A video still of Jonathan Monaghan’s 19-minute “Out of the Abyss.” (Courtesy of Bitforms Gallery, New York copy)

After viewing “A Trace Left by the Future,” Jonathan Monaghan’s show at VisArts, people may start calling the artist “St. Jon.” The centerpiece of this show of video, prints and sculpture is “Out of the Abyss,” a 19-minute digital-animation loop that is Monaghan’s own Book of Revelation.

The D.C. artist, who made this work as a VisArts studio fellow, crafts cleanly rendered but conceptually intricate videos. Drawing on the iconography of advertising and marketing, the videos combine the pursuit of luxury goods with more traditionally heroic quests from movies and video games.

Monaghan’s fantastical videos once were studded with actual corporate logos, but there are few of those in “Abyss,” whose inhabitants include a robot knight on horseback, a spaceship with dragon’s head and wings, and a mechanical cow with video cameras on its head and a yoga mat strapped to its back. The organic-technological hybrids travel through a scenario that depicts worlds within worlds, with continual shifts in scale, location and perspective.

Although Monaghan has included few brand names, he does appropriate several logos, ingeniously changing their text while retaining their design. A home-goods store’s emblem is changed to read “Alpha & Omega,” and the familiar curved arrow of an Internet-shopping behemoth underscores the word “Patmos.” Fans of extravagant visions needn’t be reminded that Patmos is the island where, according to tradition, a certain John wrote a book known as “Revelation.” Monaghan has hitched his spaceship to one of the world’s most influential prophecies.

The show also includes inkjet prints and 3-D-printed sculptures of mash-ups of animals, consumer products and historic architecture. Small, mollusk-like creatures made of nylon, with 18-karat gold details, sit next to massive renderings of sleek, candy-colored “Sentries,” which suggest futuristic redesigns of the guardian statues that overlook the entrances to Japanese temples. The resemblance is probably unintended, but it seems appropriate in a show that marks Monaghan’s attempt to fly a shopping mall into the rapture.

Jonathan Monaghan: A Trace Left by the Future Through Aug. 11 at Gibbs Street Gallery, VisArts, 155 Gibbs St., Rockville.

Tae Eun Ahn

All Tae Eun Ahn does in “Open Site,” her show at the Korean Cultural Center, is walk, jump and lie down. But she performs these simple acts in a world of her own making.

A sculptor, photographer, ­video-maker and performance artist, Ahn places her body in situations that are alternately serene or foreboding. At her show’s opening, the Seoul-based artist walked on a balance beam that she had caked with clay. Now, all that remains is the beam and the cracked clay, some in pieces on the floor. Ahn’s presence is more evident in photos, videos and installations.

The artist snoozes in a piece that projects her reclining form on the wall and several standing cylinders, so that her face bends around one of the curved tubes. She superimposes herself onto a rainy landscape in videos that can be watched from a pile of pillows printed with clouds. In other pieces, Ahn interacts with wet clay: She hops on it, swaths herself in it and crawls into a sort of coffin made of it.

The “open site” of the title is Ahn’s own body, and the clay functions as an extension of it. The sticky, formless material suggests both flesh itself and human life’s metaphorical connection to earth. When Ahn folds herself into a fetal position inside a clay box, she could be preparing for either death or rebirth.

Tae Eun Ahn: Open Site Through Aug. 7 at the Korean Cultural Center, 2370 Massachusetts Ave. NW.

Off the Wall

Found objects and raw-looking metal are common in “Off the Wall: Sculptural Forms,” a fine group show at Waverly Street Gallery organized by the Maryland Federation of Art. Yet there are some gentler or more whimsical pieces, such as Rodney Kyle Mayer’s “Elbow Room,” a miniature tower of dry pasta.

Among the few figurative pieces is Maduka Francis Uduh’s sleek “Rejoice,” which seems to represent a person who’s dancing. Sharon Pierce McCullough’s “The Dancer” definitely does, but it’s assembled out of manufactured metal items, with a spring as its body and a wheel for its head.

Gil Ugiansky’s “Bronze Riot” doesn’t dance, but it does have a sense of gravity-challenging motion; the trick is that its eccentrically shaped blocks appear to be heavy and metal, but are actually foam covered in bronze paint. Judith Capen and Andrew Wohl also toy with heft and airiness: She attaches an eggshell to a hanging metal spring, while he bends steel lengths in a sort of industrial origami.

The contrast is between rough and smooth in Marilyn Block Ugiansky’s aluminum casting, in which two dull-surfaced metal slabs are split by a highly polished wedge. Aluminum also looks ragged in the show’s most imposing entry: Michael Richard Thron’s “Corporate Colosseum,” a skyscraper-like 3-D grid sitting on a pile of slag. Like many of the show’s intriguing sculptures, Thron’s edifice seems both brawny and precarious.

Off the Wall: Sculptural Forms Through Aug. 3 at Waverly Street Gallery, 4600 East-West Hwy., Bethesda.


Brian Michael Dunn’s “Break an Egg.” (Patrick Harkin)
Dunn & Xu

Decorative art often depicts and stylizes nature. So do the two artists whose work is now at Hamiltonian Gallery, but the results are — intentionally — not so pretty.

Wallpaper and botanical drawings are among the inspirations for Brian Michael Dunn’s “Parallel Botany,” whose paintings arrange flowers with man-made objects such as sunglasses. In a manner that owes something to Andy Warhol, Dunn paints loosely within tightly defined forms. The motifs are arranged in tidy geometric patterns and don’t derive directly from the natural world. The stars and cherries resemble slot-
machine icons.

Other repeated images, including soccer balls, also allude to leisure time. Less common and more ominous are a bottle and a bone, both broken at one end. Dunn’s paintings are mostly bright and orderly, yet not all of the details are safely ornamental.

Most of Ellen Xu’s “Bang Zha” show consists of black-and-white drawings, some made directly on the wall. The China-born artist’s surreal cartoons depict the futile attempts of a character called Bang Zha to escape a landscape of plant and body parts grafted crazily together. It’s hard to get outside of a universe in which interior and exterior intermingle.

Brian Michael Dunn: Parallel Botany and Ellen Xu: Bang Zha Through Aug. 3 at Hamiltonian Gallery, 1353 U St. NW.