Artechouse celebrates virtual-reality visionaries, but also graphic artists and designers. The D.C. location’s previous show animated the work of a noted magazine and newspaper illustrator, and all three “classic blue” exhibitions were inspired by the 2020 “color of the year” chosen by Pantone, considered an influencer in the graphic design and lifestyle-oriented industries. The color is an intense hue that may resemble the blue generated by light refracted through a clear crystal.
Projected crystalline patterns flit on the walls of the gallery’s main room, but its centerpiece is a long table with stage-prop candles beneath an ornate chandelier, all of which flicker with artificial light. The corridor on the left side is outfitted with paintings of jewels (not all-blue) that glow under black light. The hallway leads to a back room that might be seen as a crystal cave, or as the cellar of the enchanted castle whose dining hall the visitor just traversed. Although the soundtrack is electronic and minimalist, the overall vibe is Disney fairy-tale musical.
As usual, many elements are interactive. Amid the corridor’s paintings are psychedelic miniatures, framed like canvases, that respond to visitors’ presence and gestures. To the left of the main gallery is a model sun flanked by globes, also motion-activated. For anyone who craves a glimpse of “Aqueous” and “Celestial,” a video screen melds changing images from all three Artechouse locations. All of these features are touchless, of course, which is the timeliest aspect of “Crystalline.” This mash-up of “Beauty and the Beast” and a Fillmore West light show is ideal for the hand-sanitizer epoch.
Crystalline Through Feb. 28 at Artechouse, 1238 Maryland Ave. SW.
Frankel, Mougne, Williams & Harris
Nancy Frankel, Phillipe Mougne and Brian Williams, longtime members of Studio Gallery, were recently given emeritus status at the artist-run venue. To mark the honor, “Lions in Winter” showcases work by the trio, whose styles are distinct but altogether compatible. Frankel and Mougne, who are sculptors, and Williams, a painter, all produce sleek, stylish abstractions.
Most of Mougne’s pieces are made of metal and juxtapose sturdiness and delicacy. They appear machine-like in the manner of early-20th-century art that embraced a then-new industrial aesthetic. Yet they also possess grace and a sort of musicality, with nods to nature suggested by the title of one standout, “Fleur de Metal.”
Frankel has often worked in steel, but most of her pieces in this show are wood.Whatever the basic material, the artist usually paints it, yielding such striking inventions as “Red Totem,” a pagoda-like tower whose title hue is set off by yellow. Another strong offering is “Wave Relief,” a wall piece whose incised, blue-tinted swirls are the show’s closest thing to representational imagery.
That low-relief sculpture resembles a painting, and fits neatly with Williams’s colorful pictures, which juggle organic and architectonic forms. The aquatic blues of two Williams pictures that hang near “Wave Relief” complement its darker shades. Intriguingly, the artist achieves such luminous colors in part by applying oils to panels made of aluminum, a substance more often associated with sculpture. The panels’ daubed surfaces gleam congenially toward Mougne’s metallic figures.
Downstairs from the lions, Winston Harris’s “2020: Time for Change” includes works from two series: “In My Lifetime” consists of collages of photo and video images, and “American Made” features prints that are hand-colored and sometimes sliced and reassembled. The first group, which densely overlays images from African American history, is potent and well-timed. But the second is more compelling visually.
The show’s title comes from a six-foot-high piece that’s both imposing and fragile; its stained-glass colors are framed by a violet background and white cutout filigrees. Other one-of-a-kind prints, notably the hot-colored “Pinata” and the cooler “Water to Wine,” are vivid and kinetic.
Harris combines the two series in “BLM Movement-BLM Plaza,” which places a variation of the U.S. flag over montaged images of demonstrators. Made of ribboned paper, the flag features a clock face in place of the 50-star field and text-heavy stripes that adapt the refrain of Inner Circle’s “Bad Boys” (best known as the “Cops” theme). The collage, and its creator, ask: “Black man, whatchu gon do?”
Nancy Frankel, Phillipe Mougne and Brian Williams: Lions in Winter and Winston Harris: 2020: Time for Change Through Jan. 30 at Studio Gallery, 2108 R St. NW.
“Trompe l’oeil,” French for “fool the eye,” is a venerable artist’s prank. Local painter Patrick Kirwin makes the game winkingly explicit with two of the large, detailed paintings in his Art League show, “I Need Trompe L’Oeil.” The pictures depict oversize playing cards, utterly flat objects. But seemingly placed atop them are such apparently 3-D articles as a license plate, a baby bottle and — for the Queen of Hearts — two heart-shaped boxes of chocolates. Simulated with exquisite realism, the deceptive items taunt the thin Mylar surface on which they’re painted.
The plate is metal and the bottle is glass, both substances whose visual qualities Kirwin renders with painstaking verisimilitude. In the show’s largest picture, he turns his attention to another test of the realist painter — draped fabric — with a window scene that emphasizes lush pink and gold curtains. Another showcase for the artist, who teaches at the Art League, is a still-life of candy-colored yarn strands in front of elaborately veined marble. The latter is a customary trompe l’oeil subject, but pairing it with pink and orange yarn changes the game. Kirwin is toying with the viewer’s perception, but also with the trompe l’oeil tradition.
Patrick Kirwin: I Need Trompe L’Oeil Through Jan. 24 at Art League Gallery, Torpedo Factory, 105 N. Union St., Alexandria.