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In the galleries: Autobiographical pieces prevail at the Trawick Prize

"A Warm Orange Color" by Korean-born Cecilia Kim, who won the $10,000 top Trawick Prize. She presented a split-screen video that addresses communication and mental health. (Bethesda Urban Partnership)
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Two brawny sculptures, one made of slate and the other of aluminum, sit near the center of Gallery B, currently hosting art by the eight finalists for this year’s Trawick Prize. John Ruppert’s creations might be taken for abstract if they weren’t placed so close to their inspiration: the artist’s photographs of the icy Norwegian Arctic. Like nearly all the entries in the 2021 Trawick showcase, Ruppert’s man-made bergs represent some aspect of the physical world.

That doesn’t mean the selection of work by six Marylanders, one Virginian and one Washingtonian includes much conventional realism. Only Ernest Shaw’s portraits of Black subjects, rendered with exquisite detail in charcoal or paint, are in that tradition.

The show includes more videos and installations than painting, drawing or still photography. Most pieces are autobiographical, whether invidually or culturally.

Korean-born Cecilia Kim, who took the $10,000 top prize, offers a split-screen video that addresses communication and mental health. Pakistan native Sobia Ahmad ponders the 2017 Muslim ban with audio, video and an array of ID photos of Muslim immigrants printed on ceramic tiles typical of Islamic decorative arts. Mojdeh Rezaeipour, who lived in Tehran until she was 12, places three videos amid works drawn and painted on paper and wood.

In the galleries: Photos capture a fleeting moment, leave an indelible impression

Abigail Lucien, who was raised in Haiti and Florida, is showing a video alongside two installations in which metal frameworks contain simulated natural objects such as limes infused with essential oils. Her statement notes that the organic materials have their individual roots in Black culture. Monsieur Zohore’s deliberately messy collage-paintings, which incorporate clotted paper towels, testify to his history of bulimia, which his statement explains as a rebellion against his Ivorian parents.

If all these works recount some sort of journey, the most explicit travelogue is Stephanie Garmey’s “Dream Boat,” which suspends a 3-D craft amid a sea of blue. The ship is a simple frame, made of reed, and the water is represented by paint, yarn and plastic sheeting. The backdrop swarms with cutout yellow butterflies, providing a strong color contrast as well as a warning of potential extinction. The artificial ocean appears calm, but Garmey’s construction is steering toward an ecological shipwreck.

The Trawick Prize: Bethesda Contemporary Art Awards Through Oct. 3 at Gallery B, 7700 Wisconsin Ave. #E, Bethesda.

Anne Marchand

In Anne Marchand’s mixed-media abstractions, the music of the spheres is a sort of free jazz. Inspired in part by some Hubble Space Telescope photographs in which the interstellar void appears surprisingly sensuous, the eight pictures in “Moments of Grace” are squares that seem barely to contain semicircular gestures. The local artist’s show inaugurates the Silva Gallery x Latela Curatorial, a lobby display space in a new Adams Morgan apartment building in Northwest Washington.

In such paintings as Chronograph,” inky blacks and midnight blues suggest deep space. But that cosmic allusion is just a launchpad for improvisations that depict layered forms and patterns “in space and in the space of our bodies,” as Marchand’s statement puts it.

The painter pours paint, often viscous, and uses combs and scrapers to guide the thick liquid into swooping curves. These are complemented by calligraphic gestures and such graffiti-style markings as the neon-orange squiggles in “Mirabilia.”

That title, Latin for “miracles” indicates the sense of wonder Marchand feels, and hopes to evoke. She presents both our insides and the great outdoors as a mess of marvels.

Anne Marchand: Moments of Grace Through Oct. 3 at the Silva Gallery x Latela Curatorial, 1630 Columbia Rd. NW.

Sara Dittrich

The first thing visitors to Sara Dittrich’s Honfleur Gallery exhibition will encounter is an Atlantic tide clock. The device introduces a show titled “Keeping Pace” and a series of digital prints called “Traces of Time and Tide.” The sepia-toned pictures are essentially abstract, but appear to be extreme close-ups of furrowed surfaces, whether soil or skin. Like Marchand, Dittrich both contrasts and combines large and small. The goal is to express “the interconnectivity of the body and the land it inhabits,” a gallery note says.

A second set of photo-derived pieces is assembled from cuttings of cyanotypes made by direct exposures of foliage atop light-sensitive paper. These collages, some partly three-dimensional, have such titles as “Inhale,” “Mitosis” and “Epidermis.” While the white-on-blue color scheme suggests waves and ripples on the sea, the Baltimore artist links such phenomena to the geography of the human form.

Dittrich also works with sound, although usually in a less straightforward way than this show’s “Nonversation.” The artwork consists of two clay ears and a stereo mix whose channels are politically left and right: On one side, such elected officials as Vice President Harris and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) endorse policies to address a warming world; on the other, Donald Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and others attempt to downplay, or flatly deny, climate change.

All the while, that tide clock counts the minutes until the deluge.

Sara Dittrich: Keeping Pace Through Oct. 2 at Honfleur Gallery, 1241 Good Hope Rd. SE.

Refresh XI

Organic forms abound in “Refresh XI,” a group showcase for Long View Gallery’s regular artists and the venue’s first exhibition in nearly a year. Susan Goldman’s immaculate woodcuts overlap iris-like rounds; Eve Stockton’s prints elegantly distill sea, sky and woods; and Sondra N. Arkin’s deep-focus drawing-paintings submerge bubbles and strands in seemingly aquatic settings. Yet what links these three and the other participants is less their use of nature motifs and more their exquisite craft. The art at Long View may not be thematically provocative, but it’s always beautifully composed and finished.

The gallery tends to show work that’s glossy, symmetrical, hard-edge and abstract, or nearly so. (Among the representational exceptions are Colin Winterbottom’s D.C.-centric photographs and Michael Crossett’s collages of local cultural landmarks, although the latter are far from documentary.) Many of the contributors employ wax, resin or glitter and share a taste for bold colors and hypnotic motifs. With such works as Gian Garofalo’s thick, near-liquid stripe paintings and Kaori Takamura’s assemblages of cookie-shaped painted-wood pieces, “Refresh XI’s” wares often evoke a psychedelic toy store.

Refresh XI Through Sept. 30 at Long View Gallery, 1234 Ninth St. NW

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