Dimly illuminated the way Mark Rothko often insisted his subtly colored abstract compositions be displayed, the pictures in Robin Rose's new one-man show at Baumgartner Galleries are eerie and evocative -- despite such obvious associative pretense.
There's something undeniably resonant about the horizontally divided, landscapelike format to which Rose has adhered for many years. And the allusion to Rothko isn't so far off base as it might at first sound. It may be a matter of deliberate emulation of the abstract expressionist's moody late works, but these new encaustic-on-aluminum pieces are just plain lovely. As usual. More than that, they manage to be affecting and memorable in spite of their small size.
Or perhaps because of it.
Rose's deceptively simple art increasingly relies on intimacy. The various textures and patterns at work in the divided fields of his latest paintings are mere nuances: a scraped and gullied honeycomb of amber and cream here, a glowing rectangle of rose against maroon there. Things you have to look closely for. The texture of those ripples of creamy, palette knife-smoothed wax and those metallic-looking corroded surfaces are seductive. They make you want to touch. It's easy to apprehend the understated complexity of the rust-red and blue-black composition "Trophy Cast," or the luminosity of "Precious Few." For while it's true that he's mastered the technique, just managing to tread the fine edge between pure methodology and mannerism, Rose is somehow able to keep churning out recognizable "Robin Roses" without making them boring.
So if you want to see some truly pretty, familiar Robin Rose-style Robin Roses, go and see this show. Nobody feels entirely comfortable trying to predict what next year will bring by way of changes in an artist's style, but it seems manifest that it can only bring one side of that fine edge or the other. Or -- given the title of the show: "Painting for a Certain Future" -- maybe something completely different.
Jon Hudson, at Gallery 10 Picasso reputedly once said: "Immature artists imitate; mature ones steal." At Gallery 10, the sculpture of Jon Barlow Hudson is living proof that it's possible to imitate just about anyone and not only get away with it, but make a pretty decent reputation and living in the process.
Should you for some reason not have had the opportunity to see a real Brancusi, or David Smith or Jesus Soto, hustle on over to this exhibit and you'll get the second-best of these and so much more.
This exhibit, mysteriously called "Hommage to Tiananmen Square" (also the title of one work), seems mostly an assortment of maquettes for large-scale public pieces, of which Hudson has done quite a few, and of which pictures are prominently displayed on the walls. You'd have thought an artist of Hudson's age and evident happy burden of commissions, who is technically assured, would have more pride than to imitate David Smith in a stainless steel work such as "Shiva: Shiwana" for the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in New Mexico.
The same applies to his clumsy, Brancusi-inspired vertical stainless steel sculpture "Eidolon III: Bird in Flight." There are a couple of original -- even interesting -- marble pieces here, among them the clever "Uncarved Block: Pearl," and the jack-shaped bronze work "Shiva: Tevatron."
Taro Ichihashi, at Henri Well, as a source of cultural authority post-modernism may be dead, but some artists, it appears, don't care.
In about 1985, New York art star Robert Longo exhibited several works featuring big red roses on black backgrounds at Metro Pictures Gallery in SoHo. They mimicked the cheesiness of popular sitting-room plastic flower arrangements, yet somehow imbued them with a kind of kitsch melancholia. In the context of post-modernism, they were powerful images. But beyond that, nothing to get real excited about.
Now, almost six years later, Taro Ichihashi has decided to do a whole show featuring big red, gold and pink roses on black and other primary-colored backgrounds at Henri Gallery here. They're nothing to get excited about, either. And Ichihashi knows how to paint too.
So what's this? Canvas panel assemblages combining the most sickening colors possible -- such as vivid orange and kelly green -- mounted on black and all splattered over with roses and, worse, what might pass for bordello-style floral wallpaper. What's the point? Simply giving them lofty titles such as "The History Disappeared" -- and this attached to a particularly garish textile-designlike arrangement -- doesn't do anything to ennoble them or give them depth. You can try to read something into them, but ultimately you come away with the same -- the first -- impression: post-modern wallpaper.
"Painting for a Certain Future": New Works by Robin Rose, at Baumgartner Galleries, 2016 R St. NW, through Oct. 31.
Jon Barlow Hudson: "Homage to Tiananmen Square," at Gallery 10, 1519 Conn. Ave. NW, through Oct. 27.
Taro Ichihashi, at Henri Gallery, 1500 21st St. NW, through Oct. 31.