Introducing the latest crop of Hamiltonian fellows, Hamiltonian Gallery’s “new. (now). 2013” ventures into political territory. Among the five-artist show’s confrontational works are two by Larry Cook. “M.L.” is a manipulated video of Martin Luther King Jr., waiting at a microphone and looking wary. “All American” depicts three figures, symbolically color-coded: models dressed in the battle gear of the Bloods (red) and Crips (blue) flank one in a Ku Klux Klan robe (white). The triptych may not be a fair representation of the U.S.A., but its bristling hostility is true to one aspect of the American character.
Eric Gottesman addresses life in the Global South with a video of a guffawing Ethiopian boy, shot from below, competing in a laughing contest at what’s identified as “The 1st Annual AIDS Orphans Comedy Festival.” He is also showing a series of self-photographs of a young Ethiopian woman who has shifted names and identities less as an art project than as a means of survival.
Lisa Dillin invokes a different sort of struggle to endure — of an entire species, not just an individual — with a vinyl floor-tile representation of a tiger-skin rug. “Dead Ethiopian” is the most politically charged of the paintings by Will Schneider-White, who combines child-like imagery with sophisticated textures and palettes.
Of these young artists, all recent MFAs, the only one who presents a world entirely of his own making is Joshua Haycraft, who works in plastic and video. Small sculptures that combine natural and synthetic material echo forms seen in a short video with a long title. “BHBITB Meditations 3: Invocations” features a godlike male figure, overlapping pulsing circles and triangles. This HD vision may be mystical or anti-mystical, but it seems very American.
On view through Sept. 7 at Hamiltonian Gallery, 1353 U St. NW, Suite 101; 202-332-1116; hamiltoniangallery.com
Although it usually shows figurative work, Marin-Price Galleries has assembled an intriguing group of nonrepresentational pictures for its current show, “Abstraction.” Of course, the line between the two genres is not impermeable. Some of the strongest paintings are by William Woodward, a longtime George Washington University art professor who is better known for realism, notably historical murals. Among his pieces here is “Carrara,” whose mottled earth and stone hues are strikingly framed by a hotter violet around the edges.
The show spotlights German-born Werner Drewes (1899-1985), one of this country’s first notable abstractionists. His “Dream of North Africa,” a geometric composition with hints of landscape, is appealing if uncharacteristic. Most of the other artists are local. There are two early canvases from Leon Berkowitz, made before he developed his luminous color-gradation style (although there are hints of it in 1972’s “Duality No. 25.”) James Hilleary’s “Reflection Series,” small works rendered with pastel, are elegant two-toned evocations of light. They’re contrasted by Lila Snow’s paintings, which are larger and busier. Her “Diebenkorn’s Song” incorporates postage stamps and fragments of Russian and Japanese text into an expanse of pink, yellow and orange. If more playful than Drewes’s work, it feels just as well-traveled.
On view through Sept. 10 at Marin-Price Galleries, 7022 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda; 301-718-0622; www.marin-price.com
If Richard Diebenkorn’s song had been something from Esquivel’s “Space-Age Bachelor Pad Music,” his “Ocean Park” series might have resembled Adam Lister’s show at the Heurich Gallery. Like Diebenkorn’s abstractions, Lister arranges blocks of color in ways that often suggest landscapes. But Lister employs Miami hues: hot pinks and oranges, avocado greens, tropical-sea blues. It’s as if a South Beach hotel’s cocktail-lounge decor and patio view had somehow fused.
For several years, Lister ran an eponymous Fairfax City gallery, which he recently announced is moving to Beacon, N.Y. He is also known for a series in which he reinterpreted Old Master paintings in a cube-ist style that owed more to Atari than Picasso. The playfulness of those pieces is echoed in this show, whose largest canvas, “Quiet Hazard,” suggests a pastel circuit board. But most of these pictures feel architectonic rather than electronic. In part because of their square format and rectangular forms, the paintings evoke window views and urban facades. Yet the colors, even at their brightest, are not akin to neon. Such shades of coral and salmon can’t exist without sunlight.
On view through Sept. 4 at Heurich Gallery, 505 Ninth St. NW; 202-223-1626, www.downtowndc.org/go/heurich-gallery
The District of Columbia Arts Center’s 23rd annual “1460 Wallmountables” presents some 300 works with only one curatorial stipulation: Each must fit into a two-foot-square space. (The total wall area is 1460 square feet.) Included are some well-made but unsurprising paintings and photographs, lots of work that apes comics and anime, and a few pieces only the most loyal friend could admire.
DCAC awards a $100 prize for “best use of space,” which this year went to Naomi Nakazato for a grouping of small portraits held together by an installation whose tan-and-red color scheme echoes the pictures’s. Highlighting a few other works from the selection might be almost as random as the show itself, but here goes: Callahan Woodbury does handsome realist paintings of birds, some of them on reclaimed wood. Susanne Kasielke’s suite of small mixed-media pieces suggests bits of weathered classical facades. Ricky Darell Barton’s paintings on round canvases are abstract, but with colors and text — they all include the word “eat” — that provide a pop-art twist. Zeke Maxwell’s constructions of mostly metal objects on acrylic-painted backdrops are jumbled yet elegant.
Alex Mayer’s “Sketch” is exemplary of the artist’s interest in how lines become form; it’s a horseshoe-like shape rendered in white-painted wood, with the end left unpainted to reveal the grain. Nearby are similarly minimalist works by Mayer’s spouse and daughter: Phyllis Klein’s is etched on plastic, yielding shadows that resemble spindly flowers, while Alexa Klein-Mayer’s is a study of sinuous gray curves. In this one corner of the packed gallery, less is indeed more.
On view through Sept. 8 at District of Columbia Arts Center, 2438 18th St. NW, 202-462-7833, www.dcartscenter.org
Jenkins is a freelance writer.