Global destruction is averted in the 30th tale, which comes from Yamaguchi’s birthplace — Japan. That country, where these paintings were exhibited in 2018, also seems to be the wellspring of the artist’s imagery. The rich blues and aqueous textures of the many watery scenes suggest an islander’s seaward outlook, while the fiery, liquid reds in other pictures evoke volcanoes. Some of the compositions pack more narrative than others, but even at their most abstract, the paintings convey a strong sense of nature’s ability to overwhelm and obliterate.
The artist is best known for sculptures and installations, especially ones that group nature-derived forms in hanging arrays that resemble clouds. There are two such pieces in this show: One centers on an oceanic video, while the other glimmers from embedded and projected light. The latter work’s delicacy, typical of Yamaguchi’s style, is infused here with new urgency. Like the world it loosely represents, the installation is intricate and dynamic, yet fragile.
In their statements, Yamaguchi and Schipper link primeval fables to modern ecological crises. Perhaps the most telling warning quoted in the writer’s introduction to their book is far from contemporary. Some 2,300 years ago, Chinese sage Mencius wrote, “When heaven sends down calamities, there is hope of weathering them; when man brings them upon himself, there is no hope of escape.”
In the adjacent gallery, Alonzo Davis turns his customary mode to themes similar to Yamaguchi’s. “Navigating Climate Change, Extended” comprises mixed-media assemblages dominated by crossed bamboo poles. Stretched across boards and swatches of windsurfer sails, the staffs suggest rafts, whether of the actual sort Davis saw while traveling in Micronesia or symbolic ones on which to brave rising sea levels. With their skeletal forms occasionally emphasized by internal lighting, Davis’s constructions appear both whimsical and ominous.
Yuriko Yamaguchi and Mineke Schipper: Intium Novum: Humanity’s End as a New Beginning and Alonzo Davis: Navigating Climate Change, Extended through June 10 at McLean Project for the Arts, 1234 Ingleside Ave., McLean.
Built in 1904 as part of a warehouse, the space occupied by Von Ammon Co. is distinctive no matter what art is on display. But Beth Collar’s “Basher Dowsing” calls particular attention to the multi-columned room. The Berlin-based British artist did that by having the whitewashed wooden pillars painted black and by placing her small sculptures almost out of view in barely lighted spots. The pieces, mostly carved from light-hued wood, lurk behind posts or nestle above eye level, leaving empty the gallery’s skylighted area.
While the space is a major inspiration, that doesn’t explain everything. It helps to know that William “Basher” Dowsing was a 17th-century Puritan who set out to strip ornamentation he found improper from buildings in southeastern Britain. Collar’s minimalist sculptures emulate features of such structures, but also the loudspeakers found in contemporary churches and parts of the body, including spurts of blood. The corporeal imagery draws from Gothic-era Christian art, whose depictions of physical torment were likely inspired by the Black Death.
Where that art is lurid, Collar’s style is studiously cool. “Basher Dowsing” both accentuates and denatures the gallery’s architecture. There is a personal element, however, to the show. Dowsing was active in the area where, some 300 years later, Collar was born and raised. In a roundabout way, Collar’s temporary remake of Von Ammon Co. is a homecoming.
Beth Collar: Basher Dowsing Through June 6 at Von Ammon Co., 3330 Cady’s Alley NW.
At the entrance to “From an Abyss,” Ryan McCoy’s show at the Arlington Arts Center, there is a minimalist painting of a black rectangle, its hard-edge perfection neatly disrupted by one white niche. Anyone who has seen the D.C. artist’s work will recognize the color scheme. But where are the usual layered 3-D ingredients — ash, powder, rust, straw and pine needles?
Those elements, topped by white or black pigment, are included in most of the six pictures; just two were realized with paint only. But both types of composition are closely related. Indeed, there’s a set of twins: “An Abyss,” the piece that welcomes visitors to the show, has the same layout as “Storm Flowers,” but the latter is jammed with McCoy’s trademark textures.
The tension between austere geometric forms and random natural shapes has long been central to the artist’s style. This time, though, the inspiration is specific: life during the pandemic year. “From an Abyss” is a sort of time capsule, solemn and chaotic at the same time.
Ryan McCoy: From an Abyss Through June 5 at Arlington Arts Center, 3550 Wilson Blvd., Arlington.
The third exhibition at the pop-up location of But Also is intended to move affordable art out of its makers’ inventories and into people’s homes. That’s why the show is titled “Controlled Burn: A Fire Sale.” On the website, the contributors explain why they would like to unload the works they offer.
The range is wider than in previous shows, but the spirit remains playful. Nancy Daly’s prints turn celebrity faces and other icons into puzzles; Berlin-based American Hannah Lansburgh’s silk-screens go a bit Warhol with German supermarket ads; and Suzy Kopf’s oils memorialize Subway and Burger King. In a somewhat more somber look at U.S. highway culture, Kim Llerna pairs photos of the American West with not-so-historical markers.
There are austere pieces, notably Amy Finkelstein’s photo of a striking abstract collage. More characteristic, though, are Amber Eve Anderson’s six-foot-round inflated ball, tie-dyed and pulsating, and Chris Combs’s whimsical electronic devices. His “Bureatron,” which responds to most questions with an amber light that indicates the query is unacceptable, has to be someone’s ideal back-to-the-office gift.
Controlled Burn: A Fire Sale Through June 5 at But Also, 3015B Georgia Ave. NW.