From whimsy to abstraction, the six artists in “Language of Line” at Neptune Fine Art may use similar parlance, but to diverse ends. Although the show is mainly representational, its most striking works are by Linn Meyers, whose rhythmic drawings on Mylar and paper invent a world of their own.
The cast is multigenerational, with artists ranging in age from 20-something to nearly 90. The latter is Lois Dodd, whose figure studies in pencil are the most traditional offerings. Charles Ritchie also is a realist, combining drawing and watercolor in tiny, exquisitely detailed vignettes of everyday scenes in enchanted light.
There are more fanciful scenarios by Emily Francisco, populated by cats and pianos, and by Ben Tolman, who is showing a vast, elaborate cityscape shown in March at Flashpoint. Andrew Krieger’s mixed-media portraits of the inhabitants of an imaginary town are in the tradition of such puckish British illustrators as Gerald Scarfe.
All of the above has nothing to do with the style of Meyers, whose geometric patterns slide slightly but intriguingly out of control. This selection includes several sketches of seemingly topographic whorls that were transferred to glass for installation in an Arlington County government building. That’s a fittingly translucent application of the artist’s style, which often relies on overlapping. One drawing places a circle of tight black ripples atop a rectangle of broad black strokes. Another, on display upstairs, arranges red and green crosshatching in a slippery latticework. They’re just lines on plastic, but they define as complete a universe as Ritchie’s or Tolman’s intricate renderings.
The Language of Line On view through June 13 at Neptune Fine Art, 1662 33rd St. NW. 202-338-0353. www.neptunefineart.com.
Usually outfitted in the neon colors of graffiti, the Fridge was recently redone in earth tones. Local artist and scientist Peter Krsko has filled the gallery with spiraling structures of reclaimed wood, some of which stretch from floor to ceiling. The installation, “Apoptosis,” also includes some severed stumps and a few wall pieces; one features sawdust glued into clumps and another is a square block of wood, gouged gracefully with a free-swinging rotary saw. A man-made stalactite hangs down, while other constructions reach toward the room’s skylight-like sun-seeking plants.
In biological apoptosis, parts of an organism perish so the whole can achieve optimal form. But what preceded Krsko’s work was not, of course, a natural process. Trees were felled, stripped of bark and sliced into rectangular planks. The Slovakia-bred artist restores something of their previous existence to these unfinished boards by assembling them into structures that twist, taper and climb. Krsko has constructed similar pieces outdoors, attaching lengths of vertically curving wood to living trees. By bringing the technique inside, he emphasizes his sculpture’s architectural aspects. The effect is part forest, part wooden cathedral.
Peter Krsko: Apoptosis On view through June 6 at the Fridge, 516
Where Peter Krsko’s woodwork appears intuitive, Shawn Smith’s is methodical. The Texas artist models his sculpture on the imagery of computers, which use algorithms rather than instincts. The life-size creatures in “Pixels, Predators, and Prey” at Artisphere are made from small wooden pieces, hand-cut and dyed and assembled to echo the way electronic screens build pictures from blips of color. Yet the pieces, mostly wall-mounted, are made of actual strips, not virtual squares, and thus are tangible and textured.
The exhibition also is a natural-science primer that illustrates such key concepts as mimicry, evolution and predation. A pixelated cheetah chases an impala and a gazelle, both demonstrating defensive moves, and a tiger shark glides near a possible meal — a puffer fish that has swollen itself to appear more intimidating. Some pieces include objects Smith didn’t fabricate, including a crib and a wolf pelt. Something else the artist didn’t make: the show’s soundtrack, a NASA recording of oscillating noise emitted by the sun.
Metaphorically, the 3-D pixels represent organic building blocks such as atoms and cells. That big things might be made of smaller ones is not a new idea — natural philosophers proposed the existence of atoms some 2,500 years ago — and not necessarily high-tech. Smith’s sculptures will look agreeably familiar to anyone who grew up with Legos.
Shawn Smith: Pixels, Predators, and Prey On view through June 14 at Artisphere, 1101 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. 703-875-1100. www.artisphere.com.
Through the window at Transformer, passersby can see a 7
“Interspatial” is another example of contemporary art’s infatuation with architecture. Levester Williams contributes a white egg shape recessed into a notch in a white wall, perhaps a crypt from a miniature catacombs or simply a minimalist architectural ornament. Rachel Schmidt, who’s known for tableaus that feature model buildings and ship hulls, gathers those elements within a net, as if a fishing boat had just pulled them in. The assemblage is mounted high on the wall, giving it a precarious feel. The catch of the day, it seems, is a modern city that has collapsed into the sea.
Interspatial On view through June 13 at Transformer, 1404 P St. NW. 202-483-1102. www.transformerdc.org.
There’s a lot of water in Carole Bolsey’s “New Paintings/New Waterfields” at Cross MacKenzie Gallery, and very little of it is blue. The Massachusetts artist (who once lived in a Maryland house dubbed Waterfields) depicts the gentle action of ripples and currents, which correspond to the movements of her brush. Even more important are the reflective qualities of a watery surface, which can borrow the greens of nearby land or the orange of a sunrise. Capturing the moment before such hues arrive, “Dawn/Wooden Boat” is mostly silvery gray.
Many of Bolsey’s paintings include rowboats, sometimes in great detail but more often as elemental shapes in the manner of the barns that occasionally punctuate her landscapes. Interestingly, the humble crafts generally bob near the top of the composition, drawing the eye upward. That suggests the artist is just as interested in sky as in water, even if the former appears mostly as a mirrored image.
Carole Bolsey: New Paintings/New Waterfields On view through June 3 at Cross MacKenzie Gallery, 1675 Wisconsin Ave. NW. 202-337-7970. www.crossmackenzie.com.
Jenkins is a freelance writer.