The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

In the galleries: Celebrating the art of the game with unexpected delights

“Quarantine” by Casey Jex Smith depicts a fantastical courtyard that appears serene, save for the ominous touch of shards of broken glass atop the surrounding walls. (Pyramid Atlantic Art Center)
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One of the cards in “Pantheon,” John James Anderson’s creative-career board game, should grab the rueful attention of aspiring artists — and anyone who writes about them. “Your work is a reviewed in a local paper,” it reads, and specifies that this achievement allows the player to move forward . . . zero spaces. So much for furthering the ambitions of Anderson and the other six artists in Pyramid Atlantic Art Center’s “Mazes and Maps,” which toys with everything from the Bermuda Triangle to the game Monopoly.

A map of the supposedly cursed Caribbean region is one of several objects partly covered in sequins by Nick DeFord; the Monopoly board is emblazoned with the taunt “gentrify this!” by the show’s curator, Andrew Wodzianski, who also tweaks Candy Land and Scrabble. More pointedly, gentrification is among the themes of Wesley Clark, whose large paintings on wooden panels riff on both maps and games. Clark’s contributions include a D.C.-shaped diagram of dislocation and crossword puzzles filled with the names of corporations that the artist labels “profiteers.”

Mazes take intricate, fanciful forms in Casey Jex Smith’s pen-and-ink drawings such as “Quarantine,” which depicts a fantastical courtyard that appears serene, save for the ominous touch of shards of broken glass atop the surrounding walls. The labyrinth is internal in Zofie King’s cabinet filled with photos and found objects, which hint that memory is a jigsaw puzzle.

In handsome artist books, Irene Chan reinterprets diversions as complex as the I Ching and as simple as bingo. If design and craft are central to Chan’s work, they’re everything in Tim Hutchings’s “Fake Games.” Printed on aluminum in preschool-classroom pastels, these computer-rendered creations array circles, squares and squiggles in pop-art patterns that appear ready for dice or tokens. The unplayability of Hutchings’s game boards is what makes them so playful.

Mazes and Maps Through July 11 at Pyramid Atlantic Art Center, 4318 Gallatin St., Hyattsville.

K-Recollection

Regular visitors to the D.C. Korean Cultural Center’s galleries will probably recognize some of the pieces in “K-Recollection.” For its first on-site exhibition in a year, the center reinvited female Korean American and U.S.-based Korean artists who have exhibited at the venue before. Most of the 12 artists pair works made in 2020-2021 with ones seen previously, although a few are showing only newer efforts.

While Julia Kwon’s face masks made of brightly hued Korean silk show the influence of recent events, she — and all the artists — continues to explore earlier themes. About half of the work joins Kwon’s in addressing Korean heritage and identity. Leeah Joo’s luxuriantly painted Western-style oils depict bundles wrapped in traditional Korean fabrics, and Kyoung eun Kang’s performance videos ritualize being a transplant to New York City. TeaYoun Kim-Kassor’s huge, immaculate charcoal drawing symbolizes South and North Korea as frayed ropes almost connected by a single strand.

Half of the contributors, grouped under the subtitle “Infinity: Transcendence of Time and Space,” make art that’s mostly abstract, although sometimes evocative of natural forms. Tai Hwa Goh turns silk-screen prints into three-dimensional constructions of plants, possibly mutated, and some of Jisook Kim’s drawings, marbled to depict latent energy, assume cocoon-like 3-D shapes.

The infinite is embodied by a circle or a mirror in three striking entries. In Sky Kim’s meticulous large watercolor, pearl-like white orbs cluster in tightly packed rings on a blue background. Sui Park’s sculptural loop, made entirely of black cable ties, is woven densely at the bottom and sparsely at the top, suggesting entropy as much as eternity. Nina Cho’s “Constructivist Mirror Series” draws on an Asian aesthetic that prizes emptiness, yet emulates the style of a century-old European art movement. While gazing into the boundless, Cho keeps one eye on the East-West divide that compels many of “K-Recollection’s” participants.

K-Recollection Through July 13 at the Korean Cultural Center, 2370 Massachusetts Ave. NW.

Sarah Irvin and Viral Art

Impressionist Mary Cassatt (1844-1926), perhaps the best-known painter of the mother-child bond, would have been bewildered by Sarah Irvin’s approach to the subject. The Richmond artist’s intriguing if clinical Culture House show, “A Group of Related Things,” is the autobiography of a new mother, written in the language of minimalism.

Thus Irvin’s “Infant Feeding Log” coolly records each instance on cards arranged on rods as in a library-book catalogue, and several pieces involve rectangles inscribed with the 11 principal elements of bodily chemistry, notably carbon, oxygen, calcium and hydrogen. The arrays of element cards, complemented by a video in which the artist shuffles them, were inspired by Irvin’s postpartum belief that her body had been dissolved into its individual atoms.

That feeling passed and the child grew into an ambulatory creature whose artifacts Irvin used to print cyanotypes. She also collected dust and dirt swept up while at home for almost three months under covid restrictions, printing one pile of debris each day as a near-abstract photogram. The cyanotypes and photograms are the closest things to representational works in the show, and they’re deliberately cryptic and detached. Viewers who seek the big picture will have to assemble it from the atomized particles Irvin provides.

Outside in Culture House’s Avant Garden is a selection of posters devised by contributors to the Viral Art Project to encourage good behavior during the pandemic. The broadsides take different tones and offer various advice, some of it obsolete (“Stay home” and toilet-paper hoarding are recurring themes). Nearly all are beautifully designed, whether in contemporary styles or in homage to historical precedents as dissimilar as the “I Want You”-demanding Uncle Sam, John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “War Is Over” moment or Jamie Reid’s ransom-note Sex Pistols typography.

The campaign was organized by Wide Eye, Throughline Collaborative, the Soze Foundation and local artist Mark Kelner, who contributed several posters based on vintage images of nurses. The Avant Garden is open only when Culture House is, but the posters can be seen from outside.

Sarah Irvin: A Group of Related Things, through July 17. Viral Art Project, open indefinitely. Culture House, 700 Delaware Ave. SW.

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