Only four of the 14 women of H.O.V. Art (short for High on Visual Art) are represented in the Korean Cultural Center’s “Multi-lane H.O.V.,” but each artist steers in a different direction. What they do share is precision of craft and vision. Their colors range from soft to loud and their shapes may be organic or mathematical, but all have polished styles.
A New York-based group of Korean-bred artists, H.O.V. Art was founded by Dong Hee Lee and Zin Helena Song. Lee works mostly in black and white — one piece is in black and red — and with abstract but regular patterns that suggest insect swarms or life at the cellular level. She builds lattice-like structures of colored hot glue — sometimes atop canvas but also free-standing. A swarm of wiry black ovals swoops elegantly across one wall like a school of fish, although the title, “Celebrate Birth,” indicates that Lee was thinking of much smaller creatures.
Song’s grid-based minimalist paintings are geometric to the point of resembling renderings of deconstructed buildings. The artist contrasts neutral and boldly artificial colors, as if distilling a neon-flecked cityscape to its simplest components. She uses the same sort of color scheme for her crisply irregular “Polygon in Space” pieces, which could be described either as shaped paintings or wall sculptures. Like Frank Stella, Song seems to be looking for the spot where sharp-edged color-field painting turns into architecture.
The other artists, Jeong Min Park and Miro Kang, explore naturally occurring contours. Kang’s recurring motif is clearly based on snow-topped peaks, although when she renders the same shape in white with red tips, viewers may be reminded of something else. Park makes landscape-like abstractions with watery, billowing pigments. Several are in single hue, but the two most compelling ones swirl yellow on a mostly black plane. The result is a rare instance of drama in a show devoted to art that’s coolly conceived and rigorously made.
Multi-lane H.O.V. On view through Feb. 20 at the Korean Cultural Center, 2370 Massachusetts Ave. NW. 202-797-6343. www.koreaculturedc.org.
Painter Mikray Pida is a member of Washington’s small but significant population of Uyghurs, Turkic-speaking people native to Xinjiang, a contested area of western China. According to Charles Krause/Reporting Fine Art, which is showing Pida’s “Time & Space,” she is probably the only artist from that province now working outside of China. The warm yellows and oranges of some of Pida’s paintings evoke the region’s desert palette, but most of her work seems inspired not by her homeland but by its rulers.
Like the better-publicized Tibetans, Uyghurs are under significant cultural pressure from the Han Chinese. Most of Pida’s pictures show anonymous, androgynous figures, either in vast assemblies or regimented isolation; it’s as if Warhol had portrayed the masses rather than Mao. Thousands of silver-gray humanoids crowd an 18-foot-high canvas that flows off the wall, suggesting both Chinese scroll paintings and Silk Road tapestries. Other compositions imprison people inside squares or rectangles of contrasting color. The effect is stark and rigid, even though Pida’s brushwork is loose.
Among the artist’s motifs are clocks that dwarf and occasionally even impede the tiny beings. What time is it? Given the show’s Orwellian vibe, one date quickly comes to mind.
Time & Space: Paintings by Mikray Pida On view through March 1 at Charles Krause/Reporting Fine Art, 1300 13th St. NW. 202-638-3612. www.charleskrausereporting.com.
At first glance, the paintings and dioramas in Laini Nemett’s “East of Sheridan” may look like realistic renderings of dilapidated wood-frame houses. VisArts, whose Gibbs Street Gallery is showing the series, notes that the work was inspired by a residency in Sheridan County, Wyo. But although the small 3-D models are photo-based, the canvases are less literal. Nemett, who lives in New York and teaches in Baltimore, merges scenes from various cities in paintings such as “Queensboro Seine.” What links them are structure and destruction: The artist focuses on slats, beams, girders and trusses, often revealed nakedly by missing or decayed surfaces. Although some of the depicted edifices are wrecked, decay doesn’t seem to be the point. Nemett is just interested in how things are put together.
Upstairs at VisArts, Kaplan Gallery is in the midst of “Suspension,” a series of showcases by video artists. Holden Brown, whose stint ends Feb. 15, gives an ominous twist to everyday American home life. A cooking show features a host (or hostess) with a distorted voice and a face concealed by the sort of mask favored by slasher-flick fiends; a video loop of a cozy fireplace is paired with an actual dollhouse seemingly consumed by projected flames. The program concludes with the work of Betty Boehm, on display from Feb. 18 to March 1.
Laini Nemett: East of Sheridan and Suspension On view through March 1 at VisArts at Rockville, 155 Gibbs St., Rockville. 301-315-8200. www.visartscenter.org.
Like Laini Nemett, Jason Yen builds dioramas from cardboard and paper. But his “Recycled Adventures in Cardboard Relief,” at Hillyer Art Space, are more whimsical, with odd contrasts of subject and scale. The artist does ad layouts for local publications, a vocation whose influence is too obvious in active-lifestyle collages such as one of people skating on a rink-size turntable. More droll are scenes in which oversized animals encounter man-made vehicles: A huge deer nuzzles a small bus, a giant fish prepares to swallow some World War II fighter planes and a jumbo beetle meets a VW Bug that’s roughly its size. There’s also a suit-clad man with flowers in place of his head, as if Yen had been rummaging in the recycling bin and pulled out a Magritte.
While Yen’s palette is heavy on found browns, the work in Andrea Barnes’s “Reconcile,” also at Hillyer, is entirely in shades of gray. The Maryland artist combines stenciled letters and transferred imagery with splashed, scrubbed and dripped pigment. These ingredients recall Jasper Johns’s early-1960s vocabulary, but Barnes has her own way with them. Her approach is more intuitive and, despite the occasional hard-edged form, less pattern-oriented. A bicycle gear hub features in “Next to Now,” and “Ropes, Page One” contains a ring of precisely rendered globes. Yet these and the other pictures, whether on paper or canvas, are largely abstract and unfailingly lyrical. In this series, Barnes does not equate gray with grim.
Jason Yen: Recycled Adventures in Cardboard Relief and Andrea Barnes: Reconcile On view through Feb. 28 at Hillyer Art Space, 9 Hillyer Ct. NW. 202-338-0325. www.hillyerartspace.org.
Jenkins is a freelance writer.