Arlington Arts Center, 3550 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. Through Feb. 1.
First, there was Modern Art. Then, there was Post-Modern Art. Now, three or four steps later, we find ourselves with something like Apres-Neo-Op-Pop-Post-Modern Art, which is about as silly as its name implies.
The Arlington Arts Center just opened three exhibits showcasing this state of art. They range from the "sub-line" to the ridiculous.
In Gallery One, a group of drawings pays homage to minimalist art -- the ubiquitous movement in avant-garde Washington circles, already considered dated in New York. Minimalism, the final (we hope) step of abstract art, uses the minimum image necessary to convey a thought. Very intellectual stuff, and usually very dull.
Frank Gettings' show, centered around the concept of "tonality," avoids the deadly trap of dullness mainly by relying on some very nice photographic work by Joyce Tenneson and some heavy-handed charcoal pieces by Tom Dineen. wIn the rest of the Gallery One exhibit, this reporter's interest was minimal.
Those who still think of art as something done in oil paint or marble may not be ready for the other two exhibits. In Gallery Two, the center features Lew Thomas' and Geoffrey Cook's tribute to Aristotle ("Earth, Water, Fire and Air") in (are you sitting down?) color "Xerox." Thomas and Cook chose the medium of photocopying because, center director Robert Cwiok explains, "The idea achieves greater importance over the actual product."
The idea belongs to the pre-Apres-Modern school (for those taking notes) called Conceptual Art, which expresses, in this case, a poetic thought transformed into an image. What that means is that Thomas and Cook took a line of poetry, typed it onto a paper and took a bunch of pictures of them burying it (earth); soaking it in a sink (water), burning it (fire) and ripping it into shreds, then throwing the shreds into the -- guess what? -- air.
This is serious stuff, friends, and requires not one but two typewritten pages of explanation, handily posted next to the exhibit. "This book," writes Geoffrey Cook, "represents a game played between Lew Thomas and myself. From this game a new code has been created which is both literary and photographic and -- at the same time -- is something else. That "Something Else" is a new code. A new code of potential meanings."
This is the sort of nonsense that grows on you, like "Alice in Wonderland." You start to wonder what you could do with Aristotle and a color copy machine, or with Socrates, perhaps, and a copy-quick hemlock.
For the platonic ideal of photocopy art, however, you need only go upstairs to Gallery Three to see the "multiple quick print event." Titled "Rip and Run," the "event" consists of 35 different works of pre, post and apres art run off on a photocopy machine; the copies are hung on nails around the room. The works are off-the-wall in the sense that viewers may take home a copy of each, as a kind of instant catalog.
If you are inclined to giggle over apres art, this is the place to be. The artists, printmakers, poets and calligraphers who submitted work to this show were, for the most part, in a silly mood, and the torn-off catalog includes pen-and-ink dribbles, "What's Dat?" texture pieces, funny collages, parts of novels, advertisments and one or two nice drawings.
This is the kind of exhibit one is tempted to give an "O" for originality, except that it's been done before -- in Cleveland, (the director's hometown), Buffalo and Cincinnati -- and on New York City buses where everything seems to have been done.
It is comforting to learn that Arlington is at least as chic as galleries in Cleveland and buses in New York. And it is refreshing to see art in the suburbs that is more in the mainstream of the art world.
Mostly what the Arlington Arts Center's version of Apres-Neo-Op-Pop-Post-Modern Art is, though, is a lot of fun.