The convergence of machines and living organisms is a staple of science fiction, but Ryan Hoover’s experiments haven’t yet produced anything sensational enough for a summer blockbuster. The Baltimore artist’s “ambi-mimetics,” at Hamiltonian Gallery, combine plant structures with 3-D printing in white plastic models of bushy trees. Hoover wrote the algorithm that generates the forms and is collaborating with the Baltimore Underground Science Space on his long-term goal of “developing a 3-D printer that builds with plant cells.”
Such a gizmo would probably interest Monsanto more than MOMA, and the work Hoover is showing currently relies as much on contrast as synthesis. Eight drawings of foliage are rendered on brown wood panels, their clean lines outlined against the natural texture. The four plastic sculptures are backed by brushed-metal grids, as if the mini-trees have sprouted in a forest of high-end kitchen appliances. In the future, Hoover proposes, he might be able to build such artificial shrubs from genuine tree cells. For now, though, the artist’s simulated flora have an elegant if antiseptic vibe that smacks of the lab, not the forest.
Ryan Hoover: ambi-mimetics On view through May 10 at Hamiltonian Gallery, 1353 U St. NW; 202-332-1116; hamiltoniangallery.com
The dance of light and shade, a familiar motif in black-and-white photography, is the focus of Steve Wanna’s austere yet playful current show at Doris-Mae. But there are no black-and-white pictures in the local artist’s “A Slight Suggestion,” an interdisciplinary installation. The array includes a video piece, a series of sound-and-light devices and multiple mechanisms for reanimating shadows.
Closest to traditional photography are six streetscapes from the District and Arlington in such muted colors that the images almost appear monochromatic, especially in the dim light the show’s other works require. The snapshots (mostly made with a smartphone camera) apprehend shadows on sidewalks, mirroring yet distorting the simple forms they echo. An image of a bicycle U-rack shows the stark curve of the actual structure, as well as the seemingly rubbery shadow that bends beneath it.
“Sometimes, on a Windy Day” is a video installation of shadow photos, arranged in grids and projected on moving screens — two white sheets, blown by a fan. “Don’t tell anyone” slowly rotates thin wires in front of a light, producing an abstract sort of shadow puppetry; “the light across the way casts a long shadow” plays a similar game with the silhouettes of gallery visitors.
Wanna’s biography defines him foremost as a composer, and his “Come Closer” series does make music. These six small porcelain boxes contain glimmering LEDs, and each emits a single tone; the notes overlap into a pulsing whole that recalls the early work of such minimalist composers as Steve Reich. To some, the music might seem as obscure as the shapes of the machinery inside the translucent porcelain containers. To those on Wanna’s wavelength, however, the melding tones are as luminous as the random collaboration of sunlight and shadow.
A Slight Suggestion: An interdisciplinary installation by Steve Wanna On view through May 11 at Doris-Mae, 1716 14th St NW, second floor; 202-299-0027;
Although she also works in bronze, resin and aluminum, Nancy Sansom Reynolds is best known for twisting and dying plywood into colorful shapes that resemble cones, leaves, ribbons or mountain ranges from 3-D topographical maps. The sculpture in “un.furl,” the local artist’s show at Addison/Ripley Fine Art, is painstakingly constructed and yet feels unforced. The graceful spirals and exuberant hues can elicit smiles and even outright elation.
The 15 lacquered wood sculptures, mostly wall-mounted, are each labeled “un.furl” plus a descriptive subtitle, such as “green twist” or “lavender bloom.” A few are suites, such as the five-piece set of “yellow curls,” which saltily suggest potato chips. Some are brightly colored, occasionally with acrylic paint as well as dye. The intense “red twist” is a wooden cousin of Jae Ko’s bright red paper curlicues (some of which are currently at Marsha Mateyka). Other sculptures emphasize their wood grain and tones, sometimes by turning their more colorful side toward the wall. The pieces look so lithe that twisting them back in the other direction seems possible, although it isn’t. Reynolds’s art only appears lighter than air.
Nancy Sansom Reynolds: un.furl On view through May 10 at Addison/Ripley Fine Art, 1670 Wisconsin Ave. NW; 202-338-5180; www.addisonripleyfineart.com
& Jimmy Miracle
Exiled in London during the two decades before the Soviet Union disintegrated, Russian artist Oleg Kudryashov memorialized his homeland in prints and mixed-
media constructions. These works are not road maps or travel guides, as can be seen in “Memories of Moscow: Reliefs, constructions, and compositions, 1976-1995,” at Robert Brown Gallery. Kudryashov’s style is abstracted and shows the strong influence of Soviet constructivism. Yet it’s also personal, with depictions of places and things from his life. The artist’s “Icon,” for example, is based on one owned by his family, and the central color image is flanked by black-and-white sketches of his childhood.
Kudryashov’s prints, rarely made in multiples, combine hard-edged forms with gestural drawings and are often finished with watercolor. The hues are mostly pastel, yet vivid. Such prints as “The Saw,” with its orange-highlighted blade, have a child-like quality. The relief work, which cuts and recombines several prints into a single piece, is intricate and literally multi-
layered. “Memories of Moscow” offers a subjective view, but it shows the city from many angles.
Jimmy Miracle, a few of whose “Yantras” are on display in the space Neptune Fine Art shares with Robert Brown Gallery, arranges filaments inside containers; these webs conjure shimmering interior spaces whose depths are hard to gauge. The D.C. artist’s work includes some new elements, notably multicolored thread that yields even more complex optical effects. Miracle hasn’t forgotten about the outside, however. “Octagon” is framed by eight slats of charred wood, and “Silver Box” is covered in metallic leaf. In Hinduism, a yantra is an abstract symbol used for meditation and worship. Miracle’s “Yantras” still aren’t as colorful as Hindu ones, but they’re getting more sumptuous.
Oleg Kudryashov: Memories of Moscow: Reliefs, constructions, and compositions, 1976-1995; and Jimmy Miracle: Yantras
On view through May 10 at Robert Brown Gallery and Neptune Fine Art, 1662 33rd St. NW; 202-338-0353; www.robertbrowngallery.com; www.neptunefineart.com
Mark Jenkins is a freelance writer.