Most often depicted are butterflies, whether as smears of vivid color in the eight-foot-wide “Border Crossing” or as dark shapes in a trio of gray-and-black pictures. An underwater scene is rendered more traditionally, with oceans of blue oil paint between the sea turtles and other swimmers. But “Intercept” packs great-cat faces so tightly that muzzles and whiskers nearly fuse into a single organism, almost as hivelike as the teeming bees of “Transgression.”
From a distance, Kauffman’s canvases are all bold color and implied movement, recalling the busier varieties of abstract expressionism. Yet the artist’s themes add another level of meaning. In her statement, Kauffman calls her work “my instinctive response to the world around me.” That may be true, but “Jeopardy” is thoughtful as well as visceral. (Note: “Jeopardy” closes
In both style and subject, Chinese literati ink painting flourished for centuries with no significant updates. Local artist Freda Lee-McCann, who is of Chinese descent, is set on modernizing the genre. Her latest experiment, “A Point of View,” is one of several small shows downstairs from Kauffman’s at Studio Gallery.
Lee-McCann ponders rocky peaks, a common subject for monochromatic Chinese paintings, but she forgoes the calligraphic brushwork of the archetypes. Her landscapes are made primarily with acrylics, supplemented by Sharpie pens. The latter are used to simulate the halftone dots Roy Lichtenstein so lovingly reproduced in paintings inspired by comic strips. In this case, the dotted areas serve primarily to set off expanses of white. One thing Lee-McCann retains from bygone Chinese ink painting is the sense of openness.
Nearby is “Echoes,” a small selection of Lisa Battle’s sinuous ceramic sculptures. The twists in the Maryland artist’s work are inspired by flowers and dance movements, but some might also be seen as wafting smoke made solid. The pieces range from vases — familiar in purpose, if not in shape — to a multipart creation that undulates on the wall. Battle’s stoneware wriggles as if alive.
There are curves in Susan Raines’s photographs, but most of them are segments of circles, often located in buildings. The local artist’s “Serendipity,” adjacent to Battle’s work, is a tour of found geometry from Italy to Vietnam to (unsurprisingly) the National Gallery of Art’s East Building in the District. The sunnier climes also yield intense hues and strong color contrasts, as in a striking picture of green rectangles on an orange facade. Raines’s camera distills specific places into universal forms.
Sally Kauffman: Jeopardy Through May 18.
Freda Lee-McCann: A Point of View; Lisa Battle: Echoes; and Susan Raines: Serendipity Through May 25 at Studio Gallery, 2108 R St. NW.
“What is it like to be a girl?” That’s one of the questions, written by children on lined paper, that Suzie Tuchman has hung on a laundry line at Harmony Hall Arts Center. The artist’s “Homebodies” doesn’t directly answer the child’s query. But it does have something to say about being a homemaker.
The largest single piece in the show, “Domestic Majesty,” is a gown made of steel wool and wire mesh, fitted to someone about 10 feet tall. Tuchman has also erected a “Mother House” of yellow sponges and green scouring pads, and she filled a wall with “Archive of Domesticity,” which arrays clumps of variously tinted lint in plastic food containers. Nearly all of the Maryland artist’s materials are commonly found in American kitchens and laundry rooms.
Tuchman says her art “explores and celebrates the embedded spiritual elements in the repetitive tasks” of housework.
Spirituality is in the eye of the beholder, but “Homebodies” does embody two qualities that are helpful around the house: humor and ingenuity.
Suzie Tuchman: Homebodies Through May 25 at Harmony Hall Arts Center, 10701 Livingston Rd., Fort Washington, Md.
Julia Mae Bancroft
There are fewer photo transfers in Julia Mae Bancroft’s “Through Glass Lace” than in her previous Morton Fine Art show, but the weight of old photographs remains heavy. The D.C. artist’s mixed-media pictures are almost all in black and shades of gray, with just occasional touches of pale pink or green. Bancroft conjures the past as drained of color but crowded with memories.
Texture is as crucial as image to Bancroft’s style. The pictures incorporate pulp, fiber, papier-mache and hand-stitched embroidery, and they are on sheets of paper mounted to stand slightly away from their backdrops. The layers represent what the artist’s statement terms “a glass lace screen” while “piecing together a fragmented narrative.”
That narrative doesn’t seem to be autobiographical. Some of the photo imagery is older than Bancroft, evoking the 1960s and much earlier times. The same is true of the artist’s technique, notably the needlework. The reminders of traditional women’s crafts ground Bancroft’s ghostly reveries in real-world labor.
Julia Mae Bancroft: Through Glass Lace Through May 22 at Morton Fine Art, 52 O St. NW, No. 302.
The landscapes and still lifes in Catherine Levinson’s “Color in May” are stylized yet essentially realistic. The fanciful element in the Gallery B show is the use of color. Red trees, maroon shadows and yellow skies are among the phenomena in these paintings, rendered in gouache on paper, that are seldom seen in nature.
The Bethesda artist acknowledges her affinity for the work of Henri Matisse, whose bright Mediterranean palette and simple, hard-edge shapes are an evident influence. Matisse is known for his arrangements of paper cutouts, and Levinson’s forms are as crisp as if they had been defined by scissors rather than a brush.
Levinson’s streamlined vistas include barns that appear American and tree-lined roads that look rather French. The rustic thoroughfares seem to be her essential subject, and not just because they could be somewhere in Provence. The play of simple uprights vs. open sky provides an elegant geometric symmetry, while the roads lead the eye off the picture and into infinity.
Catherine Levinson: Color in May Through May 25 at Gallery B, 7700 Wisconsin Ave., Suite E, Bethesda.