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In the galleries: A sizzling exhibit crackles with creativity

Akemi Maegawa’s 12-foot-diameter fried-egg sculpture “So Hot You Could Fry An Egg" was inspired by the artist’s discovery of the term “sunny side up,” which she prefers to “fried eyeball,” the idiom in Japanese, her original language. Photos on the walls are by Caitlin Teal Price. (Luke Walter Photography/Cody Gallery at Marymount University)
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There are as many hot-weather cliches as there are yearly dog days, but only one suits the summer-themed exhibition at Marymount University’s Cody Gallery: “So Hot You Could Fry an Egg.” That’s because the three-artist show’s centerpiece is an oversize reproduction of a fried egg, rendered in yellow stoneware and white carpet by Akemi Maegawa. The 12-foot-diameter, mostly soft sculpture is designed for lounging, which complements the rest of the work. Katie Barrie’s paintings, Caitlin Teal Price’s photographs and Maegawa’s sculpture are quite unlike each other, yet all have a school’s-out vibe.

Maegawa’s tribute to cooked eggs was inspired by her discovery of the term “sunny side up,” which the D.C. artist prefers to “fried eyeball,” the idiom in Japanese, her original language. Price observes a different sort of cookery in her pictures of reclining sunbathers on Brooklyn beaches, made from 2008 to 2015 and published in a 2016 book, “Stranger Lives.” One of her subjects is partly shielded by a pink umbrella, but the rest are baking in midday heat. (The D.C. photographer made all the images between noon and 2 p.m.) While individuality is conveyed by such details as a gun tattoo and an array of dominoes, the situation — and strongly implied sensation — is near-universal.

No people appear in Barrie’s art, but their presence is suggested by artifacts, both actual and depicted, and such garrulous titles as “After a Day on the Beach Displaying Sun-burned Limbs and Faces, We’d Marvel at Each Other’s ‘Healthy’ Glow.’ ” The Richmond painter sometimes mixes artificial sand into acrylic pigments to achieve rough textures, although the paintings’ hard edges, regular shapes and bright, unmixed colors evoke pools more than beaches. Blue tiles, leafy green wallpaper and dancing red, white and blue Popsicles all conjure a vision of summer that’s as much a product as it is a season. In these pictures, it’s so hot you can sell a lifestyle.

So Hot You Could Fry an Egg: Katie Barrie, Akemi Maegawa, Caitlin Teal Price Through Aug. 7 at Cody Gallery, Marymount University Ballston Center, 1000 N. Glebe Rd., Arlington.

Alien Nation

Selling is a recurrent theme at Von Ammon Co., whose shows often include consumer products, usually fractured or decayed. That’s one way of representing what the current exhibition, organized by New York-based curator Kenta Murakami, terms “Alien Nation.” Among the abused items are Colette’s flood-damaged lamp, brown stains courtesy of Hurricane Sandy; halves of large wooden eagles, covered in tar by Helmut Lang; and an apple with a bite missing, the work of Puppies Puppies (a.k.a. Jade Kuriki Olivo).

The show was partly inspired by the legacy of Gretchen Bender (1951-2004), who went from D.C. printmaker to New York video and television artist. Bender often printed text atop glowing screens, such as “Dream Nation” on a small TV set tuned to the news and “Creatures” backlit on a tiny window that’s slit into a square of industrial steel. The polished metal of the second piece contrasts such seemingly corroded entries as Tishan Hsu’s machine-mimicking wood-and-metal “New Portable” and Catherine Czudej’s ceramic panels covered with bismuth crystals.

In an alienated world, the utterly banal can be ominous. SoiL Thornton’s huge text-painting on cardboard gender-mashes 2018’s Top 50 baby names to identify “political aliens” such as “Emmaliam” (a hybrid of No. 1 on the girls’ and boys’ lists). Pope.L uses vintage drinking glasses and carefully spilled water to stage a metaphor for the human body (or a few other possibilities, according to a gallery note). Most savagely, yet with cool precision, Kayode Ojo uses bullets, replica guns and other manufactured objects to construct assemblages, one of which invokes the memory of cannibalistic serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. “Alien Nation” shares its title with an ’80s sci-fi cop flick, so it’s not too surprising that the show features a memento mori of a real-life horror movie.

Alien Nation Through Aug. 1 at Von Ammon Co., 3330 Cady’s Alley NW.

Hughes and Bussiere

The paintings of Farida Hughes and Yasmin Bussiere, on view two blocks apart in Alexandria, are in the color-field tradition. Yet neither’s work would have been welcomed by the leading arbiters of that style in the mid-20th century. For one thing, the artists make pictures that are about something more than color and form.

Bussiere is inspired by travels in a particular region, Central Asia, which she recollects principally in shades of metallic gold flecked with silver. The paintings in her Art League show, “Eastern Light,” are landscapes, but most are essentially abstract. The local artist, who has family ties to Uzbekistan, just hints at geographic features: There’s a cavelike blackness at the center of “Portal of Imagination,” and in “Revelations,” a golden orb in a slightly darker tone than its surroundings might be the sun. The few pictures that place impressionistic horsemen upon the gilded steppes are less convincing, perhaps because Bussiere is more interested in conjuring eternity than action.

Both Bussiere and Hughes apply pigment thickly — once a color field no-no — but in different ways. Bussiere goes for opaque, while Hughes prefers translucent. Hughes’s “A Line Doesn’t End With Me,” at the Athenaeum, might appear familiar to fans of the Washington colorists who came to prominence in the 1950s. The Maryland artist overlaps limpid hues, echoing Morris Louis’s style if not his technique. Her approach is to mix oil paint with resin to make shiny 3-D pools that, when dry, suggest colored glass.

The show’s title doesn’t refer to visual lines. Each piece was inspired by an acquaintance’s genetic makeup, whether known from DNA testing or family lore. A notebook offers the testimonies of the people whose heritages the artist symbolically represents, most of which are diverse enough to be rainbow coalitions. (One person, Chinese on both sides, is expressed only by a range of greens.) Hughes’s paintings are ravishing merely as color-blending exercises, but their layered depths have poignant human significance.

Yasmin Bussiere: Eastern Light Through Aug. 8 at the Art League Gallery, Torpedo Factory, 105 N. Union St., Alexandria.

Farida Hughes: A Line Doesn’t End With Me Through Aug. 8 at the Athenaeum, 201 Prince St., Alexandria.

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