John Winslow. “The Armchair,” 1990. Oil on canvas, 80 x 105 in. (Courtesy John Winslow and American University Museum)

The oldest painting in “Realism Transformed: John Winslow’s Wild New World” is a portrait of three children. It was executed in a neo-classical style in 1973, the year of the D.C. artist’s first local solo show. The picture is included in this American University Art Museum retrospective not to demonstrate what the veteran painter does, but what he can do. Of course, the more recent canvases also display Winslow’s formidable abilities. But the directness of the early work has been supplanted by a multifaceted approach.

Acknowledging the theatricality of traditional studio painting, Winslow stages his paintings as scenes on sets, often seen from dramatically elevated vantage points. Since the pictures are performances of a sort, they may include actors, dancers and technicians. Figures from art history also can appear, and self-portraits are common. To convey the act of painting, and the thinking of the painter, Winslow incorporates spectral figures, geometric shapes and regions of sheer abstraction. As subject and form merge, everything is fair game. Yet realism is still the bedrock.

The least figurative pictures, such as 1990’s “The Armchair,” recall Cubism and Futurism’s attempts to see every aspect simultaneously and to convey motion by exploding objects in multiple directions. But 2015’s “Self” realistically depicts the artist on his studio floor, a painted small-town backdrop tilted behind him. This contrived yet entirely representational scene suggests an artistic journey that has carried Winslow back to a place that’s both the same as and different from 40 years ago.

Realism Transformed: John Winslow’s Wild New World On view through July 26 at the American University Museum, 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW. 202-885-1300. www.american.edu/museum.

Nia Tavlarides Stratos. “Oleaje (Waves).” Oil on canvas. (Courtesy Nia Tavlarides Stratos and Aaron Gallery)

Aquamarine

The title of Aaron Gallery’s current show, “Aquamarine,” refers to its predominant color as well as its principal theme. Working in oil or watercolor, Hebert Sanchez represents rushes and gushes in various modes. In pictures such as “Torrente,” the Colombian artist renders waves, foam and spray realistically, yet many of his paintings evoke energy and motion without representational elements. While marine hues are paramount, Sanchez sometimes punctuates them with warm colors. The watercolor that gives this show its name, for example, has a splash of red at its center. It suggests, improbably yet vividly, a fire blazing amid the sea.

“Aquamarine” also includes work by Nia Tavlarides Stratos, who paints in both hard-edge and fluid modes. (For the latter, she blows pigment through straws.) A native Washingtonian, Stratos takes inspiration from her Greek heritage; this selection includes “Thalassa,” a mixed-media abstraction named for the Greek word for “sea.” She also works in a style whose simplified forms recall ancient Mediterranean pottery and frescoes. Where Sanchez captures a timeless blue instant, Stratos often looks back to what one of her myth-inspired pictures calls a “Golden Age.”

Aquamarine On view through Aug. 31 at Aaron Gallery, 2101 L St. NW, Suite 800. 202-234-3311. www.aarongallerydc.com.

Saturate

Across the river, the Athenaeum also is awash in marine imagery. “Saturate” features five regional artists, two of whom had local shows in April. Eve Stockton’s large woodcuts, seen at Long View, arrange Asian-like nature motifs in regular patterns and water-world colors. Stephen Estrada’s oils, shown at BlackRock Art Center, depict the meeting of surf and submerged shore, often in storm-cloud or midnight hues.

Like Estrada, Abby Kasonik favors muted or dark views of sea and sky, but where his style is precise, hers is freer. Kasonik’s “Untitled Saturate” series integrates drips and other painterly gestures into layers of washes and glazes. The ninth in the set, one of the show’s standouts, fixes a distant moon in a liquid sky; it’s both impressionistic and dramatic.

While Hannele Lahti is a photographer, her pictures fit well with Kasonik’s. Three of Lahti’s pictures gaze into shallows, where watery distortion and reflection make solids appear a little soft. Most epic is “Niagara #2,” which distills the famed falls to mists, clouds and a few patches of startlingly green water.

Frank Verreyken, “Beautiful Borders #10,” 2014. (Courtesy Frank Verreyken and Target Gallery)

Musician Tom Teasley contributed an audio-video piece that matches an ambient-music snippet to minimalist ripple patterns. But his major “Saturate” piece will be a performance July 18 of fluid sounds made with such devices as a water gong, a teapot and a milk frother.

Saturate On view through July 19 at the Athenaeum, 201 Prince St., Alexandria. 703-548-0035. www.nvfaa.org.

Art in the Making

Originally presented in New York, “Art in the Making” commemorated anniversaries of three of that city’s venerable art schools, including the Pratt Institute. The version of the show at George Washington University’s Luther W. Brady Art Gallery adds pieces by artists who taught at the Corcoran, now part of the university. Most of the show’s highlights are among those works.

Twenty or so small pencil drawings from Pratt professor Kit White’s book “101 Things to Learn in Art School” drolly subtract scale, texture and color from works by Morris Louis and many others. But paintings by Louis’s fellow D.C. colorists, including Paul Reed, Sam Gilliam and Gene Davis, reveal the importance of what White omits. That’s not just color. Thomas Downing’s “Va-Va-Va” stacks overlapping red circles and fashions a strong diagonal element simply with a row where the dots are spaced farther apart. The result is a rhythmic jolt lacking in much of the New York works.

Art in the Making: A New Adaptation On view through July 17 at George Washington University Luther W. Brady Gallery, 805 21st St. NW, Second Floor. 202-994-1525. www.gwu.edu/~bradyart/brady/exhibitions.html.

Borders & Boundaries

The 15 artists selected for Target Gallery’s juried exhibition “Borders and Boundaries” responded to a call for art inspired by an “outsider’s perspective.” That perspective can be cultural but is more often literal. Included are several photographs that peer through something, whether blinds (in Frank Verreyken’s elegant glimpses of hidden landscapes) or fabric (in Marie Tomanova’s mysteriously enwrapped nudes). The chain-link fence is a recurring image, and Karen J. Spiering’s and Angela Eastman’s abstract paintings incorporate such building materials as concrete and tar paper.

Two of the most intriguing artists have rather different notions of borders. Bin Feng’s photos are vignettes of an everyday upscale American couple, with a man who’s apparently Chinese. In one, the man is reading a Chinese newspaper in a kitchen that’s straight out of an ad for a mini-mansion in McLean — or perhaps suburban Shanghai. Ryan Lewis pairs playful stop-action videos of a cantaloupe and a baseball in a continual process of dissection and reassembly. Rather than gaze wistfully inward, the videos perpetually reconstitute what’s inside and out.

Borders & Boundaries On view through July 19 at Target Gallery, 105 N. Union St., Alexandria. 703-838-4565, Ext. 4. www.torpedofactory.org/partners/target-gallery.

Jenkins is a freelance writer.