“Mirror Constellations for Erik,” 2008, by Kate MacDonnell. ( Washington Project for the Arts and Civilian Art Projects)

The well-heeled and deeply committed may attend the Washington Project for the Arts’s Select 2013 Art Auction Gala (tickets $300 and up) on Saturday evening at the Capitol Skyline Hotel. Other art lovers have one day before the event to view the more than 125 artworks, on display in the otherwise empty top floor of an office building near the NoMa-Gallaudet Metro station.

Chosen by six outside curators plus the WPA’s board of directors, the show is a less-than-comprehensive but still formidable overview of the D.C. art scene. The lineup is strong on photographs, but includes notable paintings and sculptures. (Interestingly, if probably not significantly, there’s only one video piece.)

One motif, no doubt inadvertent, is a fuzzy view of things. Kate MacDonnell’s “Mirror Constellations for Erik” is a strong yet ethereal image of a figure through frosted glass, while Terri Weifenbach’s “SE XIII L66,” a crisp close-up of a branch in front of a misty mountain backdrop. (Both are color photographs, but Weifenbach’s suggests a black-and-gray Chinese ink-painting landscape.) Similarly, soft light filters through the foggy background of Ivan Sigal’s “Picnic Table and Forest, Reading, Pennsylvania.” Also impressionistic, in their separate ways, are Jean Meisel’s suite of nine index-card-size “Horizon” paintings and Maggie Michael’s “Swans of Other Worlds, Sfumato Red,” which uses spray paint for gauziness.

Some of the sculptural pieces feel more specific, if not necessarily more literal. Jessica Drenk constructed what looks like a seashell from glued-together pencils. Peter Eudenbach’s “Grind” is a push tool whose three rollers have been replaced, whimsically, by hundreds of 45-rpm records. Adejoke Tugbiyele’s “Musician” suggests a sinuous moving figure with palm stems, yarn and a variety of metal fixtures. Julia Kim Smith built an abacus in which each bead is replaced by a tiny skull, to call attention to North Korea’s political prisoners. Her piece’s political charge contrasts the serenity of Tazuko Ichikawa’s asymmetrical coil of shaped wood, mostly painted black. Like much of the work here, it’s vigorous yet cryptic.

That is a brief overview. There’s much more to see, if not much more time to see it.

Select 2013

Washington Project for the Arts’s auction exhibition on view through Friday at the Washington Project for the Arts temporary space, 64 New York Ave. NE, sixth floor; 202-234-7103; wpadc.org.

Jerry Truong, Annette Isham

Hamiltonian Gallery, which frequently hosts shows by recent fine-arts graduates, is showing “Social Studies,” a two-person contemplation of the educational process. But it’s not art school that Annette Isham (MFA, 2010) and Jerry Truong (MFA, 2011) are reliving. Although both now teach art at local colleges, their work looks at earlier experiences.

In her videos and photographs, a bewigged Isham plays multiple roles that reflect the social pressures on adolescent girls. This is territory that, it may seem, has been amply explored by sitcoms, movies and other mainstream avenues. Truong’s work is headier, presenting school as a form of indoctrination.

The artist works with common classroom items, including chairs, blackboards and overhead projectors. Truong’s titles are verbose, and his art full of words: The adjective “discursive” is written in chalky cursive; “Blank Slates or Follow the Leader” refers to John Locke’s theory that children are a “tabula rasa,” or a blank slate, on which teachers and experience write knowledge; “Play-Doh/Plato and the Shadow Puppets or the Blind Leading the Blind” throws shadows on the wall to evoke “the republic’s” parable of humankind’s limited perception of reality.

Like much text-oriented visual art, Truong’s work sometimes seems to aspire to being an essay. But it does include art-history references, notably a model of Soviet constructivist Vladimir Tatlin’s unbuilt “Monument to the Third International” in a piece whose partial title is “Maybe I Am a Monumental Failure.” That sort of self-doubt can grip either student or teacher.

Social Studies

on view through March 23 at Hamiltonian Gallery, 1353 U St. NW, Suite 101; 202-332-1116; hamiltoniangallery.com.

Michelle Peterson-Albandoz

A child of nature who happens to live in Chicago, Michelle Peterson-Albandoz works primarily with reclaimed wood. Her show at the Long View Gallery is divided between the “Nature Series” and the “Urban Series,” both of which feature the subdued colors of unfinished lumber or well-worn planks, mantles and frames. The artist sometimes cuts wood into petal forms, but more often the manipulation is subtler. Her assemblages come together like jigsaw puzzles only she can solve.

Bright colors undulate through Peterson-Albandoz’s compositions, but darker or earthier tones predominate. One of this selection’s highlights is “Urban Series 322,” a series of tightly interlocked squares that add up to intricate blackness, despite glimmers of lighter shades. Less interesting is “Nature Series 310,” whose blossoms are made of fresh, if unfinished, wood; its pristine surfaces lack the richness of the beat-up materials.

The least expected pieces are three rugged circles, constructed of wooden wedges and hung from the ceiling by heavy chains. There’s nothing organic about these sculptures, which have a swaggering industrial vibe. Peterson-Albandoz writes that her interest is in “a deeper connection to nature,” but she may have more enthusiasm for remaking the world than she acknowledges.

Nature Series; Urban Series

on view through March 24 at Long View Gallery, 1234 9th St. NW; 202-232-4788; longviewgallery.com.

Nancy Donnelly

D.C. artist Nancy Donnelly does landscapes, still lifes and figure studies, all traditional genres. But hers have an added aspect, because they’re translucent. Six years ago, Donnelly began working in glass, which makes even the thinnest of her works sculptural. “Transmission,” her show at VisArts at Rockville’s Common Ground Gallery, encompasses rectangular compositions with just a hint of depth, pieces in which certain elements protrude from the plane and works that are fully three-dimensional.

The last category includes flower arrangements such as “Bouquets,” whose simplified forms suggest pop art’s directness but whose colors subtly shift along the length of the glass fronds. Among the near-flat objects are nature scenes such as “Sea and Sky I” and the more abstract “Tribute to William Morris,” a homage to the Victorian-era designer and theorist that employs a subtle black and green palette. Perhaps the most striking sculptures are those in which well-rounded female nudes, rendered in bluish or greenish glass, emerge from contrastingly hued blocks. They’re metaphors for creation and liberation, making them pertinent not just to one artist who has found her medium.


on view through March 24 at Common Ground Gallery, VisArts at Rockville, 155 Gibbs St., Rockville; 301-315-8200; visartsatrockville.org.

Jenkins is a freelance writer.