Several of the contributors respond to the here and now. A syncopated go-go beat underlies the soundtrack of Shaunté Gates’s “Free Breakfast Program,” grounding the video montage in Washington. Schroeder Cherry’s painting-collage depicts a barbershop that could be within walking distance of the Stable studio, in the Eckington neighborhood. Nekisha Durrett’s “Magnolias” are names punched into leaves to memorialize women who died as the result of encounters with police.
Just as common, though, are works that invoke history, whether actual or mythic. Gail Shaw-Clemons offers evocative drawings of African-style masks, and Gina Marie Lewis presents an altar for mystical libations, outfitted with shells, corks, candles and glasses. Uzikee Nelson’s talismanic “Headhunter,” a person-size sculpture of black metal with red-glass insets, is clearly modern yet has primeval force.
Contemporary and historical also mingle in the work of Stan Squirewell, a D.C. native who is based in Louisville, but lately has been in residence at the Nicholson Project in Southeast Washington. His “Monk Hancock (Innocent Criminal Series)” is a photograph of a contemporary Black man overlaid with images of parts of sculptures that appear millennias old. History is more complicated than the simplest accounts of it, Squirewell suggests.
Two large photo-collages in a similar style are featured in “Guest Artist: Stan Squirewell,” a one-room show at the Kreeger Museum. In the manner of the Phillips Collection’s “Intersections” series, the idea is for Squirewell to juxtapose his pieces with Kreeger-owned pieces by other artists, including a painted-wood Sam Gilliam sculpture and an abstract Simmie Knox painting in oxidized-metal hues. The textures and tones of those pieces complement the photo-collages’ frames, made from shou sugi ban (Japanese-style charred cedar).
Down the hall from Squirewell’s show is “Objects From the Studio: The Sculptor’s Process,” another small but satisfying exhibition. It consists of sketches and maquettes for sculptures that dot the Kreeger’s garden. Where Dalya Luttwak’s painted-steel rendering of a plant root looks to be simply a smaller version of the finished piece, wood sculptor Foon Sham modeled his basket-like tower in clear acrylic blocks. To inspect Carol Brown Goldberg’s wooden precursor to a funky bronze pillar, or John L. Dreyfuss’s wax-and-wood maquette of a fiberglass monolith, is to gain a fresh perspective on the link between form and material.
Shoulder the Deed Through Sept. 30 at Stable, 336 Randolph Pl. NE.
Guest Artist: Stan Squirewell and Objects From the Studio: The Sculptor’s Process Through Oct. 30 and Sept. 30, respectively, at the Kreeger Museum, 2401 Foxhall Rd. NW.
Beauty Will Save the World
The title of the Arts Club of Washington show, “Beauty Will Save the World,” is a line from a 19th-century writer. Keats? Wordsworth? Actually, the maxim comes from Dostoevsky’s “The Idiot,” a much more tumultuous work than “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” Few of the pieces in the 27-artist exhibition are as agitated as a Dostoevsky character, but the selection does feature a wide range of styles and outlooks, sometimes arrayed on the wall in severe contrast: One of Scip Barnhart’s exquisite representational prints hangs next to a painting by Reza Ghajar, whose harsh expressionism is partly derived from protest signs.
Organized by the locally based but internationally oriented Art4Us co-op, the show contains paintings, drawings, sculpture and photography, as well as single examples of video and jewelry. Most of the work is well-precedented, if sometimes with a twist. Grazia Montalto’s “Girls in Bikinis” is a modern scene drawn in the style of an ancient Mediterranean mosaic, and painter Marley Kinkead employs watery realism for the earthy subject of women in bathrooms. (Kinkead also depicts men in bathrooms, as her website reveals.)
Some of the highlights are by artists who stood out in Art4Us’s last show, at Gallery B in 2019. Nana Bagdavadze’s DNA-inspired paintings depict both microscopic genes and the people who result from them, while Warren Chambers cuts and shapes metal with delicacy that justifies naming one piece “Ikebana,” the Japanese term for flower arranging. Less sculptural but just as tactile are Ghislaine Boreel’s mixed-media abstraction and Tea Okropiridze’s silk-fusion collages. The latter appear up-to-date, but their harmonious compositions might well appeal to viewers whose idea of beauty is rooted in the 19th century.
Beauty Will Save the World Through Sept. 26 at the Arts Club of Washington, 2017 I St. NW.
Cities in the Heart
Jericho, Acre and Jaffa are among the most venerable cities in the world, far older than the Arabic script in which Nawaf Soliman has rendered their names for elegant posters. Even newer is the computer technology that the Palestinian American calligrapher used to complete the text-only placards, on display as “Cities in the Heart” at the Museum of the Palestinian People. Soliman, who runs a D.C. marketing firm, estimates that his work is 60 percent handmade and 40 percent digital.
Soliman uses traditional styles of Arabic writing, sometimes clustering the strokes into clouds of curved lines. “Palestine” features 10 iterations of the name, tightly assembled into a circle like rubber bands into a ball; the sinuous marks of “Hebron,” all in shades of brown, fit together like an urban grid. Gaza and Ramallah are represented by just a few simulated brushstrokes in red, green and black, the colors of the Palestinian flag.
The artist also incorporates elements of European typography and Asian lettering, signing his work with a stamp-like block of red text in the Chinese manner. Arabic manuscripts and memories of his homeland are central to his work but don’t limit it. His next project will be posters devoted to U.S. cities.
Nawaf Soliman: Cities in the Heart Through Sept. 25 at the Museum of the Palestinian People, 1900 18th St. NW.