In this show of new works at Jones Troyer Fitzpatrick, all painted in 1990, Washington artist Patrice Kehoe's brilliant colors have shifted, with no loss of luminosity, to warmer, more earthy tones. The characteristic tension of her organic forms, fashioned from a matrix of color and line painted in oils on canvas and paper, is everywhere. She has also introduced some small works whose scale gives them a concise, gemlike quality.
In one of the largest canvases, a field of yellowy green glows beneath a loose web of crisscrossing sea-green lines. To one side is a flesh-toned pod, perhaps a seed case, a leaf, female genitalia or even a spider's prey bound up to be eaten later. Opposite it, a sinuous tube, Kehoe's signature form, twists in muscular bends and coils down the canvas, shifting as it goes from dark red to an arresting shade of bright blue.
Although these works are all untitled, they entice the imagination into inventing scenarios of microscopic confrontations or perhaps the primordial unfolding of life. The vitality of these images is underscored by the tensions between their forms: There is no surety of what is beneficial and what is antagonistic. The pods may connote birth or death. The tubes may be umbilical cords, tendrils reaching for support or lethal serpents seeking out their victims.
Marks left from sketching and alterations are visible in all these works, their presence animating the surfaces with fragments of line work and glimpses of startling colors. The feeling of tentativeness they create is an important element in these paintings. Introducing a sense of time and change, it plays off of Kehoe's taut forms and the superb sureness of her color sense to create a euphoric energy throughout her work.
Iconic Visions at Tartt
Rarely has there been such a seamless group show. At Tartt Gallery, each of these small paintings by Washington artists Darrell Dean, Charma Le Edmonds, Robert Hite and Rebecca Kamen focuses on a single object or compact group of objects. Stylistically similar, these images, like religious icons, are pervaded with a compelling mix of potency and muteness. Painted with little suggestion of perspective, the space in nearly all of these works is charged with a tension between flatness and infinite depth.
The juxtaposition of works by these four artists underscores both their differences and their similarities. Painting vases, plants and a plate of fish bones, Edmonds is by far the most domestic. Her images imply stories and suggest that, just as each painting is imbued with significance, the objects we encounter every day are also filled with meaning. To highlight her point, she has lined up her tiny oil paintings on shelves where the viewer is welcome to touch and rearrange them.
Both Hite and Dean use imagery that suggests diagrams from biology and physics texts. Like Edmonds's, Hite's work has a hint of narrative. His acrylic paintings of an insect form laced with tubes or a tooth-shaped mountain have a feeling of mystery born of the absence of a story line. They also suggest the sense of loss often present in contemporary culture when clinical explanations replace the richness and breadth of myth.
In one of Dean's diagrammatic oil paintings, "Fuming Peak," neatly curving dotted lines rise like smoke from dark red lozenges floating inside a pointed arch. The pink background outside the arch is filled with such lines, perhaps indicating radiation, pollution, volcanic ash or even the spewing forth of emotions. As with his fellow painters, the eccentricity of these potential allusions strengthens the impact of Dean's work.
This painting is hung beside Kamen's "Rockscape #5," where another Gothic-style pointed arch presses upward. It surrounds an upright stone like an aura. Kamen works with oil and acrylic on aluminum. Cut back into the silvery ground, the arch gleams against a swirling background of purple. As a focal point of catastrophic powers, this stone is the counterpart of Dean's peak. Where Dean's work is ominous, it is also a pleasing study in restrained color and movement. Where Kamen's is exhilarating, it is also heavy with foreboding. The tension these two works exhibit is felt throughout the show, leaving one to think again about the potency and ambiguity of each small detail of life. Charlotte Robinson at de Andino
Charlotte Robinson's paintings at de Andino Fine Arts are about water, movement, shimmer and change. The lake, hills and trees around her home in Northern Virginia appear throughout these lush oil paintings. But some of these seemingly peaceful scenes double as maps. The rolling fields and lakeside meadows seen at first glance turn out to be inscribed with the curving streets of subdivisions. Uncomfortable with the artificial sanctity of a painted landscape, Robinson allows urban sprawl to invade her works with the same feeling of inevitability that it brings in real life.
Robinson sometimes paints curtains at the edges of her scenes or paints right over her frames. These devices imply that beyond the limited, short-term view, there are larger realities to contend with. In her two homages to water painters, the addition of images borrowed from such artists as Claude Monet and David Hockney suggest the possibility of multiple perspectives in any scene.
In "A Jumping Off Place," brushy green foliage and reeds surround a blue lake. The water both reflects and acts as a vehicle for reflection. There is a strangely brooding atmosphere in this luminous painting filled with sunny, overly pretty colors. A dock, painted salmon pink, juts from the lower edge of the painting, the handles of a metal ladder at its end gleaming as if under a spotlight. The whole scene is an invitation to leap into the unknown. There are only suggestions of shadows in the water, yet the threat of darkness is unmistakable. Robinson's images are about resistance, longing and inevitability: the unavoidable elements of change.