Historically, nature artists split between those who go big and those who stay small: depicting solid landscapes or ephemeral phenomena. That divide doesn’t quite apply to the sculpture of Emilie Brzezinski and Dalya Luttwak, who are showing together in the American University Museum’s “Finding a Path.” Although Brzezinski’s chain-sawed tree-trunk pieces are burlier, Luttwak renders roots and seedlings in steel, not exactly a delicate material.
The juxtaposed sculptures on display in the outdoor sculpture space are billed as “a conversation.” Brzezinski’s and Luttwak’s site-specific pieces are placed close together but mostly remain separate. Any of the parts could be exhibited independently, even the two pieces of “Mother Earth,” which snakes a gold-painted metal vine through a hollowed-out trunk.
The other duets are less intimate. “Split Open” comprises two wooden forms that resemble halves of an oversize, split-open nut, one side of which sits on a tangle of white steel twigs. Three cut logs are the horizontal element of “Cedars and Vines,” contrasting vertical tendrils, all red save for one in black, that trail the concrete wall.
The brutalist, greenery-free sculpture garden is both a backdrop and essential to the compositions. In a sense, both Brzezinski and Luttwak work with found objects, although Brzezinski hacks real trees, and Luttwak replicates the forms of actual vegetation. For this matchup, the third ready-made is the space itself.
Several of Luttwak’s sculptures, all painted gold, are included in Watergate Gallery’s “Origin.” The show pairs them with collage-paintings by Arrigo Musti, an Italian who met Luttwak when both exhibited at the 2011 Venice Biennale. Their art is shown side-by-side, not check-to-cheek as in Luttwak’s dance with Brzezinski.
Musti applies paint by dripping rather than brushing, and he incorporates lace, thread and other materials into his work. The bright colors and loose gestures appear contemporary, but most of the images are modeled on ancient Greek and Roman frescoes and mosaics. From a distance, the layers and textures suggest artworks made with clay and plaster and damaged by millennia of wear. Seen up close, however, Musti’s pictures reveal a randomness that is anything but classical.
Emilie Brzezinski and Dalya Luttwak: Finding a Path Through Dec. 16 at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center, 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW.
Dalya Luttwak & Arrigo Musti: Origin Through Nov. 10 at the Watergate Gallery, 2552 Virginia Ave. NW.
Love, Hope and Street Art
Domesticated for the moment by Honfleur Gallery, the five alfresco artists of “Love, Hope and Street Art” offer mostly realist renderings that draw from pop culture. The featured contributor is Luis Peralta Del Valle, a Nicaragua-born Washingtonian with skills worthy of a 19th-century salon painter. He puts the street into idealized portraits such as “The Rose That Grew From Concrete” with graffiti-style backdrops, or by actually painting on bright-orange traffic signs. Cleverly, De Valle appropriated a historic-Anacostia marker for a rendering of one of the neighborhood’s most eminent former residents, Frederick Douglass.
Several of the paintings, and all of Cory Stowers’s spray-painted tags, were made directly on the gallery’s walls. The artist known as HKS 181 draws with pencil on paper, displaying a strong of sense of design. This quality is shared by Asad Walker, whose clean-lined “Skull” might appeal to either a corporate marketing firm or a motorcycle gang.
Alicia “Decoy” Cosnahan combines graphic-novel simplicity with Catholic imagery, and in one picture adds the 1980s D.C.-punk emblem that replaces the stars in the D.C. flag with X’s. If Cosnahan has a less heroic style than Del Valle, both ground serious themes with local details. The streets these artists romanticize are ones that D.C. denizens walk daily.
Love, Hope and Street Art Through Nov. 10 at Honfleur Gallery, 1241 Good Hope Rd. SE.
The symbolism might not be intentional, but the only man depicted in the show “#PhotographForProgress” is a bodybuilder whose frame is the footing for a woman standing atop him in Deanna Templeton’s beach scene. This show’s photos, all of them portraits of a sort, focus on women and girls, as seen by women.
That kinship aside, the photos aren’t closely linked. They are in both color and black and white, and feature both the everyday and the exotic. Satomi Sugiyama and Susan Flaherty capture single figures in near-silhouette; Anna Barlund and Anna Indalecio show duos in white face: one set of geishas and the other made up for a Day of the Dead celebration.
Sofia Lee’s camera gazes at a young woman with pink-blond hair who gazes right back. But most of these photos place their subjects in a larger context, whether it’s the desert-industrial landscape of Clara Vannuchi’s shot or the deep night of Chrissie White’s portrayal of a tiny figure under a towering viaduct. Rather than perch atop their worlds, most of these women fit right in — visually, at least.
#PhotographForProgress: A Journey Through the Female Perspective Through Nov. 7 at Leica, 977 F St. NW.
The Art of Change
After Charles Krause opened his gallery in 2011, he mounted shows of ideological and dissident art from earlier eras, much of it related to his former career as a reporter for The Washington Post and other outlets. But current events overtook the venue, recently transformed into the nonprofit Center for Contemporary Political Art. Its first exhibition, “Defining the Art of Change in the Age of Trump,” is heavy on breaking news.
Not all the more than 100 artworks directly address the current administration, but the show is not recommended for anyone suffering from Trump fatigue. And skillfully made as they are, such visual polemics probably won’t age well.
Satirical realist painter Michael D’Antuono depicts the presidents of the United States and Russia together on a rearing red, white and blue elephant, flanked by a palace guard of prominent Republicans. George Kennedy parodies Norman Rockwell’s four-freedoms illustration, interjecting Trump and his circle. Patricia Isaza uses real straw for the president’s hair in a fierce sculptural rendering. Kevin Champeny’s Trump portrait is made of hundreds of tiny plastic hands with upturned middle fingers.
Defining the Art of Change in the Age of Trump Through Nov. 14 at the Center for Contemporary Political Art, 916 G St. NW.