Various approaches to three dimensionality are what links the trio of artists now showing at Hillyer Art Space: sculptors Rob Hackett and Michelle Dickson and photographer Kim Llerena. Hackett suspends wooden beams in midair, but also makes prints that have a sliver of depth. Dickson combines found pieces of wood with casts of her own face, a process that’s both random and personal. Llerena photographs text in Braille, which renders words tactile.
Hackett’s “Equidistant” is eight large timbers, hanging on steel cables at an angle to the walls of Hillyer’s largest gallery. It’s sculpture as architecture, or the opposite, and illustrates ideas of tension and balance, light and shadow. It also expresses the sheer joy of resisting gravity and making objects do things they really shouldn’t.
There’s less bravado to Hackett’s prints, which are collages based on photographs of his sculptures. Yet the cut-out pieces of paper sit just slightly above the paper surface, which is enough to give them an affinity with the dangling beams.
Where Hackett’s woodwork is architectonic, Dickson’s, in “Neither Mine Nor Yours,” is instinctive. The Baltimore artist grafts her countenance onto gnarled pieces of wood in ways that suggest mutation and decay, but always with the primacy of self-
image. One individual is the measure of all things.
Llerena’s “Ekphrasis” consists of large-format photographs of passages in Braille. The words, unreadable by nearly anyone in this flattened form, are ironic. They include an account of a Van Gogh painting written for blind readers — an ekphrasis is a vivid description of something — as well three quotations from Roland Barthes, who pondered the subjectivity of reading and writing. Further, the photos are designed to illustrate an aspect of the text. What keeps this exercise from being numbingly academic are its rich colors. The deep blue, green and red are worthy of their own ekphrasis.
Rob Hackett: Equidistant; Michelle Dickson: Neither Mine Nor Yours; and Kim Llerena: Ekphrasis On view through Aug. 29 at Hillyer Art Space, 9 Hillyer Ct. NW. 202-338-0325. www.hillyerartspace.com
The largest piece in Honfleur Gallery’s “8th Annual East of the River Exhibition” places paintings of three men behind bars and a partial brick and cement-block wall. Luis Peralta Del Valle’s “Trouble Maker Installation” groups Nelson Mandela, Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King Jr., all of whom were jailed for their activism. Equally epic, if less historical, is David Ibata’s “A Man Has Got to Have a Code,” in which a woman hugs a bloodied swordsman; the painting suggests a gangsta-rap video directed by Kurosawa. These two works complement James Terrell’s urgently graffiti-style “Help Me Bmore,” in which a man in a Maryland-flag tank top raises his hands in a gesture of surrender, a gun sight trained on him.
The four other artists’ work is less openly political. BK Adams/I Am Art contributes a vast silver-clad abstraction, while Electra Bolotas’s three canvases colorfully mix representation and abstraction. The hint of Cubism in her work echoes in Chanel Compton’s collage portraits, which build faces from bits of paper, fabric and painted cardboard. All of the participants “live, work or have roots in D.C. communities east of the river,” the gallery explains, but only Susana Raab’s photographs explicitly depict the area. From the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens to an Alabama Avenue yard full of flowers and figurines, Raab details neighborhoods that are as diverse as this show.
The 8th Annual East of the River Exhibition On view through Aug. 28 at Honfleur Gallery, 1241 Good Hope Rd. SE. 202-365-8392. www.honfleurgallery.com
“Cloud Seeding,” Leigh Merrill’s photography and video show at Target Gallery, is about nothing less than the United States of America. That’s clear from two vignettes that include a version of the star-spangled banner: The flag actually flies in “Cherry Hills,” a triptych, while in “Carts,” it is represented by patterns of white, blue and red — the last a jagged stripe that’s a lineup of shopping carts.
The image suggests the exterior of a Target store, but Merrill is not a documentary photographer. The Dallas resident digitally stitches together multiple images to craft scenes of Sun Belt blankness. In “This Place,” pink walls flank white billboards, and all the surfaces lack words or logos; it’s an archetypal vision of everyday big-box utilitarianism,
The only signs of life are in the sky, where birds can be glimpsed and clouds defy the geometry
of the hard-edged, right-angled structures. In the title video piece, a white puff moves up and down, hovering above a streetlight in a tight loop. The sky, too, is archetypal, but with possibilities the built environment lacks.
Leigh Merrill: Cloud Seeding On view through Sept. 6 at Target Gallery, 105 N. Union St., Alexandria. 703-838-4565, Ext. 4. www.torpedofactory.org/partners/target-gallery
Robert Brown Gallery and Neptune Fine Art, which share a townhouse in Georgetown, also collaborate on an annual dog-days show called “Summer Splash.” As in previous years, this edition mostly features work the two dealers have shown before. What’s different is the venue: Gallery Neptune and Brown, a new Logan Circle location in the space previously occupied by Gallery Plan B. It will supplement, not replace, the site 20 blocks west.
The six-artist “Summer Splash on 14th Street” features Mel Bochner’s prints of blocks amid plaid-like patterns, and two bold Alex Katz screenprints of women in black hats and sunglasses that set off gold backdrops. Also included are a large Oleg Kudryashov print with watercolor that softens black lines with pastel splashes, and an Erick Johnson painting in which six rectangles of color sweep toward each other and off the canvas.
The hues are bright and unadulterated in Polly Apfelbaum’s woodblocks of flower-petal forms, although one is in black-and-white for contrast. These sunny pictures hang across from five stark prints by Richard Serra, which reinterpret the spiraling forms of his vast minimalist sculptures. Smudgy and grainy, but also elegant and strong, Serra’s blurred lines balance the industrial and the poetic.
Summer Splash on 14th Street On view through Sept. 5 at Gallery Neptune and Brown, 1530 14th St. NW. 202-986-1200. www.neptunefineart.com
Jenkins is a freelance writer.