The 6-foot-tall head-and-shoulders renderings combine cutout facial features, blocks of bold acrylic colors and patchworks of magazine and document clippings chosen for either texture or content. Many of the cuttings are from periodicals once published for the African American market, but Johnson’s portrait also includes part of a copy of a racist letter whose complete form is mounted on the adjacent wall. The threatening screed, sent to Johnson anonymously, is so abhorrent that it may shock even people hardened by regular exposure to Twitter.
Hutchins, a former lawyer who owns Florida Avenue Grill, has a studio at Pyramid where he produces serigraph (also called silk-screen) prints. First, he crafts mixed-media depictions of the sort shown here. When satisfied with this precursor, he distills it into a smaller print. That’s what he did with his Baldwin portrait, the only collage-painting that hangs next to a serigraph derived from it. (It was made to mark the 95th anniversary of Baldwin’s birth last month.)
Hutchins is an archivist who has surrounded these pictures with objects from his own collection. His concept of “Inheritance” isn’t entirely academic, though. One of the portraits is of Yvonne Hutchins, the artist’s mother, looking stylish in what appears to be a 1960s-vintage hat and jacket. A subtitle identifies her as the daughter of Lyman T. Johnson, which means Imar Hutchins is his grandson. These portraits splinter likenesses like light through a prism, yet some of them commemorate linear connections.
When Marcelo Suaznabar dreams, he sails to his own version of “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” the H.G. Wells novel about a rogue experimenter and his hybrid animals. The most elaborate painting in the artist’s “Lucid Dreams,” at the IDB Staff Association Art Gallery, includes a fish-headed woman with a body that’s either furry or feathery. She shares a wheeled tub with an egg-like, long-tongued head, while a curled-up cat lounges nearby. In addition to Wells, Suaznabar’s vignettes recall Henri Rousseau, Salvador Dali and Dr. Seuss.
Born in Bolivia and living in Toronto, the artist combines a comic-book sensibility with classical oil-painting skills. His eccentric beasts have bulbous bodies, generally covered with polka dots or other regular pattern; the ungainly beings are supported by vestigial limbs or tentacles, and often teeter on some antique conveyance. Yet the creatures are rendered so deftly that they seem almost plausible.
When experiencing a lucid dream, a person both submits to and directs the reverie. Suaznabar’s control is demonstrated by his technique. His brushstrokes are delicate, nearly invisible and — on most of the smaller pictures — finished with a fine layer of gleaming resin. This hybrid-maker is less mad scientist than master surgeon.
Shay & Tinaut
The colors in Ginevra Shay’s and Maria Tinaut’s photographs can be so vivid they seem palpable, yet the pictures’ subjects are elusive. According to the title of the artists’ De Novo Gallery show, the images depict “Fictive Certainties.” It might also be said that the photos turn absence into presence.
Tinaut, who divides her time between New York and her native Spain, calls attention to what’s missing with three collages of photo-booth self portraits. These are sliced into narrow strips that frame blank rectangles, making emptiness central to the sequence. The artist also employs cyanotype, the process used to make blueprints, to make triptychs and a diptych of battered-blue rectangles. With colors as weathered as pairs of old jeans, the blocks seem to be found objects more than invented pictures.
Ginevra Shay primarily offers chromogenic photographs of unidentifiable objects and scenes. The most potent of her pictures appear to pulsate as if they capture cosmic auras or electrical fields. The Baltimore artist, who’s also showing a shadow-casting copper sculpture and a video of a changing sky, makes vertical pictures that fit well with Tinaut’s cyanotypes. Both artists show us little that can be specified, yet their fictions pack a strong sense of actuality.
Ginevra Shay and Maria Tinaut: Fictive Certainties Through Oct. 5 at De Novo Gallery, 1287 Fourth St. NE (entrance on Neal Place).
An abstractionist who’s unafraid of real-world references, Natasha Karpinskaia makes monotypes that evoke a garden of pastels. “Carousel,” the title of the Russian-born Connecticut artist’s show at Susan Calloway Fine Arts, suggests that the prints are in blurry motion around the viewer at the center of room. Yet while the pictures share soft shapes and gentle hues, some of them can be identified as being from a separate series.
Along the long wall farther from the space’s stairs, the prints feature large areas of grassy green set off by dawn-sky purples and seeded with flowery yellow blobs. The facing wall contains works that appear more architectural, constructed from fuzzy rectangles and such specific forms as the ladder that bisects “Stairway to Heaven.” The marks that punctuate Karpinskaia’s color fields can be gray or etched into the color to yield white lines.
Monotypes are made by drawing and painting on a flat plate, which is then pressed against a sheet of paper. Because the image on the plate is not etched or raised, it can’t be printed the same way twice. That gives Karpinskaia’s pictures a spontaneity that suits her organic inspirations. The carousel revolves around renderings of life in motion.
Natasha Karpinskaia: Carousel Through Oct. 5 at Susan Calloway Fine Arts, 1643 Wisconsin Ave. NW.