For dedicated local gallery-goers who have never quite made the trek to Adah Rose Bitterbaum’s space in Kensington, Md., Studio Gallery’s “Carte Blanche” should be enlightening. Bitterbaum, who was once Studio’s director, has assembled a survey that’s heavy on artists she has shown in Kensington, and given it the name of her gallery’s annual summer group show.
Most of the art could be termed post-minimalist, concerned with patterns but also their disruption. Chris Trueman overlaps curving spray-painted lines in oscillating grids. Gabe Brown’s paintings feature biomorphic forms, but also lattices and parallel lines. Brian Dupont stencils text on metal panels — and, in this show, two aluminum tubes — and contrasts the regular lettering with loosely applied paint.
The show’s aesthetic extends to artists who haven’t had individual shows at Adah Rose Gallery, such as Mary Early and Wayson Jones. Early arranges a set of her trademark cast-beeswax bars, nearly identical yet clearly handmade, into a wall piece. (The bars’ pale-yellow color and peaked shapes echo the triangular perhaps-mountains in an abstracted landscape by Alison Rash.) More messily, Jones sculpts black-and-white paintings with thick pigment, acrylic medium and powdered graphite.
Jessica Drenk carves and clusters ready-made objects into unexpected assemblages: White PVC pipes become undulating abstract sculptures; pencils compose a hollow curve that resembles a shell; and book pages simulate a tree trunk’s core. The results are more whimsical than most of the show’s work, yet otherwise congruent with it.
Bitterbaum does exhibit representational work, and there are some examples here. They’re mostly hazy, distorted or surreal. Laila Jadallah’s photos observe landscapes through a fog of superimpositions; Manuela Holban’s historical vignettes are so loose they appear to be half-forgotten; and Kyujin Lee’s fairy-tale illustrations are strange enough for a Brother Grimm. In “Carte Blanche,” disruption takes many intriguing forms.
Carte Blanche: Adah Rose Comes Home to Studio Gallery Through Feb. 2 at Studio Gallery, 2108 R St. NW.
A different sort of disturbance characterizes Gallery B’s “Destroy the Picture,” a show of abstractions by 18 artists who all received the same advice from Beverly Ryan, their teacher at Alexandria’s Art League School. Faced with a painting that resists completion, Ryan counseled, damage it and use the mayhem as inspiration.
In practice, this strategy mostly yielded collage-paintings that have been sliced and then partly lashed back together. Sohaila Rubin’s “Miniature in Peril” seems to consist of two canvases, fastened with rope and strings and overpainted in black so just a bit of the original image is discernible. Carmencita Balagtas laces her mostly black piece with metal strands and adds a hanging metal plate that explains the title, “Dog Tag.”
Black dominates many of the pictures, perhaps to obscure what the artists thought were missteps. But Ivette Marcucci allows colorful vertical drips to muss the uniform black horizontal bars of her “Dazzle Drizzle,” and Erin Hensley Howe’s “After the Storm” is in the water and earth tones of a seascape, with a sail-like scrap of fabric on top.
Among the most eye-catching works are those that hint at life beneath the picture plane. A small figure emerges from a flap in Kirsten Zaremba’s “Urban Cat,” and a bold pink basement is visible through the cutout in the green-heavy facade of Abol Bahadori’s “Fractured.” Destroying the picture can open a portal to another level.
Destroy the Picture Through Feb. 2 at Gallery B, 7700 Wisconsin Ave., No. E, Bethesda.
The title of Carol Blum’s Washington Studio School show, “It’s Just Paint,” suggests the outlook of an abstractionist interested entirely in the materials and process of painting. In fact, Blum is a figurative painter who’s concerned with how women are represented in art. Her résumé reveals that, before getting a master certificate at the school, she received a PhD in women’s history and a master’s in feminist studies.
The local artist tries on a variety of media, styles and demeanors, from caricature to expressionism and from pretty to grotesque. Included are a series of mixed-media “Gorgon Girls” and a plaster bust of a woman with found-object features and hair of straw and twigs. Sometimes Blum reacts to the ways famous male painters have depicted women, as in “Edouard’s Gaze” and “Willem’s Gaze” — reworkings of pictures by Manet and de Kooning.
There are glimmers of cubism and constructivism in Blum’s work, which adopts various methods to conjure a body with simple gestures. “Falling/Rising” uses a free-hanging canvas to suggest human flexibility, and “Start” demonstrates how a figure drawing becomes a painting. Although the body that emerges is evocatively human, the picture reveals the artist’s interest in materials and process.
Carol Blum: It’s Just Paint Through Feb. 8 at Washington Studio School, 2129 S St. NW.
When working as a celebrity photographer whose work has appeared on magazine covers and movie posters, EJ Camp must be surrounded by people. No wonder she has a home near Long Island’s lightly inhabited northeastern tip, and spends some of her time shooting oceanscapes. Just one person is depicted in “Sea,” Camp’s Leica store show, and viewers probably wouldn’t notice the tiny, nearly submerged figure if the title of the picture weren’t “Playa del Carmen, Swimmer.”
That photo is one of several that captures a dramatic sky, its billowing clouds dotted with patches of sunlight. Among the other vivid elements are the green wave that draws a horizontal swipe of color in “Saltaire III” and the red rocks that frame a puddle of hot-white light in “Montenegro.” Yet Camp’s palette is usually restricted to gray, white and pale blue, and the show’s most striking picture is “Truman’s Rock,” a triptych that’s the only black-and-white entry.
Several of the photos focus on boulders protruding from placid waters, each dark crest rounded like the shell of a surfacing turtle. The large stone in “Truman’s Rock” has a more jagged contour, yet the scene is equally serene, with sea and sky in near-identical shades of translucent gray. The image suggests a Zen rock garden, and has a similar effect: A lone rock and its elemental surroundings appear to embody an entire universe.
EJ Camp: Sea Through Feb. 15 at Leica, 977 F St. NW.