Andrea Way's elegant, intricate linear abstractions at Brody's Gallery look variously like star maps or diagrams of complex electronic circuits. They are, however, conceptual drawings in which shapes, patterns and rhythms naturally evolve as the artist works programmatically upon a grid, using a combination of reason and intuition.
Starting with a base layer of texture and color, rubbed or printed on a large sheet of heavy drawing paper, Way begins by setting up an initial program, or consecutive numerical code, by which she proceeds to make lines, dots, squares, circles, spirals and other shapes (including the print of a human hand) with colored inks and pencils. When the entire sheet has been covered in the prescribed manner, a new code, or procedure, is undertaken. The rules are simple enough -- a red dot every 10th space, perhaps, or a series of short, straight lines at other fixed intervals. Layer upon layer is added until the artist senses that the drawing is complete.
The final look, of course, is something she cannot fully anticipate, though she can control or alter it to an extent through the use of color, and by choosing when to stop -- both intuitive elements.
In the works, reason and intuition combine to bring forth magic, as in "Fugue," one of the artist's favorites, from which emerged, altogether unexpectedly, the dense area of white lines at center, through which the drawing seems to pulse and breathe. My own favorite is "Drums," which began with repeated outline drawings of the hands of a healing masseuse, and ended up by conveying a wholly abstract sense of soothing warmth and energy.
These new works at Brody's are larger and more complex than ever before, but they have also taken on a troubling aspect: The increased density results in overall patternings that are so rigid and regimented that they look at first like designs for expensive wallpaper or floor covering. Way's next challenge may well be to loosen things up a bit, leaving room for a little more magic to happen.
San Francisco-born and trained in Bloomington, Ind., Way first showed here in 1979 at the Arlington Arts Center and, more recently, was included in "Labor Intensive Abstraction" at New York's Clocktower and in "Drawn Out," Ned Rifkin's "Spectrum" show at the Corcoran last February. The current show at Brody's Gallery, 1706 21st St. NW, will continue through October. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.
Tom Dineen at Foxley/Leach Few have ever doubted Tom Dineen's talent, particularly his prodigious drawing skills. By age 30, his promise was underscored by fellowships to both the MacDowell and Yaddo art colonies, and almost from the start he sold well (and often sold out) in annual shows at the now-defunct Wolfe Street Gallery.
Those works from the '70s were memorable: large, fluid, black-and-white drawings in charcoal and crayon, all filled with theatrical chiaroscuro, ambiguous space and barely discernible figures that seemed to float, dreamlike, in and out of dark voids and shadowy doorways. The reason for all this floating about, however, often remained unclear. And while many found these drawings dazzling, haunting and mysterious, others began to see them as vague, unfocused displays of virtuosity -- especially as they went from large to larger to gigantic formats.
By the late '70s, even Dineen seemed to sense that he had drawn himself into something of a corner, and he withdrew for a while to reacquaint himself with the pleasures of paint and color. His newest cycle of oil paintings, titled "Noonwork," just opened at Foxley/Leach, brings good news: Dineen has found a new and worthy challenge, and one for which he is amply equipped with painterly skills. It is not a breakthrough show, as one might hope, but there is a sense of direction in these small oils -- even a hint, in the best of them, that a significant theme may be emerging, that crucial element the earlier works lacked.
A recent trip to Italy (that eternal cure) clearly struck a chord in Dineen, for there is an encompassing classical look about these paintings, starting with their shaped wooden panels, which have their two top corners cut off, framing the image within an angled arch. There are frequent architectural references within the paintings as well -- Roman arches, grand doorways, checkered marble floors, even sculpture -- that reiterate classical influences.
Dineen's space too, though still ambiguous, is also more architectural, or at least fragmented in a more structured way -- a way that, in fact, seems to have been borrowed from cubism. Within this accumulation of stagelike spaces, episodic scenes, enigmatic events and nonevents (like a patch of a Jasper Johns painting) take place, as barely visible male figures pass through open doorways, fall through space, look into mirrors, think and suffer.
In "Sheltering Prey" and "Exits of a Particular Life," as elsewhere among the more tightly organized (and best) of these works, there is the distinct feel of an artist's studio, and of an artist hard at work, exploring various states of mind -- including what seems to be a good deal of despair. These paintings are still elusive, but they have a cumulative aura, and take new strength from what the artist metaphorically seems to suggest is his own search for meaning in his art.
It is in the exploration of that very subject, so crucial to his own work, that Dineen may have found, at last, what he has always needed most: significant content.
His show will continue at Foxley/Leach, 3214 O St. NW, through Nov. 8. Hours are noon to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday.
Rose Goding at Studio At Studio Gallery, Rose Goding's vigorous semiabstractions continue to celebrate her joy in both paint and color, and her longstanding passion for the sea. In this show, she attempts to deal with the sea's nastier aspects -- storms, flotsam and jetsam and such -- as well as beautiful sunsets over La Jolla, Calif., but is foiled by her own upbeat nature. Though turmoil is amply implied in the movement of her brush as she whips up an angry wind, Goding's colors are too sun-struck and delicious to signify malevolence. Anyhow, who needs more malevolence?
Goding is a founding member of Studio; the current show is her eighth solo here, through October. Studio is located at 2108 R St. NW. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.