The pieces cover a lot of conceptual territory, and include some that remark on their own structures. Bonnie Carrow used just two weathered bricks, joined by a tongue-and-groove technique and protruding from the wall, to represent the spot where interior and exterior meet. Similarly skeletal is Emily Fussner’s hanging sculpture, a wispy, paper-pulp web with solid origins: It was cast from cracks in parking-lot asphalt.
Emptiness also figures in Whitney Sage’s painting of two suburban houses, one of which is simply a negative white shape, evoking both physical and emotional absence. Summoned from memory, Jacob Lahah’s near-abstract print-drawing distills memories of now-idle Richmond gay nightclubs. Harry Mayer mounted photo-derived prints on two sides of a plywood partition to give physical presence to ghostly images of the small apartment where he spent most of 2020.
Among the pieces that address borders is Katie Waugh’s split-screen video, in which hands on the surface of water stand for barriers between countries and peoples. Shannon Finnell combines the domestic and the international with a photo-within-a-photo of a person in Romania holding a picture of a person looking out a window. Mary Janacek’s watercolor, made of dozens of overlapping strips of yellow and orange painted cardboard, conveys a different sort of view: a San Francisco sky bright from both nearby wildfires and urban conflagration.
Many works are little structures in themselves. Malina Busch’s gold-heavy abstraction on paper is bound in red twine so that it bends into three-dimensionality. Dustyn Bork’s two-part, multicolored abstraction on shaped panels has a cavity at its center, offering a view of the blank wall behind it. Sharon Koelblinger mounted a photo inside a metal box so the image can be seen only partly and from odd angles. The piece is a portal into a world we can barely glimpse from our uneasy confinement.
Those Spaces Between Us Through May 23 at Target Gallery, Torpedo Factory, 105 N. Union St., Alexandria.
Architecture and democracy
Two shows under one rubric, Dupont Underground’s “Architecture and the Question of Democracy” offers plans for Portugal and its own neighborhood. The building schemes from Portugal are meant to reveal aspects of its transition from dictatorship to representative government, although the drawings mostly demonstrate the like-mindedness of recent big-ticket architecture around the globe.
That’s also evident from the second set of proposals, which focus on Dupont Circle itself and were solicited by a Dupont Underground-sponsored competition. The designs, none of which has a chance of being instituted, recommend such trendy landscape features as artificial hills and meandering paths. These additions would make crossing the circle more difficult while not addressing the central issue: the many lanes of traffic that isolate the park from the surrounding area.
The winning scheme, by the massive international firm Gensler, has the virtue of being relatively unobtrusive: It would simply add curved light fixtures around the circle’s fountain and above the entrance to Dupont Underground. Yet even this relatively modest proposal seems detached from the practical realities of this heavily used but minimally maintained park.
Architecture and the Question of Democracy Through May 23 at Dupont Underground, 19 Dupont Circle NW. Advance tickets required.
Russell and Hill
Author James Baldwin and South Carolina’s Africa-rooted Gullah culture are essential touchstones for Imani W. Russell. The Arlington fiber artist makes dolls and tapestries from secondhand materials. She maintains a studio at Portico, whose gallery is hosting her show “Stitched Alchemy.” Her particular magic is to conjure new objects from materials imbued with the past.
The faces are black and brown, invoking African heritage, but also red and purple. The dolls are adorned with found objects that represent hard labor, such as tufts of cotton, as well as with talismans of freedom, including feathers, dried flowers and the gold oblongs that embellish the quilted “Moon Dancer.” Such touches give Russell’s work a sense of fun, but that’s balanced by serious outrage: A large figurine in a pink chiffon dress is paired with a Baldwin denunciation of “the guilty and constructed white imagination.”
At the adjacent Mixt Food Hall, Portico has installed a small group of paintings by Tom Hill, another artist based in the neighborhood. These mostly abstract pictures psychedelicize geometric and natural forms, rendered on Masonite panels with thick, shiny pigment sometimes infused with glitter. The comic-book colors pop, and meteor-like shapes zip across the compositions, further activating them. There’s no energy shortage in Hill’s art.
Imani W. Russell: Stitched Alchemy Through June 5 at Portico Gallery, 3807 Rhode Island Ave., Brentwood.
Tom Hill Through June 30 at Mixt Food Hall, 3809 Rhode Island Ave., Brentwood.
Carlo Pizarro Pyramid Atlantic Art Center “Mermaid” by Rose Jaffe recalls an imagery reminiscent of Henri Matisse’s late style. Pyramid Atlantic Art Center Jaffe’s “Bloom with Color” uses two techniques, combining vivid color with intricate line work.
Pyramid Atlantic Art Center
“Mermaid” by Rose Jaffe recalls an imagery reminiscent of Henri Matisse’s late style.
Pyramid Atlantic Art Center
Jaffe’s “Bloom with Color” uses two techniques, combining vivid color with intricate line work.
Two worlds overlap, both figuratively and literally, in Rose Jaffe’s recent prints. The D.C. native’s “Natural Connections” portray her and her friends in outdoor settings, as well as plants that sprout in their usual environs or within the outlines of human heads or torsos. Most of the works were made over the past year at Pyramid Atlantic Art Center, where they’re now on display.
The realistic depictions are etchings, while the simpler, more colorful pictures are monoprints. Sometimes Jaffe employs both techniques in a single piece, overlaying vividly hued forms on pictures rendered with intricate line work. One pair, possibly a set of self-portraits, features the same etching in both, but with curved shapes in four bright colors atop the second one.
The more stylized imagery, which recalls Henri Matisse’s late style, twists off the paper and into three-dimensionality in a few sculptures made of etched or spray-painted aluminum. But the streamlined blocks of color are most intriguing when they duet with the detailed etching. The two modes make a natural connection that’s also a dynamic contrast.
Rose Jaffe: Natural Connections Through May 23 at Pyramid Atlantic Art Center, 4318 Gallatin St., Hyattsville.