Jackie Brown’s fanciful sculptures are part of “Between the Real and the Imagined” at the Brentwood Arts Exchange. (Brentwood Arts Exchange)

The light-industrial district where the Brentwood Arts Exchange sits is hardly a garden spot, but inside the gallery now are two varieties of artistic flora: Carol Barsha’s representational (if not especially realistic) paintings and drawings, and Jackie Brown’s fanciful sculptures. Together, they are billed as “Between the Real and the Imagined.”

Barsha’s brightly hued mixed-media pictures include several that feature birds and one that depicts a blossoming book, plucked from a series shown earlier this year at the McLean Project for the Arts. But the emphasis is on fields bustling with tulips, sunflowers and such, made more imposing by playfully inexact perspective. The Chevy Chase artist was taught by Philip Guston and absorbed some of his cartoon-like style. Also, she works on a near-epic scale, which adds to the boisterous, mildly surreal vibe of these scenes of commonplace foliage.

Amid the colorful and busy artworks are a few black-and-white drawings of bird nests in which Barsha shows a quieter, more classical touch. Realized with charcoal and conte crayon, these elegant studies are both observations of nature and inquiries into volume, shadow and one-dimensional weaving.

The curves are jagged, unpredictable and 3-D in Brown’s “Mutated Growth” pieces, which dwarf even Barsha’s towering sunflowers. Most are at least six feet tall, reaching for the ceiling rather than the sun. The Maine artist’s primary elements are painted ceramics, but she also uses metal, chipboard and spray foam. Among the colors are floral oranges, cauliflower whites and spring-leaf greens, as well as some hues that are clearly factory-made. Brown’s spindly inventions have an organic quality, but they don’t deny their industrial roots.

Between the Real and the Imagined: New Work by Carol Barsha and Jackie Brown On view through Aug. 20 at Brentwood Arts Exchange, 3901 Rhode Island Ave., Brentwood. 301-277-2863. arts.pgparks.com.


Carol Barsha’s work (here, "Earth Your Pallet and Your Screen, the Sky") is also featured at Gallery Neptune & Brown. (Carol Barsha/Gallery Neptune & Brown)
Ladies First

Two of Carol Barsha’s large florals are in Gallery Neptune & Brown’s “Ladies First,” and their red blooms provide much of the color in the eight-woman show. There also are vivid abstractions by Cianne Fragione, rendered with nearly as many as materials as hues. But most of the artists are more concerned with lines, whether executed with ink, pencil or bronze.

Janis Goodman’s intricate drawings include one with an off-center flurry of cross-hatching, suggesting a tornado or a dense thicket, and several that depict reflected light on gentle tides. The latter pictures complement detailed yet stark abstractions by Linn Meyers, each of which punctuates a similarly rippling expanse with a perfect circle. Stretched across two sheets of paper, Beverly Ress’s pale “Pink Wing” seems as much a minimalist exercise as an ornithological study. (One of Barsha’s nests would have fit well with this grouping.)

The only sculptures are by Raya Bodnarchuk, who contributed small bronzes of standing human figures, as well as a seated, streamlined and smiling cat that is one of the array’s crowd-pleasers. Yet Taz Ichikawa’s drawings have a sculptural quality, whether they employ shadows and modeling to simulate 3-D qualities or, as in “Inspiration,” contrast such techniques with unadorned pencil swoops. The piece illustrates the ability and the desire to expand a single stroke into a full work of art.

Ladies First On view through July 16 at Gallery Neptune & Brown, 1530 14th St. NW. 202-986-1200. neptunefineart.com.


Lynn Mocarski Maurer’s "Midlife" at Gallery A. (Lynn Mocarski Maurer/Gallery A)
Lynn Mocarski Maurer

There is warmth and vitality in Lynn Mocarski Maurer’s drawings of blossoms, leaves and stems, even though they are entirely in shades of gray. “Passing Impressions,” the Virginia artist’s show at Gallery A, is not impressionistic. Maurer represents contour, light and shadow with exquisite accuracy, celebrating natural forms but also the nature of pencil on paper.

Some of these modestly scaled pictures are set off by near-black backdrops, shiny with thickly applied graphite. Just as often, though, the defining aspect is a delicate line, as if to emulate the fragility of fresh buds and tiny creatures. The ants depicted in one drawing are not there to spoil the picnic but to represent the life force — and because a near-photographic realist such as Maurer could hardly deny that there are insects as well as flowers in the garden.

Lynn Mocarski Maurer: Passing Impressions On view through July 30 at Gallery A, 2106 R St. NW. ­202-667-2599. alexgalleries.com.

Larinda Meade

Larinda Meade, too, depicts nature in black and white, although she gazes out to sea rather than at flower beds. The etchings and aquatints in “From Here to There,” at Washington Printmakers Gallery, contrast scratchy lines and fluid gestures to evoke the coast of Maine, near where the artist lives. To emphasize that she controls the view, Meade divides some scenes into a series of rectangles.

The images are made with metal against paper, so hard edges are to be expected. But Meade elicits watery passages that seem barely dry and that recall Chinese ink painting. The prints’ liquid quality is appropriate to their subject, of course. But it also suggests the essential mutability of ocean, sky and any other natural phenomena an artist can attempt to fix in place.

Larinda Meade: From Here to There On view through July 30 at Washington Printmakers Gallery, 1641 Wisconsin Ave NW. 202-669-1497. washingtonprintmakers.com.

Architects’ Drawings

Landscapes feature in some of the renderings in Cross MacKenzie Gallery’s current show, but they’re secondary to the man-made. These are “Architects’ Drawings,” after all, and the more than 30 contributors include such noted landmark makers as Richard Meier, Michael Graves and Frank Gehry.

The pictures are not all sketches for planned structures. Some of the most appealing are fastidious studies of venerable buildings in St. Petersburg (by Rob Krier) and Italy (by Dhiru Thadani, who curated the show with Mark McInturff). The other work includes Gehry’s near-abstract print of piled-up squiggles, James Smither’s watercolor of a seaside village and Ben Van Dusen’s urban hives, ideal dwellings for big-eyed anime characters. There’s even a cartoon about Washington’s World War II Memorial by Roger Lewis, who writes “Shaping the City” essays for The Washington Post.

A personal note is sounded by a drawing of a proposed project by Eason Cross, the late father of gallery proprietor Rebecca Cross. The design was never built, but the idea survives as a edifice of lines.

Architects’ Drawings On view through July 30 at Cross MacKenzie Gallery, 1675 Wisconsin Ave. NW. ­202-337-7970. crossmackenzie.com.