Books, Q-Tips and coffee filters are among the raw materials from which Jessica Drenk fashions her sculptures. So it’s reasonable to suppose that the artist simulated a chunk of a calving glacier from something almost as perishable as ice. In fact, the piece is carved from bright-white Colorado marble, a venerable sculptural material that’s common in Washington’s monuments but unexpected in her Adah Rose Gallery show.
If making ice from stone is a switch for Drenk, it typifies the method of her “The Evocation of a Moment . . . A Gesture.” A large, wall-mounted circle stuffed with white blossoms is actually a bouquet of coffee filters. What looks like a slice of tree trunk is in fact paper torn from books, pressed into rings and waxed. Arranged in waves and partly abraded, white PVC pipes suggest both bamboo and pipe organs. Cotton balls and pads are coated loosely with porcelain slip and fired in a kiln, so uncovered parts burn off and the remains become calcified, a sort of instant fossil.
Like many of her peers, the Montana-bred, Florida-based Drenk seeks inspiration in aspects of the nature that have customarily been considered less picturesque. But where many of her peers directly address pollution, extinction and climate change, Drenk tinkers with the processes of making and unmaking in the spirit of discovery. Transforming both organic and manufactured items, the artist becomes an apprentice force of nature.
Jessica Drenk: The Evocation of a Moment . . . A Gesture Through March 2 at Adah Rose Gallery, 3766 Howard Ave., Kensington. 301-922-0162. adahrosegallery.com.
The photographic duo known as Oculoire has a French name and a French vibe. Ned Riley and Phil Hernandez acknowledge the influence of Brassai and Cartier-Bresson, Gallic masters from the golden age of black-and-white; their high-contrast pictures also recall France’s film-noir and New Wave cinema. But the two collaborators, who don’t specify who does what, use skateboards rather than jetliners to reach their locations. The futuristic vista that’s the centerpiece of the team’s self-titled Cross MacKenzie Gallery show suggests a still from Godard’s “Alphaville,” but it actually depicts the supports of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.
That photo takes an upward view, which is common in Oculoire’s work. The duo calls its style “street photography,” but the street is often less a subject than a vantage point for gazing up or sideways — frequently into the deep blacks of shadow or night. Oculoire uses both electronic and film formats, but the goal is make pictures that appear to predate digital imagery. Staring into the darkness is a means of stepping into the past.
Oculoire Through March 2 at Cross MacKenzie Gallery, 1675 Wisconsin Ave. NW. 202-337-7970. crossmackenzie.com.
Computer graphics allow for great precision, but they also give artists new ways to get things spectacularly wrong. The five large paintings in Mary Murphy’s “Hybrids,” at IA&A at Hillyer, are surreal, sinuous and overwhelmingly pink. Yet they hint at photographic origins, as distorted though some digital prism.
More fantastic than reflections in a funhouse mirror, Murphy’s renderings melt and swirl facial features, including teeth and nostrils. The Philadelphia artist isn’t simply savoring her ability to pull human flesh like taffy, although that’s part of the pictures’ appeal. The images are metaphorical, a gallery note explains: They’re all derived “from the face of a sibling taken from the last photograph of her intact family.” Murphy’s art doesn’t tell the whole story, but it does powerfully visualize rupture and alienation.
Mary Murphy: Hybrids Through Feb. 25 at IA&A at Hillyer, 9 Hillyer Ct. NW. 202-338-0325. athillyer.org.
The members of the trio introduced by Long View Gallery’s “New Year New Artists” share a few traits. All like vivid colors, white backdrops and recurrent patterns. Even Chris Robb, a Floridian who paints with his fingers, arranges his smears, smooshes and drips into orderly groups, suggesting flower arrangements or bunches of berries.
Where Robb often sets off bright daubs with black ones, Sarah Gee Miller employs styrene strips in Day-Glo hues. The Vancouver collagist arranges plastic lengths into circles, hexagons or paper-clip designs, emulating color-field compositions with a material that provides a literal hard edge.
Kaori Takamura also cuts and combines, although she uses a laser cutter for the former and stitching for the latter. The Arizonan juxtaposes simple forms that stylize natural phenomena such as snowflakes with ones that resemble commercial insignia. Her work, which incorporates painting and silk-screen, is abstraction that winks at the corporate landscape.
New Year New Artists Through Feb. 25 at Long View Gallery, 1234 Ninth St. NW. 202-232-4788. longviewgallerydc.com .
The four participants in the Korean Cultural Center’s “Crossover: East and West” include Korean- and American-born artists, but all share an interest in cross-cultural heritage.
Victoria Jang and Jang Soon Im are ceramists, each subverting the craft differently. With their light-green gloss and metallic gold accents, Jang’s pieces appear traditional in technique. Their forms, however, are polyglot and fluid. Some look as though they were halted partway through a process of liquefying, fixed in a state that’s — aptly — neither here nor there.
Im’s pottery is much simpler. Each piece is white, streamlined and matched to a gray-and-black geometric painting behind it. The effect would be to link ancient Asian austerity with modern Western minimalism — except that amid the simple vases and bowls are ceramic versions of a cartoon mouse, a sneaker, a terra cotta warrior and such. Even stripped to the starkest forms, the dialogue between East and West is complicated.
The pop items in Im’s display complement Christina Ko’s candy-colored ode to the “cute culture” of East Asian girls and women. Ko’s childlike paintings, exhibited with toys, food and beauty products, evoke the shops and classrooms where cartoon femininity is bought and sold.
Maplike forms represent immigration, assimilation and ethnic enclaves in Eun Kyung Suh’s wall-mounted sculpture. Much more direct are video interviews, made by Suh and Jennifer Arndt-Johns, with Korean-born adults who were adopted as infants into families in Minnesota (where Suh lives). Each person tells the same basic story, and each story is almost entirely different.
Crossover: East and West Through Feb. 28 at the Korean Cultural Center, 2370 Massachusetts Ave. NW. 202-939-5688. koreaculturedc.org.
Note: This post has been updated.