In a video by Simon Void Boy and Blake Maloof on view at Otis Street Arts Project, an animated humanoid raises a sign that reads, “Happy Marriage, Angela and Gareth.” Who are Angela and Gareth? No one less than the inspiration for “Union (When Two Makes One),” a show that teams 20 artists into 10 pairs. A few duos produced artworks that refer directly to the alliance of artist Angela White and writer Gareth Branwyn, who met at Otis Street years ago and recently wed there. But most participants paid indirect homage by collaborating to make what Branwyn calls a “magical child” that combines aspects of two people.
These kids are a diverse lot. Travis Childers and Jenna North outfit an old dollhouse with plastic foliage and toy animals to show human civilization succumbing to nature. Alberto Gaitán and James Huckenpahler offer an interactive sound machine with a knob and a touch strip that allow users to alter the drones and chimes the device produces. Jessica van Brakle and Zac Willis employ expanding foam and custom auto paint to fabricate a sensuous blob of a sculpture from which leaf-life paper prints sprout. In a video, Carolina Mayorga superimposes her pink-tinted performance over Armando López Bircann’s setting.
Of the two teams that produced representational paintings, only one explicitly depicts the newlyweds. Zofie King and Kyujin Lee’s seamlessly collaborative picture represents Gareth as a knight and Angela as an angel, and includes symbolic elements of their lives. Rania Hassan and Eames Armstrong illustrated 16 small panels that depict, respectively, fastened loops and interlocking bodies. Theirs is the only piece in which the individual artists’ work is clearly distinguishable, yet the panels fit together so neatly that they can be seen only as united.
Union (When Two Makes One) Through Dec. 4 at Otis Street Arts Project, 3706 Otis St., Mount Rainier.
The case being made by the current show at Amy Kaslow Gallery is right there in the subtitle: “Native Hands: Folk Art Is Fine Art.” Organized in partnership with Santa Fe’s International Folk Art Market, the exhibition presents works from 15 countries on four continents. The entries include such functional objects as textiles, baskets and ceramics as well as purely decorative prints, paintings and sculptures.
The pieces can appear strikingly modern or utterly traditional. Among the products of the Wounaan, an Indigenous people in Panama and Colombia, are talismanic masks of tropical birds woven and tufted from palm leaves. Yet two Wounaan weavers, Miria Chirimia and Elsa Chocho, craft sleek baskets whose two-toned patterns appear positively urbane.
Made of local Oaxaca clay, the mythic, partly painted figurine by Mexican sculptor Manuel David Reyes Ramirez looks as if could have been made in pre-Columbian times. But other artists work with industrial-age materials. The 3-D animal heads fashioned by Zulu women in South Africa feature modern glass beads in place of the found natural materials used centuries ago, while Haiti artists transform abandoned metal oil drums into bowls and relief sculptures. Gabriel Bien-Aimé’s “Adam and Eve,” which embodies Haitian Vodou spirits, draws on folk beliefs yet is indisputably fine art.
Native Hands: Folk Art Is Fine Art Through Nov. 28 at Amy Kaslow Gallery, 4300 Fordham Rd. NW.
Although Loriann Signori is primarily a landscape artist, some of the most striking pictures in her Triangle Art Studios exhibition are not horizontal. Perhaps that’s because, as the show’s title explains, the Silver Spring, Md., artist depicts “Place As Memory.” Signori’s artworks begin as views of actual locations, but take their final shape in her studio, where the play of color and light prevails over renderings of particular sites.
The verticality also suits one of the artist’s central concerns: the way light glimmers from above to below, especially when below is a body of water. The illumination often comes from the sun, directly or not, but can also be artificial. Pink natural light dapples a river in one composition, while reflections of house lamps streak a dark lake in another. The latter is based on a small-town scene, yet is reminiscent of Whistler’s near-abstract views of the Thames River at night.
Signori is a masterly oil painter who builds images in the classical manner with a succession of glazes. But most of the pieces in this show are pastels that are looser, if no less lustrous, than her oils. The medium is ideal for such intensely hued drawings as “Feel the Heat,” which sets off a red-orange field with a thin ribbon of blue sky, and “Line of Cherries,” in which pink and purple blossoms upstage a band of green grass. The first picture is vertical and the second horizontal, but are equally vivid and immersive.
Loriann Signori: Place as Memory Through Nov. 28 at Triangle Art Studios, 7711 Old Georgetown Rd., Bethesda.
The title of Kristina Penhoet’s Foundry Gallery show is “Of Memory,” but the link between her and Loriann Signori’s styles is faint. Penhoet is a D.C. fiber artist who won second prize earlier this year in the Phillips Collection’s “Inside Outside, Upside Down” exhibition for a large, colorful piece that partly sprawled on the floor. Her “Of Memory” creations are smaller, mostly wall-mounted and all in undyed shades of white and tan. The wool’s neutral hues are meant to evoke “fading and distant memories,” according to the gallery’s statement.
Penhoet studied biology and architecture as well as art, and had a residency in Japan where she learned about that country’s traditional crafts. All those things surely shaped her art, but biomorphic forms seem foremost in her work. Looped and knotted cords evoke sinews, blood vessels and DNA strands; tightly arranged tufts or blades of fabric suggest hair, flower petals and fingerprint whorls. Penhoet’s own memories are hard to discern from these pieces, yet viewers are likely to feel a visceral affinity with the coiled, rippling forms. Call it muscle memory.
Kristina Penhoet: Of Memory Through Nov. 28 at Foundry Gallery, 2118 Eighth St. NW.