Historic neighborhoods such as Foggy Bottom have texture, psychic as well as tangible. That’s the idea behind “Absence & Presence,” the neighborhood’s sixth sculpture biennial. The outdoor exhibition scatters works by 15 artists across four blocks near New Hampshire Avenue and I Street NW. An additional 30 smaller offerings by mostly the same artists are on display at the nearby Watergate Gallery.
These are neither traditional ceremonial statues nor epic industrial abstractions. The street pieces, curated by local artist-educators Helen Frederick and Peter Winant, are made of glass, wood, mosaic and fabric, in addition to metal. Stone is rare. Many of the works are representational, but they usually document everyday rather than heroic things. Linda DePalma arranges a vividly yellow-painted metal bloom on a gray facade, and Sean Hennessey includes rows of electric outlets and lightbulbs in a lighthearted glass piece.
The only memorial among the street pieces is Nehemiah Dixon’s lineup of three “Hoodies,” ominously empty. There’s another in the gallery, Jeremy Thomas Kunkel’s foreboding “Weaponized Rhetoric,” a pile of bronze bullets whose tips are in the shape of human fingers.
Some of the Watergate pieces differ from the street pieces simply in scale. The evocative metal gourds that John Ruppert is showing at the gallery are dwarfed by the massive aluminum pumpkins on the avenue. Inside, Kunkel presents a single suitcase with an arm attached, all in bright yellow; on a residential street nearby, he’s installed five of them, a squadron of almost-missing people on the move.
Other artists cannily adjust their strategies. The gallery holds two of Valerie Theberge’s glittering glass-mosaic gherkins; their larger outdoor counterpart is a both a totem and a navigation device, with a porthole that allows a view through it. The bulbous column, solid yet open, embodies absence and presence.
Absence & Presence: 2018 Outdoor Sculpture Biennial On view through July 7 at Watergate Gallery, 2552 Virginia Ave. NW. 202-338-4488. watergategalleryframedesign.com. Through Oct. 27, area of New Hampshire Avenue and I Street NW.
Dario Escobar and Patrick Hamilton make sculpture out of things that are already things. Trowels, pool cues, metal spikes and bicycle tires are among the not-so-raw ingredients of the pieces in “Transformers,” at the OAS Art Museum of the Americas. The artists playfully arrange manufactured items in ways that are amusing, as well as formally satisfying.
Escobar and Hamilton are friends and sometimes collaborators, although the former works in his native Guatemala and the latter, a Chilean, is based in Spain. Their complementary interests are showcased in the first gallery, which places Hamilton’s large-format photographs depicting tools and pictures hanging together on pegboards alongside Escobar’s grouped abstractions of white and red-brown paper inside wooden frames. Each set is a homage to Russian artist Kazimir Malevich, founder of the Suprematist movement and a major influence on both artists.
Among the larger constructions are Escobar’s “Quetzalcoatl VI,” which drapes long shreds of racing-bike tires in midair to evoke the feathered serpent of Mesoamerican myth; and Hamilton’s “Red and Black Sun,” in which wedges of the two colors are interlocked in a meticulous circle of spatulas. In using such off-the-shelf materials, Escobar and Hamilton symbolically undo mass production by incorporating its identical products into something unique.
Transformers: New Contemporary Sculpture by Dario Escobar and Patrick Hamilton On view through July 8 at the OAS Art Museum of the Americas, 201 18th St. NW. 202-370-0147. museum.oas.org.
Mount Rainier’s Red Dirt Studio has opened a temporary consulate in well-scrubbed Bethesda, where WAS Gallery is hosting six of the warehouse studio’s artists. The work in “Intimate Gathering” is diverse but linked by its focus on personal history and identity, writes curator Leslie Holt in a gallery note.
The sleekest piece is Lorenzo Cardim’s wall-mounted array of curved, partly meshed wooden slices. It’s not an abstraction, though. “Untitled (Zipper)” is an ode to undressing whose erotic charge is exemplified by the bright red nail polish that coats the uppermost of the 13 segments.
The human body is also represented indirectly in Liz Lessner’s sculptures, which freeze moments of glancing personal contact or proximity. Among her constructions are two in which the edges of acrylic shards are highlighted beguilingly with blue light.
Pink and red are the dominant colors in Amy Hughes Braden’s installation, which includes several paintings that aren’t simply paintings. One is splashed with glitter, another is slipping off its stretcher, and a third is punctuated with geometric cuts. Juggling the roles of mother and artist, Hughes Braden asserts her right to be what Holt calls “loud and messy.”
Also featured are Tim McLoraine, whose video superimposes pulsating grids over found footage; Michael Corigliano, who uses cartoonish headgear to try on various male and female archetypes; and Gayle Friedman, whose inherited-object assemblages were discussed in this column last week.
Intimate Gathering On view through July 14 at WAS Gallery, 5110 Ridgefield Rd., Bethesda. 202-361-5223. wasgallery.com.
The Capitol and the Metro system are two of the emblems that appear repeatedly in Michael Crossett’s symbolic landscapes of Washington, displayed in Long View Gallery’s “Fair Card Value.” From newspaper archives and his own photographs, the D.C. artist gathers the images he layers in silk-screen prints that densely overlap vignettes and artifacts of Washington.
Many of the pieces of these brightly colored and brashly assembled puzzles are easily recognized, even if some come from decades past. Only one motif looks out of place: the name “Maiku,” rendered in a phonetic Japanese syllabary. It turns out that Crossett spent part of his childhood in Okinawa, where his graffiti tag was the local transliteration of “Mike.”
That signature announces that these jumbles of public spaces have a private significance: Maiku is D.C., and D.C. is Maiku. But the city is everyone else’s, too, and these prints court newcomers and natives alike with their complex strata and visual ingenuity. Even those who never saw a Metro Farecard will get a sense of movement from the dynamic vertical bands that Crossett derives from the magnetic strip of the now-obsolete tickets.
Michael Crossett: Fair Card Value On view through July 8 at Long View Gallery, 1234 Ninth St. NW. 202-232-4788. longviewgallerydc.com .