Len studied printmaking in Japan, where a process called suminagashi involves marbling paper with ink floating in water. The artist did his version of suminagashi with partly treated wastewater, his hands and arms protected by long gloves. He puckishly credits the results as made “in collaboration with the citizens of Alexandria, Va.”
The water itself, pungent with “FOG” (fats, oils, grease) and “chocolate milk” (mostly biosolids), is shown in close-up in a series of photographs. Len also documented the Potomac River, which he explored by kayak, and the treatment plant and sewer system. The photos depict nature, mostly in the form of aquatic birds, accommodating itself to AlexRenew’s water-treatment lagoons and the outfall pipes where effluent can enter the river.
The photos complement a cabinet filled with stuff found in the river or along its banks. Among them are a ball, a child’s Spider-Man shoe and slabs of Styrofoam so weathered they look as if they were excavated at Pompeii. One such stray object, a net, is the subject of the largest piece, a seven-foot-high cyanotype. Gomitaku writ large, the print towers over the show to exemplify trash that’s typically much smaller or even, in the case of microplastics, unseeable with the naked eye.
Len cites the activism of D.C.’s 1990s punk scene as a crucial influence, and “Renewal” is partly a political statement. But some of the prints, whether black-and-white or lustrously blue, are lovely. In another context, they’d sing the beauty of our world rather than warn of its desecration.
sTo Len: Renewal Through Dec. 27 at Studio 13, Torpedo Factory, 105 N. Union St., Alexandria.
Brown & Hazard
Derived from nature yet undirtied by ecological corruption, Scott Hazard’s and Gabe Brown’s artworks can be seen as abstracted miniature gardens. Hazard’s sculptures are grottoes of torn paper, printed sparely with text and boxed in blond wood. Brown’s delicate drawing-paintings array forms that are recognizably, if not literally, organic. The artists’ works harmonize in Adah Rose Gallery’s “The Song of Earth Has Many Different Chords,” which is well served by the venue’s new, larger space in the same building that has long housed it.
A landscape architect as well as an artist, Hazard hand-stamps words and phrases on creamy paper that’s maneuvered into craggy landscapes. A bouncy string of words hints at a stream or a horizon line in the nearly flat “Tread/Thread”; the two-foot-deep “Field” nestles multiple mountain ranges inside wooden slats. The word “garden” originally referred to “a sense of enclosure,” explains the North Carolinian’s statement. His paper vistas are as minimal and orderly as a Zen temple’s rock garden, yet — like such temple features — evoke a world that’s prodigious and unruly.
Architecture of a sort is also at play in Brown’s intricate pictures, but the master designer seems to be nature itself. The Upstate New Yorker’s prominent motifs include crystal-like patterns and sprays of rounded, tapered shapes that resemble both leaves and water drops. The palette emphasizes green and blue, and the surfaces are layered and scraped to suggest continual flux. Yet brighter colors and purely geometric forms also appear, contrasting the earthly elements. Her goal is to convey “my own wonder at the enormous complexity of the world,” Brown writes, and she does so gently and subtly.
Gabe Brown and Scott Hazard: The Song of Earth Has Many Different Chords Through Dec. 31 at Adah Rose Gallery, 3766 Howard Ave., Kensington. Appointments suggested.
In some of “The Tempest’s” best-known lines, a “sea change” means an underwater transformation “into something rich and strange.” The phrase gets a less rapturous reading in “Sea Change,” a 21-artist show at the Washington Printmakers Gallery that focuses largely, if not exclusively, on climate change.
One of the highlights is a Ron Meick lithograph that addresses 2020’s street protests by overlaying rough patterns and freehand scrawls on the tidy grid of a century-old Chicago map. Yet most of the show’s bulletins are climate-related, whether as direct as Karen Goldman’s photo of hippos seeking refuge in a near-dry water hole or as philosophical as Amy Guadagnoli’s “Ship of Theseus,” which turns an ancient puzzle into a metaphor for a battered and crudely patched planet.
Although titled “Paradise in Peril,” Nina Muys’s triptych of a blue heron amid flowers offers a more tranquil vision. So do Jenny Freestone’s elegant depictions of aquatic creatures, in which the life cycle of eggs, insects and amphibians is revealed as something rich and strange.
Sea Change Through Jan. 3 at Washington Printmakers Gallery, 1641 Wisconsin Ave. NW.
The pictures in Cristy West’s Foundry Gallery show are on canvas or paper, but the mottled off-white surfaces suggest stone and concrete. The vernacular West calls “The Language of Marks” draws from cave paintings as well as hieroglyphics and Asian calligraphy, employed for gesture rather than meaning. Often, the D.C. artist achieves the mineral-like effect with paint mixed with wax to add bulk and texture. But the hushed “Canyon Spirits” incorporates actual sand from an area where, for added resonance, Georgia O’Keeffe used to set up her easel.
The show includes a set of small collages and another series, executed with oil stick, that layer brighter colors on slate-toned fields. There are also two striking paintings in which fluid swirls are set off by black backgrounds that shine like burnished onyx. These are closer in spirit and power to the largest paintings, which the artist’s statements likens to runes and petroglyphs. While “mark-making” is a buzz phrase in contemporary art, West pursues her scratches and scribbles into a mythic past.
Cristy West: The Language of Marks Through Dec. 27 at Foundry Gallery, 2118 Eighth St. NW.