The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

In the galleries: The grid is the primary motif but subject to subtle change

An installation view of “Emblemata” by artists E.E. Ikeler and Ken Weathersby. (Gregory Staley/Pazo Fine Art)

Grids are central to the art of E.E. Ikeler and Ken Weathersby, but so are deviations from these self-imposed frameworks. The two artists, dueting in Pazo Fine Art’s “Emblemata,” employ repeated patterns, executed in paint, tile or wood. Yet the orderly motifs are subtly warped by materials or the artist’s hand.

Ikeler uses netting, cast tiles and pigmented resin to construct mosaic-like pieces with decorative arrangements and, occasionally, cryptic text. The Brooklyn artist arrays circles and arcs in designs that are essentially if not exactly symmetrical, and often keys multicolor compositions to a predominant hue. Among the sloganeering works is “What Doesn’t Kill You,” which spells out the opening of an oft-quoted Nietzsche aphorism that continues, “makes you stronger.” It’s a fitting maxim for artwork that’s splintered but sturdy.

Weathersby makes paintings and sculptures, both with elements of collage. Most of them include details of photos of ancient statues, set off by lattices that may be painted or assembled from wooden slats. Some of the photos are deployed with visual wit: One is decapitated, with its head replaced by a circle filled with checkerboard squares; another is truncated to its feet, which stand aptly at the bottom of a standing wooden rectangle that’s roughly proportionate to a human body.

Sometimes Weathersby skips the photo and directly contrasts painted templates with sculptural ones. The New Jersey artist places a painted checkerboard within a sort of wooden rack, and places a skinny picture of interlocked concentric boxes on a wooden stand. The latter piece has been shattered and reassembled, as if to certify the power of patterning. In both artists’ work, the grid is slippery but indomitable.

E.E. Ikeler and Ken Weathersby: Emblemata Through Jan. 20 at Pazo Fine Art, 4228 Howard Ave., Kensington. Open by appointment.

Osi Audu

Especially when rendered with gleaming graphite, Osi Audu’s hard-edge geometric abstractions evoke high-tech machines. But “A Sense of Self,” the title of the Nigeria-born New Yorker’s show at Morton Fine Art, suggests he has something else in mind. Nearly all the pictures are designated as self-portraits, and often streamline the shapes of West African masks. Audu’s inspiration is the Yoruba idea of “outer and inner head,” according to the gallery’s statement.

The show is divided primarily between monochromatic drawings, executed in gray graphite and black pastel, and brightly colorful paintings, mostly in two contrasting acrylic pigments. Audu distills the forms of masks, headdresses and hairstyles to planes, angles and curves, and positions them on white backdrops that emphasize the images’ seeming three-dimensionality. It would make sense for the artist to translate such pictures into sculpture, and in fact this show is set to include two painted-steel pieces that seem to be closely related to the paintings. (The sculptures didn’t arrive in time to be seen for this review.)

The colors and shapes are usually presented as stark dualities, but not always. “Self-Portrait After Dogon Bird Mask” features four hues rather than two, and the graphite areas in the black-and-gray drawings are made of free, densely overlapping strokes. While inner and outer are elsewhere tidily juxtaposed, the graphite’s intricate textures are intriguingly in-between.

Osi Audu: A Sense of Self Through Jan. 15 at Morton Fine Art, 52 O St. NW, No. 302. Open by appointment.

Janis Goodman

In recent years, local artist Janis Goodman has mostly shown large abstract drawings. “Infinite Journey,” her Gallery Neptune & Brown show, displays paintings made, in a painstaking neoclassical mode, with layer upon layer of translucent glazes. Yet these paintings and the earlier drawings have something in common: They don’t explicitly depict the natural world, yet strongly evoke it.

Divided between round and square formats, the pictures are characterized by soft shapes, saturated hues and fluid transitions. The color schemes, which often pit pink, red or yellow highlights against black or dark green backdrops, suggest fall foliage. But the imagery also hints at flowers, clouds or aerial or microscopic views. The artworks, most of which have the word “world,” “earth” or “time” in their titles, can be seen as epic, intimate or both.

Perhaps best known for her appearances on WETA-TV’s “Around Town” arts program, Goodman has taught at the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design (now part of George Washington University) since 1988. “Infinite Journey” demonstrates her command of traditional oil-painting technique, combined with a modernist’s concern with pure form and color. These nature paintings are also studies of the nature of painting.

Janis Goodman: Infinite Journey Through Jan. 15 at Gallery Neptune & Brown, 1530 14th St. NW.

Maggie Siner

The landscapes and still lifes in Maggie Siner’s “Field of Vision” feature such lushly hued sights as a field of lavender and a plate of mandarin oranges. But the thing the oil painter renders most sensuously is fabric. In this exhibit at Susan Calloway Fine Art and Consulting, as in her previous local shows, Siner packs a whole cosmos of light, shadow and form into rumpled tablecloths and flowing dresses.

A former Washingtonian who has lived in Venice since 2008, Siner has developed a style that might be called Impressionist classical. She captures her subjects in brushstrokes that are sketchy yet authoritative. Whether influenced by photography or her individual vision, she employs multiple planes of focus in a single picture. Objects are gently blurred to varying degrees, as if slipping in or out of perception.

Siner’s paintings of women emphasize the clothing they wear, sometimes rendered by a few swoops of pink or white and given voluptuous shape by gray shadowing. In “WW Ruffle,” the model looks down, her face obscured as she seemingly contemplates the long white gown she wears. Loosely rendered bodies energize some of the artist’s pictures, but aren’t necessary for strong compositions. One of the show’s standouts is “Central Pillows,” whose inert subjects are piled dynamically before a silver-brown backdrop whose richness demonstrates that there are no neutral colors in Siner’s subtly kinetic pictures.

Maggie Siner: Field of Vision Through Jan. 18 at Calloway Fine Art and Consulting, 1643 Wisconsin Ave. NW.

Wayne Thiebaud’s artistic eye was so much keener than pop art confections

Will NFTs transform the art world? Are they even art?

Best visual art of 2021