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In the galleries: A confection of a show that draws on the richness of Vermeer

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Too bad for Johannes Vermeer that jelly beans weren’t invented (probably) until the 19th century. Thanks to Anna Katalkina’s Touchstone Gallery show, “Candy and Mementos,” we can see that the translucent confections are an ideal subject for anyone who employs the technique of the 17th-century Dutch master.

As a wall display demonstrates, Katalkina doesn’t use opaque pigment to produce her vivid colors and intense blacks. Like Vermeer, she layers coat upon coat of thin glazes atop a mostly gray underpainting. This “indirect method” yields rich detail and simulates an inner glow.

The Russian-bred local artist doesn’t employ this meticulous style just to render jelly beans. Most of the pictures couple a sugary bauble with another object, often made of such delicate yet hard-shell substances as glass or porcelain. She also depicts colored candies inside transparent wrapping, an everyday combination that provides almost as many luminous facets as the glass facades beloved by photorealist painter Richard Estes.

Sometimes the visual dialogue is mostly about color, as when Katalkina pops a lime-green bean atop a red toy hippo. Other whimsical juxtapositions include pairing mannequin-shaped pillboxes with string candy that looks like thread draped on a real dressmaker’s dummy, or scattering Nerds around a Bacchus perfume bottle embedded with porcelain grapes the same shade of purple as the candy. Gummy Smurfs on a mussel shell stage a winking homage to Botticelli’s Venus, while an electric-blue jelly bean partly shrouded in a dried brown leaf is a playful taunt: Nature just can’t compete with artificial food color, especially when painted with Vermeer-like precision.

Anna Katalkina: Candy and Mementos Through Feb. 2 at Touchstone Gallery, 901 New York Ave. NW.

Boocks & Hirsh

Whatever medium he’s delving in, Stephen Boocks keeps things simple and tightly focused. The title of the local painter and musician’s Artists & Makers show, “Information Overload,” refers to his preference for forgoing “the steady stream of information that is overflowing in our lives,” according to his statement.

The pictures are named for lyrics from such bands as Radiohead and Gang of Four, but they don’t attempt to conjure the emotions evoked by those words. Instead, Boocks arrays regularly spaced phalanxes of crisply rendered dots on contrasting color fields. The backdrops are basically one hue but mottled and sometimes mutating.

The most dramatic composition stretches across two panels that shift from yellow on red to red on yellow. In a different sort of transition, a curving black line loops though all four quadrants of the other multi-panel piece. As in his minimalist music, Boocks offers a tranquil, deliberate sense of motion.

In the portrait on his Bandcamp Web page, Boocks faces a Gene Davis stripe canvas. Coincidentally, the Washington colorist’s paintings were the impetus for Allen Hirsh’s “A Gene Davis Inspiration,” also at Artists & Makers. No paints — or hard-edge stripes, for that matter — are involved in Hirsh’s computer-generated work. What remains from Davis’s trademark style are vivid hues and a vertical orientation.

Hirsh makes pictures with, in his words, “mathematical systems as tools but creating and controlling the equations myself.” The resulting images retain traces of top-to-bottom color bands, but these bend, melt or shatter into pixels. When they congeal into blobby forms, the warped uprights recall the psychedelic light shows produced with layers of colored mineral oil. If that’s a long way from Davis’s cleanly executed stripe paintings, Hirsh’s artworks and their inspirations do share a pulsing energy.

Stephen Boocks: Information Overload and Allen Hirsh: A Gene Davis Inspiration Through Jan. 29 at Artists & Makers, 11810 Parklawn Dr., Rockville.

Dealer's Choice

As announced by the show’s title, many of the pieces in Watergate Gallery’s “Dealer’s Choice From the Back Room” were plucked from its archives. But some were pulled from the Potomac River, or at least began as riverine debris.

The disparate selection includes work the gallery is known for, notably vibrant Haitian folk-art paintings and prints by Helen Zughaib, who combines Arab-world and Western-art motifs. Her work fits well with photo-derived pictures by Edwin Nourse (which didn’t come from the back room). Nourse’s close-ups of Alexander Hamilton (from the $10 bill) and Barbie appear both familiar and unexpected. In shallow focus, the doll becomes a candy-colored phantasm, with green eyes and red hair as bright as her lavender lips are faint.

Lauri Menditto makes glistening mobiles whose glass pieces are retrieved from the riverbank, as are the lengths of driftwood from which they hang. The elements are artfully chosen and assembled, but retain their random character. Doug Dupin manipulates objects found along the Potomac more extensively, turning wood, metal and quartz chips (the remains of American Indian stone-tool making) into a portrait of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. It’s a companion piece to the artist’s “Baby With a Death Ray,” long on display outside the gallery. “Rocket Man” has no face, but a slab of curved wood, a few metal appendages and some Korean text suffice to conjure the latest in Dupin’s “little tyrant” series.

Dealer’s Choice From the Back Room Through Feb. 1 at Watergate Gallery, 2552 Virginia Ave. NW.

Joyce Wellman

As a fledgling artist in New York in the 1970s, Joyce Wellman was encouraged by Ed Clark, a pioneering abstract expressionist who died in October. Wellman pays homage with “Freestylin’,” an exuberant Foundry Gallery show whose mixed-media work owes less to Clark’s style than to his spirit.

Wellman, who moved to Washington in 1981, makes big paintings heaped with small details. Elemental shapes, such as the series of overlapping circles in the two-part “Offspring,” play against drips, doodles, numbers and shards of collaged paper. The show’s title piece is a black-and-gray etching, and the other works include a large-scale oil-stick drawing. The sinuous gestures the artist uses in such works also appear in the paintings, compounded into areas of thickly layered and often red-dominated pigment.

In her essay on the show, writer, filmmaker and longtime Wellman friend Michelle Parkerson notes what she calls the artist’s “explosions of visual movement.” Just as remarkable, though, are the paintings’ depths. Wellman’s pictures burrow in as they burst out.

Joyce Wellman: Freestylin’ — Homage to Ed Clark Through Feb. 2 at Foundry Gallery, 2118 Eighth St. NW.

In The Galleries