The books are mostly individual efforts, yet not entirely. Every month, each participant would add to another one’s book, then forward it to the next person in the chain. The exchange concluded in April 2021, ending a nine-month process that Gail Shaw-Clemons likens to gestation and birth.
The most conventionally book-like piece is Pamela Harris Lawton’s “Papa Will’s Miniature Village,” a charming account of her father’s dollhouse-making hobby rendered in woodcut illustrations and letterpress text. The other entries tend toward collage, rely heavily on textile-art skills and frequently incorporate three-dimensional objects. Many are accordion-fold constructions such as Gloria Patton’s “Nexus,” eclectically decorated pockets that hold additional artworks on individual sheets. That’s just one of the ways the books overflow their formats, as if to express feelings that can’t be contained.
The finished objects are too delicate to touch, and are sometimes displayed in glass cases. While “Papa Will” can’t be viewed in its entirety, multiple pages are mounted on the gallery walls. So are other pieces, related to but not part of the books.
Even the flattest entries have multiple layers, suggesting the complexity of the artists’ identities. In impeccable prints by Shaw-Clemons and Michele Godwin, respectively, masks meld with the faces beneath them and women are enclosed by wisps of fabric or vegetation. Adjoa J. Burrowes’s handsome monotypes float crisp red shapes over stormy black-and-white ones, and Julee Dickerson-Thompson’s high-contrast collages integrate human, symbolic and random forms.
Actual depth is crucial to other works. Aziza Claudia Gibson-Hunter’s exuberant assemblages, made of drawn or painted paper that is cut or torn, are mounted on wood so the works stand away from the wall. Squiggled lines of 3-D pigment are among the elements that sweep across Kamala Subramanian’s vivid abstraction, uniting its two panels. The most dramatic dimensional passage is navigated by Francine Haskins’s “Equality,” a patchwork banner that transforms into a nearly life-size rag doll, complete with boots on the ground. Escaping its quilted confines, the figure gives birth to itself.
Nine Artists | Nine Months | Nine Perspectives: Birth of 2020 Visions Through Aug. 29 at Pyramid Atlantic Art Center, 4318 Gallatin St., Hyattsville.
Toni Lane and Alanna Reeves
A duet of parallel themes, Toni Lane and Alanna Reeves’s “In Search of Solid Ground” illustrates psychological issues in contrasting media and moods. Lane’s expressionistic drawings are dramatic and agitated, with many drowning scenarios. Reeves’s minimalist prints represent, often by not literally representing, absence and distance. Lane is a resident artist and Reeves a visiting one at Art Enables, which is hosting their show.
Working mostly in ink and oil pastel, Lane usually portrays a single figure, emphasizing outsized hands and cocked heads. Fingers may be folded into a signal for requesting help in a domestic-violence situation, or clutching a prescription-pill bottle in a piece titled “Help Needed in a Yellow Room.” Two acrylic paintings in aquatic colors depict only hands and waves, hinting that the almost-unseen subject is about to be pulled under.
Reeves’s prints combine plaintive text with ghostly landscapes, both framed by large swaths of white (or occasionally black) space. Some renderings of plants and trees are cut out and placed directly on the wall, effectively turning Reeves’s side of the gallery into a vast notebook page. Where Lane’s art demands immediate response, Reeves’s insinuates itself slowly, and requires close inspection. Yet both artists plead for attention. Amid barely visible sketches of trees, Reeves has lettered a whispery appeal: “Can you stay until I feel quiet again?”
Toni Lane and Alanna Reeves: In Search of Solid Ground Through Aug. 28 at Art Enables, 2204 Rhode Island Ave. NE.
Entering Stephen Lewis’s show at Terzo Piano, viewers are greeted by almost three dozen floral and landscape paintings, set off by walls that have been painted bright red. The crimson backdrop isn’t the only clue that Lewis is something other than an observer of pretty scenes. The local artist’s most striking flower paintings flirt with abstraction, and feature thick, turbulent brushstrokes.
Beyond the flowers, Lewis’s vehement style turns toward pricklier subjects. Included are accusatory portraits of six Trump administration stalwarts and versions of the American flag festooned with pies, bombs, skulls and a human heart. One wall is devoted to mostly black-and-white pictures of death, disaster and self-mutilation, a disturbing series previously shown at Catholic University. At the far end of the gallery hangs a suite of small, square and tranquil seascapes, but their mood is hardly enough to calm the show’s overall ferocity.
Stephen Lewis Through Aug. 29 at Terzo Piano, 1515 14th St. NW.
A flag of American origin also appears in several pictures in Andrea Limauro’s Culture House show — not the stars and stripes, but the best-known version of the many banners of the Confederacy. “American Civil War” supposes that the 1861-1865 conflict never truly ended, and is still being fought on vast landscapes where oil rigs, gas stations, roadside signs, the Southern flag and the U.S. Capitol are all ablaze. In this forlorn historical reverie, the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol is the latest flare-up of a wildfire that began at Fort Sumter.
A Rome native who now lives in Silver Spring, Limauro paints atop prints, rendering areas of the compositions in simple patterns or single-color blocks. The textured, slightly raised images suggest fabric art or the mosaics so abundant in the artist’s homeland. The effect is to make the paintings, crafted in the past year, appear detached from the fantastical events they depict. While some details are timely, the conflict is eternal.
Andrea Limauro: American Civil War Through Aug. 28 at Culture House, 700 Delaware Ave. SW.