With her new show at Adamson Gallery, Yuriko Yamaguchi takes a step away from nature, but only to get a different vantage point on it. “Interconnected: Science, Nature, and Technologies” consists of six hanging or wall-mounted installations, made of hand-cast resin shapes connected by metallic wire. Some also include LEDs, which add steady illumination to the glimmers and shadows caused by ambient light.
Although long based in Northern Virginia, Yamaguchi was born in Japan, and her work evokes forest-set Shinto shrines and garden-enclosed Buddhist temples. “Interconnected” draws on such associations but also uses and depicts technology. The four pieces in the “Cloud” series, which extend across the room’s longest wall, could be symbolic depictions of DNA, neural synapses or computer networks, as well as vaporous puffs in the sky. The steel, brass and copper wire that holds the clusters together also suggests technological connections.
Previously, Yamaguchi has arrayed wooden pieces or other earthy found objects, including stained coffee filters. Her newer sculptures are made entirely of manufactured items yet maintain a link to organic forms. Many of the small resin morsels were cast from dried curls of potato, onion or cabbage; others took their shapes from leaves, seeds or hand-shaped bits of clay. When fabricating the pieces, the artist sometimes added dye, yielding the blue-green hues of the oceanic “Bliss’” or the reds and oranges of “UR #1.”
Among Yamaguchi’s inspirations is John Cage, the American composer who was strongly influenced by Zen. The “Interconnected” constructions have thousands of facets, yet Yamaguchi writes that they reflect “my complex emotional paradoxical feeling of nothingness.” The space among them, it seems, is just as important as the components themselves.
Yuriko Yamaguchi: Interconnected: Science, Nature, and Technologies On view through June 14 at Adamson Gallery,
1515 14th St. NW; 202-232-0707; www.adamsongallery.com
Amy Hughes Braden has a lot to say. So much, in fact, that some of the pieces in her current show — confrontationally titled “Are You Gonna Eat That? — are all text. Others use symbols rather than words: In a video, Braden gives a feminist finger to Jackson Pollock, an exemplar (albeit a long-departed one) of art-world macho.
Earlier this year at Project 4 Gallery, Braden showed mother-and-child paintings based on a photo of a baby who would grow up to be an alleged Boston Marathon bomber. The local artist’s latest work, at the new space Civilian Art Projects is sharing with G Fine Art, invokes art-world figures Frida Kahlo and Richard Prince, as well as Pollock. Her texts includes jokes (an idea derived from Prince), graffiti-like taunts (many of them unquotable in polite company) and musings on death. The viewpoint sometimes seems to be hers but can be indeterminate. It’s impossible to say just who, in one painting, is proclaiming: “I’m lazy and spoiled.”
Visually, Braden aspires to a grab-bag spontaneity. She mixes acrylic paints with pencil and markers, glitter and vinyl stickers. Fluorescent shades of yellow and fuchsia are common, and intentionally crude gestures bray next to more-refined renderings. Such juxtapositions are part of what the gallery calls “puzzling through new ideas,” and they may ultimately lead to a more elegant style. For now, though, spurning elegance seems to be the point.
Amy Hughes Braden: Are You Gonna Eat That? On view through June 14 at Civilian Art Projects,
4718 14th St. NW; 202-607-3804; www.civilianartprojects.com
“Aviary Wonders Inc.,” a picture book published this year, purports to be a catalogue for a future company that will sell built-to-order birds. (The first product was, or will be, available in 2031.) Artist-writer Kate Samworth’s illustrations, some of which are now on display in Artisphere’s works-in-progress gallery, are comic and colorful, which is why the book is being pitched to children. But the humor is darkly ironic, and the moral is grave: Birds are vanishing, and fabricating new ones is not really an option.
The show includes about two dozen pictures from the book, alongside a dozen more preparatory sketches and paintings. Samworth’s full-color work is in oil, depicting cartoon-like critters with sophisticated depth and texture. The project was inspired by the birds of Brazil, so bold tropical hues are common. Even the most fanciful details are carefully delineated and clearly based on close observation. It’s possible simply to savor the animals and their parts, which are presented in mix-and-match arrays of wings, tails, crests and such. But commentary is laced through the Charlottesville artist’s work, from the “troubleshooting” section to a sketch for an idea that didn’t ultimately find a place in the book: a customer agreement not to cage his or her Aviary Wonder. Like the rest of the show, that pledge is both whimsical and solemn.
Kate Samworth: Aviary Wonders Inc. On view through June 15 at Artisphere, 1101 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Va.; 703-875-1100;www.artisphere.com
“Kaleidoscope,” Philip Bennet’s solo show at the Old Print Gallery, takes its name from one of the artist’s monotypes. Working most often with oil-based inks, Bennet makes one-of-a-kind prints whose vivid colors, layered patterns and sheer energy recall 1950s abstract expressionism. They don’t literally multiply and invert mirrored forms the way a kaleidoscope does. The local artist’s style is freer and more fluid, especially in the handful of prints and paintings that use water-based rather than oil pigments.
None of Bennet’s work is representational, but the titles do suggest the natural world, whether at the visible level (”Green Rain”) or somehow buried. Both “Glow” and “Strata” have a geologic feel, although in the latter the magma has cooled and weathered. Bennet is just as likely to take inspiration, however, from the materials themselves. “Nuclei” incorporates the patterns of printing screens into its jagged yet delicate composition, and “Mood Indigo” is a collage of monotype shards, torn and then assembled on a white backdrop. Such complex yet unified pieces are fine examples of the way Bennet fuses content and process.
Kaleidoscope: New Works by Philip Bennet On view through June 14 at the Old Print Gallery,
1220 31st St. NW; 202-965-1818; www.oldprintgallery.com
Jenkins is a freelance writer.