Regular visitors to local art spaces will recognize some artists’ familiar gambits in new editions. Among these are Barbara Liotta’s lyrical assemblage of dangling stones, Alonzo Davis’s kinetic, crisscrossed bamboo poles, Janathel Shaw’s politically charged stoneware busts and Hsin-Hsi Chen’s 3-D extrapolation of an abstract geometric pencil drawing. Two entrants offer companion pieces to ones in Sandy Spring Museum’s ongoing “Artina 2020”: Jean Jinho Kim’s large industrial-tube sculpture is a calmer version of her kinked and splayed pieces, while Marc Robarge’s “Tree of Positive Actions,” blooming with affirmations penned on paper leaves, is an indoor version of a similar project involving an actual tree.
Milling outside the main gallery, Steven Dobbin’s steel renderings of two dozen industrial workers (all updated with face masks) is atypically brawny. More ephemeral — and thus more characteristic — are Annie Broderick’s cloud of suspended cotton twill and Adjoa Burrowes’s shredded-cardboard wall piece, which entwines strips of a box’s raw-brown and printed-blue sides. Even these willfully insubstantial constructions are more concrete than Jacqueline Maggi’s diaphanous, unoccupied rectangular enclosure. Rather than a thing in space, this is a thing that defines space. Its hushed emptiness is about as far from heroic gestures as sculpture can go.
Sculpture Now 2020 Through Nov. 14 at McLean Project for the Arts, 1234 Ingleside Ave., McLean. Open by appointment.
Included in “Sculpture Now” is an example of Kanika Sircar’s “Gateways” series, which gets a fuller showcase in Waverly Street Gallery’s “Passages.” A ceramist who adorns her beautifully crafted flasks with history and philosophy, the Bengal-bred Sircar has lately been thinking as much about the contemporary United States as her ancestral lands (plural because she’s rooted in Pakistan as well as India).
Embellished with phrases in multiple languages, Sircar’s stoneware vessels ponder such topics as the exclusion of women from Hindu temples (deemed “unclean” because of menstruation) and the separation of children and parents by U.S. immigration officials. The “Gateways” include pictures derived from those drawn by migrant children held in detention. The artist channels her dissent into elegant forms and striking color contrasts, juxtaposing red with gray, black and chalky white.
Although she’s an agnostic, Sircar draws from several religious traditions. The imposing “Gateways” incorporates Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths, while the smaller “Dancers” features poetry by Rumi, the 13th-century Islamic Sufi mystic. The pieces are topped with round, black stoppers that suggest heads, and wrapped in swoops of white clay that imply the whirling of Sufi dervishes. The simulated motion is just one of the ways Sircar imbues rock-solid substances with fluidity and grace.
Kanika Sircar: Passages Through Nov. 7 at Waverly Street Gallery, 4600 East-West Highway, Bethesda. Open by appointment.
If all goes smoothly, the word that dominates Pyramid Atlantic Art Center’s “Election Year” will have lost its urgency by the time the group show closes next week. The word, unsurprisingly, is “Vote,” which various artists have lettered, quilted or — in the case of Eliza Clifford — emblazoned in pink on a rollerblader’s thigh. Most strikingly, Jane Lueders printed the civic suggestion on a patch fixed to a found jacket.
Although the selection includes work by painters and fabric artists, most of the participants are printmakers who are likely accustomed to integrating text and image. Mark Wamaling’s collage, subtitled “Mail-in Ballot for Alfred Jarry,” was inspired by the proto-Dadaist author of the play “Ubu Roi” and features multiple postmarks. Amy Callner’s “Receipts” is equally wordy, but its most vivid element is a drawing of the piece of a stinger grenade the artist found near the White House on June 1, the day protesters were driven out of Lafayette Square just before President Trump posed with a Bible in front of a church.
All of the entries are topical, but two of the strongest ones don’t directly address the imminent election. Marty Ittner’s swirling piece, a response to climate change, is rendered in the deep blues of cyanotype. At the opposite extreme of color saturation is an almost all-white construction of paper pulp on a recycled reed fence. Titled “Fencing Out Color #8,” this near-abstract sculpture by Sheila Crider (who’s also featured in “Sculpture Now” in McLean) uses the whiteness of paper to suggest far more complicated themes.
Election Year Through Nov. 8 at Pyramid Atlantic Art Center, 4318 Gallatin St., Hyattsville.
Local artist Natacha Thys usually produces abstractions, and her “Red, White & Blue for Who?” features a potent visual emblem — “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Yet Thys felt the need for text on many of these pieces, nearly all of which were painted atop actual U.S. flags. The Foundry Gallery show expresses the indignation of the self-described “queer Haitian-American artist and human rights lawyer.”
On one partly singed flag, Thys transcribed the House’s two articles of impeachment against President Trump; on another she lettered a list of 86 countries where (by Thys’s count) the United States has interfered in elections. A third collage-painting overlays the Haitian flag on the American one and invokes Papa Legba, a vodou demigod, to condemn Trump immigration policies.
Less explicit yet more eloquent are such wordless pictures as “Bloodletting,” in which torrents of pigment nearly submerge the stars and stripes. While the colors Thys splashes across the fabric mostly mirror the existing ones, the additions represent rage, chaos and menace. Thys didn’t hang any of the flags upside down, but these are clearly distress symbols.
Natacha Thys: Red, White & Blue for Who? Through Nov. 1 at Foundry Gallery, 2118 Eighth St. NW.