactures his own icons, a modernist's personal vocabulary of forms, in his studio. It's clear from the very sculptural quality of his work that these forms do exist somewhere.
Campanelli's work is also appearing in Shainman's SoHo gallery in New York, and appeared in a group show of Italian artists in both galleries last year. Since opening in New York, Shainman has come to have a more international focus, and plans for upcoming shows here include Australian, Dutch and German contemporary artists.
Luigi Campanelli's work will be at the Jack Shainman Gallery, 2443 18th St. NW, through Oct. 10. Hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.
Cynthia Carlson at McIntosh/Drysdale "Viet Nam. Sorry About That." The words were on a soldier's hat, left at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The hat was collected along with the teddy bear, the combat boots, the letter, the feather and the ginseng bottle, and taken to the Museum and Archeological Regional Storage Facility.
There they stayed, filed away, until Cynthia Carlson came to photograph them. She has memorialized these personal mementos, whose full meanings we can only guess at, in monotypes now at the McIntosh Drysdale Gallery.
In between the photographs and the monotypes Carlson made shadowbox constructions, which line two walls in the current exhibit at the Washington Project for the Arts, "War & Memory: In the Aftermath of Vietnam," a show that simply must be seen, in any case.
For Carlson each work informs the other, but the monotypes are the more enduring images. There is irony in her soft-toned, Maurice Prendergast colors depicting the things of war. Flak jackets stand as empty shells and ID bracelets loosely curl inside their individual boxes. Crosses, Stars of David and good-luck key chains are stored in boxes like talismans of futility. Carlson translates that into an artist's grid, a pattern. She repeats images with a gentle insistence that makes the group of monotypes stronger than any one by itself. The unfinished phrase "We Shall Nev ..." is haunting.
Carlson randomly arranges the images like overlayered stencils. Badges that pretend war is fun -- "Viet Cong Hunting Club" and "Seawolves" -- cover the pentimento of a letter about someone named Wayne: "He was a very beautiful young man ... We used to drink beer together."
"Cynthia Carlson: The Viet Nam Memorial Series Monotypes" will be at McIntosh/Drysdale Gallery, 406 7th St. NW, through Oct. 17. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m, Tuesday through Saturday.