If wine or beer can reach new consumers via tastings, why not art? That’s the premise of “Art Tasting,” a five-curator, 15-contributor show at the District of Columbia Arts Center. It’s billed as a kind of Art 101 by Artistic Director B. Stanley.
The survey is a hardly the introduction a first-timer would receive at the National Gallery, or even the Phillips Collection. All but one of the pieces have been made since 2008, and the accompanying text refers most often to 20th-century pop (Jasper Johns) or conceptual (Marcel Duchamp, Yoko Ono) artists. Aside from two Japanese haiku from earlier times, the outlook of “Art Tasting” begins with Duchamp’s 1917 introduction of the readymade, an anonymous manufactured article presented as an art object.
The only readymade here is a $5 sweatshirt decorated with an image of a gun and the phrase “Fight the Power.” It’s among many pieces with a political edge, a unifying theme not mentioned in Stanley’s essay.
The oldest item in the show is a 1974 collage/cartoon of then-President Gerald Ford by Emory Douglass, who was the Black Panther Party’s minister of culture. Robert Labandeira’s drawing is a portrait of anti-slavery insurgent John Brown. Ricky Day repurposes Jasper Johns’s stenciled numbers in black nationalist colors. Khadijah Wilson’s photograph depicts two faceless, hoodie-wearing figures as “objects of neglect.” Julie Wills’s bedpost, wrapped in lingerie, represents both intimacy and the sex trade. James Bernard Cole’s “Precinct” is a quarter-mile of police barricade tape braided into rope, in response to the Baltimore police department’s treatment of African Americans.
There also are a few abstract works, including Azadeh Sahraeian’s intricate drawing and Kristen Hayes’s colorful painting, that suggest natural forms. Fabiola Alvarez Yurcisin uses found objects to make archetypal modernist art, crisscrossing red-and-black typewriter ribbons in homage to previous homages to the square. This illustrates another common quality of this work: scrappiness. According to “Art Tasting,” art doesn’t have to depict traditional subjects, or be made of standard materials.
Art Tasting On view through April 23 at District of Columbia Arts Center, 2438 18th St. NW. 202-462-7833. dcartscenter.org.
Upon entering Civilian Art Projects, the visitor is immediately snubbed by one of Jason Gubbiotti’s paintings. “Square Waves” is mounted perpendicularly to the wall, with its back to the door. To view it, a U-turn is required.
No other work in “Glass Giant” is quite that standoffish, but Gubbiotti does use various gambits to emphasize his pictures’ status as physical objects rather than mere images. The artist, a 1998 Corcoran graduate who lives near Paris, also employs familiar elements from late-20th-century abstract painting: hard edges, geometric forms, strong color contrasts, shaped canvases.
That last may be the most significant, because Gubbiotti’s style has an almost sculptural quality. He rarely uses brushes, applying paint instead with squeegees and scoring it with razor blades. Whether on wood panels or rigidly stretched canvas, the pigment is heavily worked and meticulously finished. “Mistakes are more than welcome” in Gubbiotti’s improvisational process, a gallery note states, yet the results do not appear spontaneous.
Still, there’s a playfulness to such efforts as the mostly orange and green “Mega Touch,” whose crotch-like notch has earned it the nickname “the shorts.” The piece is not wearable art, of course, but it does feel like something more tangible than simply color and shape arrayed on a flat surface.
Jason Gubbiotti: Glass Giant On view through April 15 at Civilian Art Projects, 4718 14th St. NW. 202-607-3804. civilianartprojects.com.
The mixed-media abstractions in Amy Lin’s show at Addison/Ripley Fine Art include familiar motifs such as spirals of colored dots and partly overlapping shapes that tunnel through multiple layers of paper. Yet much of the work seems smaller-scaled and more childlike, a change that’s easily explained. Lin is a new mother whose “Baby Thoughts: Towards a Visual Pre-Language” tries to assume an infant’s viewpoint.
As always, the D.C. artist’s brightly hued drawings luxuriate on expanses of creamy white paper. Dots, often with open centers, dance across space, sometimes linked by swooping lines. When they wriggle, the patterns suggest stylized worm farms; if the arrangements are more geometric (and the colors more industrial), they’re akin to circuit boards. Sometimes, the patterns lurk below the top level, visually fragmented through lacy cuts, occasionally in the shapes of leaves.
Those natural forms don’t indicate a huge shift in Lin’s approach, but the artist does dip a toe into representation, children’s-book style. Tiny hearts and flowers appear, and one assortment of colored ovals and circles resembles a cartoon mouse. Some of the artist’s trademark dots are even arranged to look like pairs of tiny eyes. Such details can be seen as the view “through a baby’s eyes,” in Lin’s words, but they also express a mother’s vision.
Amy Lin: Baby Thoughts: Towards a Visual Pre-Language On view through April 15 at Addison/Ripley Fine Art, 1670 Wisconsin Ave. NW. 202-338-5180. addisonripleyfineart.com.
The phrase “in media res,” Latin for “in the middle of things,” usually refers to a narrative that begins at the midpoint. But it could also apply to the picture at the entrance to “From Over the Wall: Reflections on the Old Town of Jerusalem,” Hani Hourani’s show at Gallery Al Quds. The Jordanian artist places the viewer amid the old city, a patchwork of tan boxes, brown roofs and white domes, punctuated by the occasional smear of green. He renders the rare bits of nature less precisely than architectural details, but maintains throughout a deft balance between actuality and impression.
Hourani is best known as a photographer, and these mixed-media paintings are based on photos made in 1996. Some of them take a higher perspective, gazing down from beyond the city wall or up at a thicket of antennas, satellite dishes and a few minarets. One focuses on a single structure, the Al Aqsa Mosque. Even that painting, though, doesn’t scant with the architectural bustle around the central building. In Hourani’s pictures, old Jerusalem is a totality, man-made yet organic.
Hani Hourani: From Over the Wall: Reflections on the Old Town of Jerusalem On view through April 17 at the Jerusalem Fund Gallery Al Quds, 2425 Virginia Ave. NW. 202-338-1958. thejerusalemfund.org/the-gallery.