Kim Llerena and D.B. Stovall may travel the same blue highways, but they return with very different pictures. The local photographers, now showing side-by-side at VisArts’ Gibbs Street Gallery, document places from back roads and side streets. Yet they seek contrary sorts of American archetypes.
Llerena’s “Rust Sun Bible Corn” favors earthy, natural colors and sites of modest historical significance. She has even outfitted each of her photos with a metal historical marker like the ones along U.S. highways (with text from Wikipedia). As for Stovall, he prefers bright, saturated hues and modest structures that could be anywhere. His idea of an expressive sign is one that simply says “Cold Beer,” without elaboration.
All of Llerena’s photos are of the West — the rust and corn belts are not represented — which partly explains their dusty color scheme. The subjects include a ghost town, two hamlets known as artist communities, the Arizona inspiration for the landscape of the movie “Cars” and the New Mexico spa city that renamed itself after the game show “Truth or Consequences.” In this series, the story behind the picture is important.
Stovall ventured only as far as Indiana, and he spent a lot of time in Pennsylvania. His identification of photos by location, however, doesn’t mean to say anything about those places. What matters in “Photographs of the American Vernacular” are intense, often primary colors and stark compositions that emphasize the stage-set quality of light-industrial structures such as gas stations and tire stores. For Stovall, the picture is the story.
Bobby Coleman works on wood, and with wood. The mixed-media pieces of his aptly named “re:build,” upstairs in VisArts’ Common Ground Gallery, suggest and sometimes reveal the framework beneath the painted surface of the wooden panels. The Baltimore artist may bolt slats to the picture, perhaps crossing a cutout section, or arrange planks so they come off the wall. The pigment, some of it applied with spray can or paint pen, contrasts loose and hard-edge forms. The paint pen patterns suggest neural networks, but also architectural blueprints, street networks and graffiti. Squint and you can just see a city.
Kim Llerena: Rust Sun Bible Corn, D.B. Stovall: Photographs of the American Vernacular and Bobby Coleman: re:build On view through Aug. 16 at Gibbs Street and Common Ground galleries, VisArts at Rockville, 155 Gibbs St., Rockville. 301-315-8200. www.visartscenter.org.
There has long been disagreement about which local painters can truly be labeled — or would have wished to be called — members of the Washington Color School. Arlington artist Barbara Januszkiewicz is a student of that era, intensely interested in the D.C. abstract painters who, beginning in the late 1950s, stained, unprimered canvases with the then-new acrylic pigments. She tries the technique herself in a show of recent artworks at the Rosslyn outpost of Cove, a chain of collective workspaces.
Januszkiewicz has a flowing, vibrant style akin to that of the Color School’s Morris Louis. But she uses watercolors on paper, which is then mounted on aluminum panels. And she doesn’t pour pigment, as Louis did. The colors are applied with brushes, though she seeks to hide those marks and leave only what she calls “the evidence where the brush floated by.” Some examples of this luminous and kinetic work are showing at Cove.
The artist also is making a documentary about the Color School, which is how she met Paul Reed, the last living member of the group. (A longtime Arlingtonian, Reed moved to Arizona this year.) Reed challenged her, Januszkiewicz says, to try acrylic paint on canvas. The results have a grainy quality that’s unlike her watercolors (or Louis’s acrylics), yet they share the earlier work’s dynamism. The painter will have a show that highlights this new direction later this year.
Barbara Januszkiewicz On view through Sept. 30 at Cove, 1735 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington. 774-260-2683. https://cove.is/locations/IJ00Yd83el.
A few weeks ago, one of Barbara Januszkiewicz’s small watercolors was hanging at Adah Rose Gallery. But whether it will be on the wall again anytime soon is impossible to predict. The gallery’s annual “Carte Blanche” exhibition, curated this year by two current and three former interns, is in a state of flux. These young guest curators are permitted to rearrange their sections of the show as frequently as they would like.
On any given day, “Carte Blanche” will feature pieces by artists the gallery has already shown. These include Chris Trueman’s roiling lattice-work paintings; Kristen Liu’s lurid cityscapes, charged with sex and violence; and Jessica Drenk’s wall sculptures, which mash together toilet-paper rolls to suggest microscopic forms. The styles range from loose to precise, masterly to naive.
One artist whose work will be on display throughout the show is Erick Antonio Benitez, who jumbles realism and abstraction, image and text. The Baltimore-based painter’s “Meditation of Death” arrays gestures in charcoal and black paint on a satiny shroud that covers a second painting that he decided he didn’t like. This somber work may not be characteristic of Benitez’s style, but it is a fine example of its complexity.
Carte Blanche On view through Aug. 23 at Adah Rose Gallery, 3766 Howard Ave., Kensington. 301-922-0162. www.adahrosegallery.com.
Tea sets and dinner plates are sharing the Eleven Eleven Sculpture Space with percussion instruments, mysterious figurines and geometric abstractions. All are the work of Philippines-bred, local potter Hadrian Mendoza, whose reach is wide but whose pieces are unified by glazes in shades of soil, metal and blood. The show’s title, “Earth Fire Stone,” invokes the work’s primal quality.
Mendoza fashions ceramic versions of such Filipino creatures as the carabao, or water buffalo, and the bulol, a carved wooden figure meant to guard the rice crop in Luzon, the country’s northern region. But the artist also offers his interpretation of the djembe, an African drum, and uses tenmoku, the Japanese name for an iron-based glaze that originated in China. Though he draws from diverse traditions, Mendoza is not always traditional. His “Sliced Vase,” which chops the receptacle into three akimbo slivers, is best suited for flowers plucked from a Picasso canvas.
Earth Fire Stone: The Works of Hadrian Mendoza On view through Aug. 23 at the Eleven Eleven Sculpture Space, 1111 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. 202-783-2963. www.zenithgallery.com.
Jenkins is a freelance writer.