Plugged-in people needn’t leave their homes — or even put down their phones — to see high-tech art. So, of course, much of the work in “What’s Up: New Technologies in Art” expands on widely available computer processes. But the Mansion at Strathmore exhibition pulls cyber imaging off the screen and makes it palpable — or seemingly palpable — in fascinating ways.
Chris Bathgate designs and builds shining metal machines that suggest robots, rockets and turbines. There’s some blue and black in the Baltimore artist’s palette, but more often he uses silver, gold, copper and red — “Iron Man” colors. If these nonfunctional mechanisms don’t take humanoid form, their sleekness does suggest a potential for self-propulsion.
Less concrete but no less assured, Scott Draves’s “Electric Sheep” takes off-the-shelf software to the outer limits. Derived from an open-source screensaver, the piece has grown to involve 450,000 computers, whose collective power allows endless variations of twirling abstractions. Projected on multiple screens in a darkened gallery, the “sheep” gambol through an infinite unreality.
While Draves’s project expands endlessly, R. Luke Dubois has a flair for compression. Best known as an experimental musician, Dubois assembled “Timelapse,” a “spectral average” of every Billboard No. 1 hit from 1958 to 2000, 857 songs in all. At Strathmore, he’s showing “The Kiss,” a collage of 50 well-known cinematic make-out scenes that reduces the figures to points and lines. In the tradition of “Timelapse,” the piece also compacts the movie’s scores into a whooshing soundscape.
Some of the other concepts are less technological. Bryan Sullivan makes sculptures by encasing people in clear tape and then extracting the models while retaining their forms; Joseph Corcoran works elegantly in blown glass, a venerable craft that he updates with pulsing neon. And one piece, George Terry’s homage to the late Washington laser artist Rockne Krebs, was not in operation when I visited. Glitches are inevitable with tech art, but most of “What’s Up” works fine, conceptually as well as actually.
On view through March 2 at the Mansion at Strathmore, 10701 Rockville Pike, North Bethesda; 301-581-5100; strathmore.org/fineartexhibitions
Among the quieter items in the Hirshhorn’s current “Damage Control” exhibition is that ultimate rejection of artistic collaboration, Robert Rauschenberg’s near-blank “Erased de Kooning Drawing.” Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann takes a gentler approach to Michael Platt’s art in their cooperative show at Honfleur Gallery. As indicated by its title, “Common Ground,” Mann doesn’t attempt to unmake Platt’s work. But she does sometimes push it toward unrecognizability.
Aside from two solo ink-and-acrylic paintings, Mann’s imagery is layered atop Platt’s digital photo prints. Platt often portrays body-painted nudes, so there’s an immediate link between his and Mann’s styles; she’s just adding another veil to pictures that are already multilayered. But where Platt invokes traditional arts and rituals of Africans and indigenous Australians, Mann’s approach is more abstract, albeit sometimes with motifs that suggest natural forms.
While Mann’s “Pitch” exalts the fluidity of its rich black and dark-blue pigments, the collaborations employ Platt’s Photoshop techniques. Printed on adhesive fabric, the large pieces are loose yet hard-edged, spontaneous yet machine-generated. Platt’s bodies remain, and Mann’s additions (and subtractions) are evident. But in such bold combines as “Sokna” the two’s styles fuse precisely as intended.
On view through Feb. 28 at Honfleur Gallery, 1241 Good Hope Rd. SE; 202-365-8392; honfleurgallery.com
Using thread, string and netting, Nancy Agati and Rosa Spina refashion embroidery and other “feminine” arts in shows at Hillyer Arts Space. Agati’s style is tidier than Spina’s, but both have made pieces that come off the wall, defying the primness of traditional needlework.
A collagist with abstract-expressionist tendencies, Spina combines paint, filaments and found objects in “Energy of the Wire.” The Italian artist contrasts colors and forms, often arraying strong verticals against equally robust horizontals. Although her “Deus-Homo-Vincit” places the face of Jesus under cross-stitching, most of her pieces are abstract. “Energy” is a key word here. Spina’s sewn elements often protrude from the surface or hang below the frame, as if to assert that the artist’s verve is uncontainable.
Although Agati’s “Ottanta Sette” hangs into space, most of her work barely breaks the picture plane. About half the Philadelphia artist’s show consists of parachute cloth embroidered with metallic thread; the rest is mixed-media drawing whose intricate patterns suggest lacework. The latter are rendered on black paper with ink, graphite, acrylic and clay slips, yielding a reflective quality that echoes the metallic thread. Complex and shimmering, such exquisite compositions as “Basques” and “Delicate” evoke flowers, jewelry and orderly galaxies in the dark of space.
On view through March 1 at Hillyer Art Space, 9 Hillyer Court NW; 202-338-0680; hillyerartspace.org
Most of the paintings in Robert Freeman’s current show at Zenith Salon depict partyers in formal wear — the men in black, the women in black or red, and both’s skin in rich shades of brown. The revelers seem relaxed with one another but a little wary of the people who might be looking at them. This apprehension is made explicit in a few pictures where men wear masks or white mime makeup. One is titled after the Paul Laurence Dunbar poem that warns, “let them only see us, while we wear the mask.”
Freeman tends toward large, vertically oriented compositions, which he renders with broad, gestural brushstrokes. The D.C.-bred Bostonian’s affinity for Romare Bearden is clear, although Bearden’s art is just one of many influences. Among the paintings are several that gaze straight at their subjects, notably two lushly textured portraits of women accented with loosely applied gold leaf. More often, though, Freeman places his figures at angles, overlapping in ways that suggests intimacy and ease, but also guardedness. The painter’s peers are at a great bash, but in an imperfect world.
On view through March 1at Zenith Salon, 1429 Iris St. NW; 202-783-2963; zenithgallery.com
Jenkins is a freelance writer.