The use of line is central in ukiyo-e — traditional Japanese woodblock prints — and their offspring, the mostly black-and-white comics called manga. Rozeal emulates those genres, modeling two pieces in this show on the work of Utamaro, a printmaker in 17th-century Edo (now Tokyo) known for portraying angular beauties. But her recent work contrasts precise renderings with looser, less controlled elements. Drips abound in these paintings, and one playful picture makes a joke of it: In “The Oobie Kids,” a girl holds a three-scoop ice cream cone that dribbles a trio of different colors. Another painting, a 22-foot-wide mural, arrays 10 Afro-geisha heads on a field of blue eight-foot-high drips.
That monumental painting is on Tyvek, a paper-like plastic, one of several unconventional materials Rozeal is using to expand and redefine her style.
The show also features works on linen, cardboard and wood, whether blank panels or such repurposed items as skateboards and cutting boards. On a smaller scale yet quite audacious are small acrylics painted atop reproductions of Mark Rothko abstractions printed on note cards. These are less interpretations than obliterations.
Rozeal employs both the formats and the content of Japanese art. This selection includes multipanel works that suggest Asian screen paintings, painted fabric hangings whose black-and-gold color scheme recall Buddhist temples, and a picture inscribed with the Sino-Japanese character for “woman.” But there also are a commemoration of Freddie Gray, a collage with Egyptian motifs, numerous references to music — Rozeal is a DJ — and a portrait of a nude whose geisha-white face accentuates her rich brown skin. However deeply Rozeal travels into Japanese tradition, her destinations are her heritage and her self.
Rozeal Through Jan. 31 at Terzo Piano, 1515 14th St. NW. Open by appointment.
Battenfield & Qiao
Delicacy and spontaneity are essential to the appeal of watercolors, which is what Jackie Battenfield paints — sort of. The Brooklyn artist actually daubs plastic on plastic: diluted acrylic pigment on Mylar, on which the thinly pooled colors seem to remain liquid.
Her subjects, at least in several Addison/Ripley Fine Art shows whose latest is “White Light,” are flowering trees. The artist depicts these with an austerity reminiscent of classic East Asian nature painting. The backgrounds are all white, and many of the pictures seemingly employ just two colors. In fact, Battenfield initially mixes multiple hues together as one. Only as they dry do they separate into contrasting shades.
Derived from her own photographs, Battenfield’s paintings are realistic yet not literal. Their forms are streamlined, and their colors can appear bleached or unexpectedly bright. This suggests the effect of the artist’s vantage point, which is staring upward into the sun’s white light. Boughs emerge from the top in most of the compositions, which emphasizes the direction of the painter’s gaze. While Battenfield’s pictures are quiet and gentle, their perspective conjures a sense of awe.
Showing alongside Battenfield’s paintings are four large-format photographs by Cindy Qiao, another New Yorker. The artist’s “Our Land” also contemplates nature, yet flirts with abstraction.
Qiao glances the opposite direction from Battenfield. She points her iPhone camera at the ground in parks and gardens in various cities, capturing the temporary carpets woven of blossoms, leaves, seeds and other organic remnants. These images are enlarged to more than life-size, which heightens the individual details while lending the overall scenes a sense of unreality.
The most vivid example of this is “Shooting Stars,” in which long, tapered golden leaves appear to streak across a black backdrop. The darkness must be mulch or loamy earth, but the tight framing makes it look like outer space. By toying with scale, Qiao makes landscapes that seem both intimate and vast.
Jackie Battenfield: White Light and Cindy Qiao: Our Land Through Jan. 23 at Addison/Ripley Fine Art, 1670 Wisconsin Ave. NW. Open by appointment.
In retrospect, “Alive with Pleasure!” was not the best slogan for a tobacco product. But that tag line, devised by the purveyors of Newport cigarettes, was typical of the advertising that sold smoking as healthy, lively and robustly masculine. D.C. artist Mark Kelner challenges such pitches in “Pleasure’s Promise,” a text-only mural on display in Culture House D.C.’s outdoor Avant Garden.
The U.S.-born son of parents from the Soviet Union, Kelner often riffs on the overlaps, whether literal or conceptual, between Soviet propaganda and Madison Avenue hype. This project, however, is all-American. Rather then the red of the stars that can represent either Macy’s or the Kremlin, the piece is in garish orange on green — the former colors of Newport’s promotional campaign. Kelner borrows those ads’ bulbous erstwhile typeface, but not its words. Instead, each plywood panel hawks one supposed attribute of the menthol cigarettes and their users: “fantabulous,” “hunky-dory,” “devil-may-care” and such.
Newport cultivates an upscale sporty image, with a specifically nautical theme. But, as Kelner notes in his statement, the brand has long been marketed aggressively in Black communities. That’s why the artist decided to erect his satirical placards in Southwest Washington, historically an urban-renewal battleground. “Pleasure’s Promise” is as much about the process of gentrification as it is about the deceit of merchandising.
Mark Kelner: Pleasure’s Promise Through Jan. 31 at Culture House D.C., 700 Delaware Ave. SW.