J. Morrison. “We Are Tired of Homophobia,” digital c-print, 2014; on view at Transformer. (Courtesy J. Morrison and Transformer)

Aspiring artists, understandably, want to make lots of noise, although some realize that ambition more literally than others. But explosions are fleeting. What’s left for viewers who weren’t present for the big bang?

In the case of Marley Dawson, the forensic evidence is a series of smudgy black circles or arcs burned into the white walls of Hemphill. Before “Statics and Dynamics” opened, a few observers were invited to watch the D.C.-based Australian artist ignite the charges that completed his “Circle Works” series.

Each of the steel-and-aluminum sculptures comprise a hub and a spinnable arm with a rocket housing at its end. When fired, the explosives propelled the metal limbs in high-speed orbits. One piece was designed to produce overlapping circles, another concentric ones. The largest of the arms lifted off the wall too far to char much of the backdrop, and several subsequent firings failed to singe a complete roundabout. (The scorched wall is not a lasting part of the piece; anyone who buys a “Circle Work” gets a rocket to sear a new mark. Your burn may differ.)

Dawson is drawn to streamlined machinery. His current work includes stylized models of soap-box racers and wood-and-metal “Tunnel Objects,” probably a reference to the wind tunnels that test aerodynamic qualities. Three polished-steel discs, mounted on the wall, lack the pyromaniacal appeal of the burned-circle pieces yet are more permanently dynamic. They can be spun by hand and are expertly balanced so that a simple push keeps them turning for minutes.

These days, there’s a different sort of near-perpetual-motion device: video. The show includes an untitled black-and-white video in which fluid deflects around a miniature soapbox-racer shape. The image appears digitally animated, with bubbles that look as solid as the blocklike pieces of water in “The Lego Movie.” But Dawson favors the real over the simulated, and it turns out that the video is a live feed of a small model submerged in air-rippled oil. Like the artist’s other works, the video is elegantly stylized yet stubbornly mechanical.

Marley Dawson: Statics and Dynamics

On view through March 29 at Hemphill, 1515 14th St. NW; 202-234-5601; www.hemphillfinearts.com

A Window Into the Mind’s Eye

The graphite line takes a number of jaunts in “A Window Into the Mind’s Eye,” a five-artist exhibition at Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery. Yaroslav Koporulin uses pencil for small, detailed drawings, classical in style but surrealist in outlook. Hsin-hsi Chen pencils triangular forms on the surfaces of abstract wood assemblages, one of which is lighted from within. Lee Gainer uses acrylic, not pencil, to make two-tone vignettes of domestic scenes whose overlapping outlines suggest drawing rather than painting.

The show’s centerpiece is Jowita Wyszomirska’s epic “Swarming,” which saunters from the back wall onto the adjacent one. Mostly in gray and white, but with touches of color, the piece features cut-and-pinned mylar petals arranged in undulating curves that culminate in a one-dimensional drawing. Similarly, Beverly Ress’s “Blue Macaw” includes a hanging spiral of material, apparently cut from the large canvas on which she has rendered the bird. In both artists’ work, the line brashly refuses to stay on the surface, hopping the barriers between drawing, painting and sculpture.

A Window Into the Mind’s Eye

On view through March 15 at Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery,
1632 U St. NW; 202-483-8600; www.smithcenter.org/arts-healing/joan-hisaoka-art-gallery.html

Man on Man

Four male artists consider their identities in “Man on Man,” a Doris-Mae show in which the most virile imagery is derived from gay pornography. Tom Hill gives such pictures a latter-day pop-art treatment, fragmenting them into near-abstract but still recognizable forms atop day-glo acrylic-and-glitter backdrops. Frederick Nunley and John Thomas Paradiso use quilting and embroidery, not traditionally seen as masculine crafts. Nunley executes abstract patterns, sometimes cut from fabric with autobiographical significance; Paradiso combines floral motifs with porn-star miniatures, although his slyly titled “Black Pansy” depicts only a flower.

Dwayne Butcher’s “2000” is a six-panel video piece in which a hefty guy eats the sort of food likely to bust a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet. Where Hill’s paintings include such big, blunt words as “taste” and “bomb,” Butcher’s video is flanked by phrases sculpted from insulation panels. One of them offers that endlessly bewildering directive, “Be a Man.”

Man on Man

On view through March 14 at Doris-Mae, 1716 14th St. NW, Second Floor;
202-299-0027; www.doris-mae.com

“We eat homophobes for dinner,” purr some of the cats currently sketched on the wall at Transformer. J. Morrison’s “HomoCats” was inspired by the caption-spouting kitties that have colonized the Web (and also by, it seems, his own feline companion). The New York artist’s installation updates Andy Warhol for the laser-printer age, with cat wallpaper (Warhol did cows) and offhand ’zines that feature simple drawings and playful text. Politically, “HomoCats” looks tame at the intersection of 14th and P, although it would be provocative in other settings. Artistically, Morrison sides with those who prefer temporary works and unconservable materials over potential museum pieces. Perhaps admirers should buy one of his booklets and let their cats claw it playfully.

HomoCats: Fight the Power

On view through March 15 at Transformer, 1404 P St. NW;
202-483-1102; www.transformerdc.org

Nabili Hilmi

Jerusalem-born Nabili Hilmi (1940-2011) lived much of her life in the United States, a country she called “too big, too green for me.” That taste is reflected in the Palestinian-American artist’s retrospective at the Jerusalem Fund Gallery Al-Quds. The collages, watercolors, prints and drawings are usually earth-toned, with hints of blue and pink. The work, much of it untitled and undated, ranges over several decades, and from expressionism to abstraction. Inserting bits of paper and text gives Hilmi’s style depth and spontaneity; it also suggests a person who’s skilled at making do. But one of the strongest pieces, “Motion & Emotion,” is rendered in ink and pastel, without collage. It’s a procession of glyphs that also hint at human forms, as if to show how ideas sometimes become actions.

Nabili Hilmi: A Retrospective

On view through March 7 at the Jerusalem Fund Gallery Al-Quds, 2425 Virginia Ave. NW; 202-338-1958; www.thejerusalemfund

Jenkins is a freelance writer.