Lang’s decision to construct art from traces of his former career was not as calculated as it might seem. The bits of clothing he used to make “63” were damaged in an accidental fire at his studio, he explained in an interview with AnOther magazine. The garments became useless as design examples but could still have purpose as building materials. If there’s anything symbolic about the installation, it’s not the columns’ ingredients but their number: Lang is 63 years old.
The pillars are arranged in two tidy grids, with an open corridor between the groupings that suggests a promenade through two groves of trees in a European-style garden. The layout suits the columned room and is as orderly as the sculptures themselves are messy: A closer look reveals clumps, bulges, gaps and bits of brightly colored trash. Monochromatic only from a distance, the posts appear both deliberate and haphazard.
A glance toward the ceiling discloses another contrast between regularity and randomness. The columns, which are held in place by discreet wires, are not exactly the same height. Of course, real trees are not identical either, even when planted and cultivated for the most formal of gardens. “63” may invoke the factory and the junkyard, but there’s a hint of a real forest in Lang’s vision.
Helmut Lang Through Nov. 2 at Von Ammon Co., 3330 Cady’s Alley NW.
Kroetch & Qiu
Both Michael Kroetch and Elaine Qiu tell ghost stories, but these haunted tales don’t evoke a distant past. Indeed, the images the two painters produce could hardly have been imagined before the invention of photography.
A recent transplant from Germany to the Washington area, Kroetch makes photo-based pictures that he dubs “neo-frescoes.” His Alex Gallery show, “The Lost Worlds of Berlin,” began with interior photographs of abandoned buildings. Although some details remain crisp and flat, the artist transforms the scenes with thick applications of pigment, often given greater depth by layers of gel, resin and tissue. This mixture gives the paintings texture, and is used to construct 3-D borders around them — window frames around the views.
The chunky compound sometimes cracks, much like the neglected architectural features Kroetch depicts. Adapting the Japanese technique known as kintsugi, which reattaches shards of broken pottery with gold, the artist fills the fractures with a copper-gold blend. The shiny seams might be sunlight shining into the darkness through breached walls and broken windows.
There’s also a cinematic quality to Kroetch’s paintings, whose compositions are often dizzying. The vantage points are akin to those of a movie camera on a crane, gazing into grand ballrooms or up staircases that ascend into a sort of abyss. The artist’s eye, like a wraith’s, seems to hover in midair.
Qui’s paintings are literally flat, yet conjure dramatic depths of field, as well as a sense of motion. The pictures in the local artist’s “The Mystery of You,” at the Art League Gallery, could be seen as descended from impressionism, and salted with a dash of cubism. But the jumpy, smudgy imagery also recalls that of photographs made with extremely long exposures, or with a camera in swooping motion as the shutter is clicked.
Most of Qui’s scenarios are urban, and some are surrealistic: “The Settlement” portrays a person who has somehow melted into a glass bowl. Others depict everyday situations that appear blurred or fractured. In “Where the Nomads Meet,” the white lines of painted crosswalks shatter and levitate. It’s an ordinary moment, seen from an extraordinary perspective.
Michael Kroetch: The Lost Worlds of Berlin Through Oct. 30 at Alex Gallery, 2106 R St. NW.
Elaine Qiu: The Mystery of You Through Nov. 3 at the Art League Gallery, Torpedo Factory, 105 N. Union St., Alexandria.
There are whimsical elements in Maps Glover’s “Save the Seed,” but the installation at Culture House D.C. addresses such urgent issues as racism and violence. “The seed is a metaphor for the black soul,” explains the local artist’s statement, and “is vital to the preservation of our future generations.”
Glover, who has a keen graphic sense, has painted most of the walls red. The bold crimson frames smaller areas where black glyphs dance on white. (These figures, and a few paintings, suggest the influence of graffiti-grounded artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.) Glover has filled the space with objects, both made and found, that represent growth, nurturing and endurance. Potted trees link to arboreal shapes on the wall, and to folded paper the color of leaves. On some of the latter, visitors are invited to write affirmations, beginning with the phrase “this is my seed of . . .”
The artist also does performances such as “Jump for Da Life,” one leap for each person killed in the United States by police officers, as documented by this newspaper. Two photos of jumps, made in collaboration with Timoteo Murphy, look playful yet are deadly serious. That’s the sort of equilibrium much of “Save the Seed” achieves.
Maps Glover: Save the Seed Through Oct. 30 at Culture House D.C., 700 Delaware Ave. SW.
Another sort of performer, Tom Greaves builds dioramas from found and collected objects. With their mostly dark interiors, the inventive mixed-media assemblages in the D.C. artist’s “Middlemost Daft” resemble miniature theaters. According to a BlackRock Center for the Arts statement, though, Greaves has a different literary form in mind: He thinks of his vignettes as “depicting the middle of an unfinished short story.”
That fiction is not a lighthearted one, to judge by such ingredients as disembodied plastic arms and coiled barbed wire. The absurdity of Greaves’s work is a reaction to the current political situation, the statement notes. Yet the artist’s wry juxtapositions and ingenious transformations also elicit smiles. Turning sardine cans into picture frames may be absurd, but it’s also charming.
Tom Greaves: Middlemost Daft Through Nov. 2 at BlackRock Center for the Arts, 12901 Town Commons Dr., Germantown.