Over the summer, 10 local artists met weekly with participants in Studio In-Sight (SIS), a program of Cornerstone Montgomery, a provider of mental health services. The professional artists offered guidance, and members of both groups provided inspiration.
That the exchange flowed both ways is clear from “Dialogue: A Visual Conversation,” which pairs works by teachers and students. The Dennis and Phillip Ratner Museum exhibition was organized by SIS art specialist Tessa Barr and artists and co-curators Sharon Burton and Jacqui Crocetta.
The most dramatic possible outcome would be for the SIS participants, or at least some of them, to upstage their mentors. That didn’t happen. The most memorable art here is by the pros, notably Crocetta, Jeremy Flick, Jeff Huntington, Wayson Jones and Christian Tribastone. But works by the two groups are arranged to show how they influenced each other, and sometimes it was the teachers who were swayed. Crocetta, for example, made a painting sparked by a SIS artist’s oil-pastel abstractions of interlocking lines.
Sometimes the link is less clear. Huntington’s portraits of Harriet Tubman and William Blake, which are punctuated by elementary geometric shapes, hang near pictures that also, but perhaps coincidentally, interject simple forms into representational images.
Some of the SIS artists draw on the commercial-art styles of sci-fi and fantasy. That’s hardly unprecedented; there’s always a plenty of such stuff at Artomatic, too. Many of the artists use collage, which could be seen as a visualization of reassembling a life. Yet collage isn’t necessarily a psychological metaphor. Merging disparate parts into an artistic whole is just as pertinent when entire societies are sundered by competing cultures and ideologies.
Dialogue: A Visual Conversation On view through Jan. 5 at Personal Visions Gallery, Dennis and Phillip Ratner Museum, 10001 Old Georgetown Rd., Bethesda. 301-896-4265. personalvisionsgallery.org/exhibits.
Some painters work from photographs but don’t emphasize that. Others make photographic origins integral to their work. Dennis Crayon, whose “That Which Was Once Whole” is at the Art League Gallery, is of the latter group. He faithfully reproduces snapshots, often from his own youth. But he also depicts a bit of the scene beyond the photographic frame, adding the imaginary to the documentary.
The boundaries are clear, and not just because the local artist includes white photo-print edges. His brushwork softens outside the borders, and Crayon sometimes employs a contrasting format: monochromatic around full-color pictures, and vice versa. The photo may provide the bulk of the composition, or just a small piece. A few paintings incorporate several Polaroid-like close-ups of a larger scene. In a view of small boats on water, the artist playfully neglects to continue one of the crafts beyond the photo border, suggesting that the photograph and the painting depict slightly different moments. Crayon has many ways of making a totality, and one of them is to leave something out.
Dennis Crayon: That Which Was Once Whole On view through Jan. 2 at the Art League Gallery, Torpedo Factory, 105 N. Union St., Alexandria. 703-683-1780, theartleague.org.
The two local artists in “Steel the Show,” in the lobby gallery of 1111 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, combine the industrial and the lyrical, albeit in different proportions. Richard Binder’s stainless-steel sculptures are muscular, but with gravity-taunting grace. Joan Konkel layers aluminum bands and fabric-like mesh over acrylic on canvas, combining sculpture and painting.
Binder begins with steel sheets, which he cuts, bends and welds into geometric (or occasionally organic) shapes. These can curve in aerodynamic ballet or teeter incongruously, as in “Pointing the Way,” which stacks a downward-aimed arrow atop a pedestal and below a series of circles. One of the most intriguing pieces is “Springtime,” whose flower-like forms have ragged edges. They suggest the softness of nature while acknowledging the solidity of the sculptor’s chosen material.
Several Konkel pieces feature large areas of brushed aluminum whose glistening surfaces mirror Binder’s shiny steel. The metal serves as a background for stripes and an area of mesh in the two-part “Cloudy With a Chance of Rain.” In other pieces, it’s pigment that peeks out. Bright red grounds “Piccolo,” demonstrating that paint and metal are evenly matched in the artist’s portfolio.
Steel the Show: Richard Binder & Joan Konkel On view through Jan. 14 at 1111 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. 202-783-2963. zenithgallery.com.
Joan Konkel’s favored metal links the five artists in “Aluminosity,” a Black Artists of D.C. show at District of Columbia Arts Center. Most of the artwork is printed on aluminum panels, although one artist incorporates aluminum foil into mixed-media canvases.
Several of the entries are reproductions of painterly originals, but the shiny surfaces are better suited to hard-edged images. These include Gloria Kirk’s “Classic,” a photographic detail of an old automobile, and Russell Simmons’s multi-hued “Colorlines.” The standouts are Nanno Smith’s intricate paintings, which mix foil and threads into impastoed acrylics. These pictures include circular motifs and silhouetted animal shapes that recall cave paintings. Like earlier painters who were inspired by “primitive” art, Smith imbues simple motifs with sophistication.
Aluminosity On view through Jan. 7 at District of Columbia Arts Center, 2438 18th St. NW. 202-462-7833. dcartscenter.org.
In Lara Huff’s “Through the Web,” a girl gazes outward through a sort of screen. Does it represent the ones Huff used to print some of the pieces in “CTRL+P”? Perhaps not, but the Mansion at Strathmore exhibition does showcase the traditional skills and materials employed by Printmakers Inc., a collective based at Alexandria’s Torpedo Factory. These 11 artists don’t make prints simply by pushing a pair of buttons on a computer keyboard.
Most of the pictures are representational, in styles that vary from John Gosling’s delicate renderings of local scenes to Pat Sargent’s bold portraits of Hedy Lamarr and Billie Holliday, their black lines overlaid with subtle color accents. Yet among the strongest entries are Judith Coady's abstract monotypes, whose vertical oil-pigment stripes are embellished with pencil and silver leaf. Her “Ladder Series” hints at landscape and motion while relishing the sheer pleasure of alternating bands of contrasting hues.
CTRL+P On view through Dec. 31 at the Mansion at Strathmore, 10701 Rockville Pike, North Bethesda. 301-581-5109. strathmore.org/fineartexhibitions.