The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

In the galleries: Paintings reflect light’s luminous effects

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Playing very different editions of the circle game, Yuri Long and Jon Malis conduct a sly duet at Photoworks at Glen Echo Park. Long takes the outside route, with pictures of the moon over Washington. Malis goes inside, in two senses of the word, by photographing his own lighting gear, which is mostly round. Both produce images of luminous orbs that have more in common when photographed than they do in actuality.

The moon is hardly unexplored pictorial material, but Long’s “Lun.r.001: Lunar Daylight” discovers fresh aspects. The artist’s views move from “Full Pink Moon” — the only picture mounted on a lightbox for maximum luminosity — to such barely-there crescents as “Razor’s Edge” and “Tangerine Slice.” As the title of the latter image hints, color plays a significant role in these photos. The moons change hue, however, less than the skies that hold them.

Long, who is the special collections librarian at the National Gallery of Art, began his project to observe the 50th anniversary of the 1969 moon landing. He then continued shooting into the covid era, seeking what his statement calls “proof of continuity” amid the pandemic. What his pictures exhibit, however, is less constancy than the incredible wealth of variety in a single, if admittedly cosmic, subject.

Malis titled his show “The Hand of God,” which also sounds cosmic. But the phrase is just a wry photographer’s term for manipulating the brightness of areas of a photographic print. Rather than illustrate that technique, Malis pictures such devices as spotlights and reflectors in black-and-white close-ups. Malis, who teaches at Loyola University in Baltimore, offers pictures that are both playfully self-referential and starkly beautiful.

Like Long’s moons, Malis’s gadgets are similar yet divergent. The circle has long served as a symbol of infinity, and these photos suggest the near-limitless possibilities of an elemental form.

Yuri Long: Lun.r.001: Lunar Daylight and Jon Malis: The Hand of God Through Jan. 18 at Photoworks, Glen Echo Park, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo, Md.

Mary Early

“Linea XI,” Mary Early’s installation at Art Enables, is an empty box drawn in midair with thin bars made of beeswax, fastened into longer strips and suspended vertically. Just as important to the piece, however, is something that has been there since the former butcher shop was erected in the 1920s: a sloping floor. The D.C. artist’s temporary, site-specific artworks take their cues from existing architectural spaces, and in this room the slanting concrete underfoot is the distinguishing aspect.

Or, at least, the angled floor attracts notice now that Early has highlighted it. Visitors to previous shows in the rectangular chamber may have perceived the tilt barely, if at all. But because each of the artist’s handmade beeswax lengths hangs the same distance from the ceiling, the incline beneath the geometric grouping becomes more conspicuous. Rather than disrupt an orderly interior, Early uses a methodical construction to call attention to the space’s eccentricity.

The wax’s yellowness contrasts the white walls and gray floor, but only slightly. This distinction is even stronger in the show’s only other work, a conceptual drawing in which yellow lines, rendered in wax crayon, appear to float on an expanse of watery black ink. As in the actual installation, the lines appear implacable while the setting wobbles. Ever so gently, the temporary redefines the permanent.

Mary Early: Linea XI Through Jan. 29 at Art Enables, 2204 Rhode Island Ave. NE.

New. Now.

In a Cecilia Kim video, honey drips down a wooden cabinet. Nearby, Samera Paz slumps in black-and-white “Depressive Episode” photographs. At the back of the gallery is Matthew Russo’s thicket of toylike sculptures, made mostly of brightly painted paper pulp. The latest contingent of Hamiltonian Artists Fellows is, as usual, a diverse lot.

The five artists, four from Washington and one from Richmond, will be fellows for two years, during which Hamiltonian will try to further their careers. Most of the quintet address issues of personal identity, but the group includes two who are more concerned with form: Russo, who also offers paintings of curved shapes on grids, and Ara Koh, whose ceramics include free-standing pieces as well as painting-like abstractions that layer textured clay on wooden panels.

Kyrae Dawaun is the only fellow primarily showing paintings, although his most satisfying entry is charcoal sketches on newsprint. Where Dawaun contemplates archetypes, Paz ponders her own history, notably by pairing snapshots of her youth with photos of herself in the same place or situation, roughly two decades later.

Foodstuffs, including salt, honey and butter, evoke family memories for the Seoul-born Kim. Of her three videos, the magnum opus is “Salt Dreams,” with narration and on-screen text that alternates between Korean and English. The references are individual, but the emotions they evoke are more expansive.

New. Now. Through Jan. 29 at Hamiltonian Artists, 1353 U St. NW.

Jane Kell

Earth and sky are clearly distinguished in the typical Jane Kell landscape, but details of both are soft, smeary and almost vaporous. Specific locations are not identifiable; they could be in Kell’s native Britain or in the Washington area, where she was artist in residence at Amy Kaslow Gallery last year. That venue is showing “Abstract Light,” a selection of 18 oils and eight sketches executed in gouache, watercolor, pastel and pencil.

Among the paintings are two nonrepresentational ones — “Blue Abstract” and “Orange Abstract” — that are among the show’s most striking entries. These, too, take inspiration from real things, but not natural ones. They’re modeled on the sculpture of Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975), whose style resembles that of her friend, artist Henry Moore. Rendered in paint and pastel rather than stone or metal, Kell’s abstracts emulate Hepworth’s juxtaposition of curving solids and open voids.

Even without those two sculpture-derived paintings, Kell’s affinity for blue and orange would be apparent. For a set of landscape pictures, “Abstract Light” is remarkably short on green. In “Indigo,” sunlight-dyed orange clouds stack in an azure sky; in “Flatlands,” an orange field glows beneath a baby-blue firmament. Kell’s compositions are studies in two varieties of light, warm and cool.

Jane Kell: Abstract Light Through Jan. 30 at Amy Kaslow Gallery, 4300 Fordham Rd. NW.

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