Traditionally, drawings simplify what they represent and often are preliminaries for more elaborate works. But the artists in “Drawing,” at G Fine Art, are not simplifiers. All three embrace complexity, both in their techniques and their ideas.
The local in the trio is Rachel Farbiarz, whose themes are war, crisis and exile. Her works here — mostly realistic pencil drawings, but with some collage — include scenes from World War II-era Europe, as well as the war in Syria and West Africa’s Ebola outbreak. One stark picture of a body bag stretched between the two men carrying it is a vignette from Liberia, but it could depict anywhere that humanity has been broken by catastrophe.
Deb Sokolow is from Chicago, yet her text-heavy drawings sometimes address inside-the-Beltway institutions. She has created a series of ironic “CIA Failed Assassination Attempt on Castro” scenarios, whose blueprint-like style quietly mocks the technocratic mindset. The point of Sokolow’s meticulous diagrams seems to be that the world is actually a mess.
It certainly is in the jumbled collage-drawings of Lavar Munroe, whose motif is the shank, a handmade prison weapon. The Bahamas-born, New Orleans- and D.C.-based artist is concerned with the likelihood of incarceration for disadvantaged men, and his worldview is morally ambiguous: The shank-wielding killer can be a hero. Although there are harsh elements in Munroe’s work, the pieces also incorporate ribbons, stick-on stars and colorful bandages. The last, borrowed from the artist’s young daughter, suggest the possibility of some kind of rehabilitation.
Drawing: Rachel Farbiarz, Lavar Munroe and Deb Sokolow On view through July 11 at G Fine Art, 4718 14th St. NW. 202-462-1601. www.gfineartdc.com.
In Lisa Noble’s “Afternoon Peril,” a half-dressed woman cuts a lemon and seems about to obliviously slice her own finger. The potential bloodletting is made all the more eerie by the Noble’s drawing style, which melds pastel-hued illustrations of domestic scenes with the idealized female anatomy of pre-Playboy pinup art.
Such contrasts are the crux of “These Mirrors Are Not Boxes,” a consideration of identity by four D.C. and two Baltimore artists. All the participants in the VisArts show are women, which is significant but not always paramount. Race also informs such work as Anna U. Davis’s Pop-Cubist mixed-media pictures of “Frocasians” and Nora Howell’s video of the “whitening” of U Street NW by people in white hazmat suits and wielding a giant toothbrush.
Annette Isham inserts images of herself into videos and photographs of the rustic American West, while Milana Braslavsky photographs people whose faces are obscured by their hair or, in one case, are hidden inside pillows. Counterbalancing Noble’s tidy pictures are Amy Hughes Braden’s paintings, with their hot colors, cryptic texts and seemingly unfinished renderings. “Masculine bravado,” Braden writes in a statement, “is my natural inclination.”
These Mirrors Are Not Boxes On view through July 12 at Kaplan Gallery, VisArts, 155 Gibbs St., Rockville. 301-315-8200. www.visartscenter.org.
Three painters and a ceramicist, all in their early 20s, are the “New Talent” of Cross MacKenzie Gallery’s current show. Their work is linked less by style or theme than by vigor and high spirits.
Louise Smith’s large, bustling mixed-media paintings are partially collages, with pigment atop assembled paper and cardboard shards. Maida Monaghan’s red-heavy pictures are partially representational, but they juxtapose pictorial elements in unexpected arrangements. While Cooper MacKenzie depicts hostile nature in paintings of a sinkhole and a tornado, the vibe turns cosmic and perhaps contemplative in his striking “Enso Triptych,” with star-like spatter on space-black backdrops. (In Zen ink painting, an “enso” is a quickly rendered circle, symbolizing enlightenment and the universe.)
Although Nicole Gunning’s life-size figures intentionally suggest the multitudes of Xi’an’s ancient Terra-Cotta Warriors, these are not minions of some emperor. The “Nickies” are all self-portraits, autonomous and unflinchingly nude — albeit headless and armless. Where the Chinese figures are clearly part of set, Gunning’s are personal and individual, and thus entirely contemporary.
New Talent On view through July 15 at Cross MacKenzie Gallery, 1675 Wisconsin Ave. NW. 202-337-7970. www.crossmackenzie.com.
In the quest for impermanence, one of the participants in “Ephemeral” at Olly Olly Art has a clear advantage: She works with ice. Samantha Sethi’s “Entropic Irrigation System” features frozen models of such well-known structures as the Taj Mahal and the Parthenon, made with sandcastle molds. As the mini-monuments liquefy, the water runs into an aluminum trough that directs it to a thirsty plant. The next set of ice landmarks comes out of the fridge every time the gallery opens.
Two of the other three artists attempt to freeze transient feelings. Performance artist Bita Ghavami presents an array of clothing items, each tagged with a memory from when she wore it. Lisa Marie Thalhammer’s six “Mind Liberations” depicts human brains surrounded by emotional adjectives; the paper she uses is pre-stained with wine and green tea, which adds more volatile elements.
Painter Jay Hendrick is showing works on canvas, but also on such throwaway media as bandages and a cardboard box. He often incorporates grids, sometimes incising the orderly lines into loosely applied pigment. These pictures’ drips and splotches may qualify as ephemeral, or at least as permanent records of fleeting gestures. But their boxes, X-shapes and intersecting lines are as eternal as plane geometry.
Ephemeral On view through July 18 at Olly Olly Art, 10417 Main St., Second Floor, Fairfax. 703-789-6144. www.ollyollyart.com.
When Sidney Lawrence flies around the world, it seems he really flies around the world. “Globo Tour,” the local artist’s show at the University of California Washington Center, includes many aerial views. Some may represent the vistas from mountains or high buildings, but others must be semi-imaginary. One picture gazes down at Venice from above St. Mark’s Campanile, the city’s highest structure, and another takes a similar perspective on Ubud, Bali, a town that has no towering buildings.
Lawrence is known for bird’s-eye depictions of the Mall, often featuring his former workplace, the Hirshhorn Gallery. From above, he makes rice paddies and the Eiffel Tower’s lattices appear as kindred patterns.
Globo Tour: Travel Works on Paper by Sidney Lawrence On view through July 16 at the University of California Washington Center, 1608 Rhode Island Ave. NW. www.sidneylawrenceart.com.
Jenkins is a freelance writer.