Many of the winning submissions, now on view at Gallery B, are installations that combine photos, video and found objects. Only two forgo 3-D elements: Ginevra Shay’s photographs and Bria Sterling-Wilson’s photo-based collages. Shay offers elegant, semiabstract vignettes, each keyed to a predominant (and primary) color; Sterling-Wilson melds images of Black and White women, apparently from fashion spreads, into single beings meant to challenge conventional perceptions of women and people of color.
Sterling-Wilson’s creations, if smaller in scale, are akin to Wickerham & Lomax’s towering “A Self Portrait Against Being Sad and Fetishized.” While it includes such funky touches as beads draped in front of the surface and bird seed encrusted on its hexagonal border, this intricate photo patchwork mimics the immaculate images and glossy finishes of commercial art. What’s being marketed, however, is not a mass-market product but a multifold personal identity.
Cultural autobiography is more playful in Cindy Cheng’s “One From the Vault,” in which long black hair, multiple fingers and puffs of vapor emerge from behind slatted blinds. Her installation began, Cheng’s statement explains, with memories of being “a Chinese female . . . raised in a family of contrasts.” The upright assemblage stands somewhere between a diorama and a cenotaph.
The show’s sole Washingtonian is Nara Park, who’s known for simulating grand structures by stacking boxes printed with stone-like patterns. Her recent works, including the three examples here, are spires or monoliths embedded with plastic foam beads and coated with acrylic paint. The craggy surfaces and pastel hues give Park’s edifices a Dr. Seuss vibe much like that of Danni O’Brien’s lumpy sculptures, fabricated from common objects and painted in nursery-school colors.
The surface cartoonishness of both artists’ work cloaks graver themes revealed in their statements: O’Brien’s concerns include “femininity, domesticity and craft,” while Park’s essential issue is the transience of human life (specifically, her late father’s). Park, who took Trawick’s third place, erects memorials that question their own monumentality.
The Trawick Prize Through Sept. 26 at Gallery B, 7700 Wisconsin Ave., Suite E, Bethesda
Lisa Battle and Gary Anthes
The monuments on display at Studio Gallery were made by nature, or in emulation of it. “Rock/Canyon” pairs Lisa Battle’s ceramic sculptures, inspired by the American Southwest, with Gary Anthes’s color photographs of canyons in Arizona and California. The two local artists employ similar palettes, mineral-hued with touches of green, and both focus on details. Anthes primarily shoots close-ups and interiors, and Battle often splits her compositions into multiple pieces to emphasize specific features.
Some of the sculptures are free-standing ones whose spirals recall Brancusi, but most are wall pieces whose serpentine forms mirror the effects of erosion. Exemplary is “Arroyo,” in which a hollow that could be a dry creek bed curves across three vertical slabs. A few of Battle’s multipart sculptures suggest artfully shattered crockery, but most evoke the effects of wind and water over millennia.
Knife-edged landscapes shaped by those implacable forces are prominent in Anthes’s pictures, but his fundamental subject is light. Sunbeams slice visibly through vertical chasms, or indirectly cause red rocks to glow like rubies. By apprehending daylight in tight enclosures, Anthes conveys both permanence and ephemerality in one luminous instant.
Lisa Battle and Gary Anthes: Rock/Canyon Through Sept. 26 at Studio Gallery, 2108 R St. NW, Washington.
The sculptures in Fran Abrams’s retrospective at Foundry Gallery rely on three things: the artist’s imagination, synthetic clay and a pasta machine. Actually, there are a few pieces in “Twenty Years of Polymer Clay” that predate Abrams’s discovery of the pasta maker, with which she produces multicolored ribbons. But most feature these extruded strips, usually arranged into undulating blocks to wed formal qualities of relief sculpture and color-field paintings.
The Rockville, Md., artist often encases her creations in square wooden boxes, as if to give the rectangular the last word in a lively dialogue between curves and straight lines. But this selection includes four “silk scarf” sculptures whose fabric-like drape has an appealing sensuousness. Also relatively new in Abrams’s repertoire is a series dubbed “Progressions,” in which contrasting hues are contained in repeated shapes rather than flowing freely. These are flatter and less sculptural, yet just as eye-catching. Even when the clay curls more gently, the vibrant colors provide a sense of motion.
Fran Abrams: Twenty Years of Polymer Clay Art Through Sept. 27 at Foundry Gallery, 2118 Eighth St. NW, Washington.
Latter-day expressionist Vian Borchert is hardly the first painter to find an affinity between surging water and fluid brushstrokes. But the oceanic feel of the canvases in “Reflection,” her show at Gallery Underground, was inspired by something not just artists have been experiencing: a sense of confinement. Painted while in quarantine, this series of pictures reaches for openness and freedom.
While the paintings are essentially abstract, their color scheme and most of their titles evoke the sea. On fields of lapping aqua, the Maryland artist arrays horizontal gestures in dark blue (which occasionally turns black), red and white. The hues more often contrast than combine, although in a few, the non-blues blur into cherry-blossom pinks. These can’t be flowery reflections on the Tidal Basin, though; the colors and the gestures are too expansive for that. Sequestered in her studio, Borchert has been dreaming of someplace wilder and farther away.
Vian Borchert: Reflection Through Sept. 25 at Gallery Underground, 2100 Crystal Dr. (subterranean shopping arcade), Arlington.