The three humanoids in the window of Honfleur Gallery, gilded like metal yet lumpy like clay, appear both primal and modern. Jeri Hubbard’s intriguing figures aren’t typical of the venue’s “12th Annual East of the River Exhibition,” but neither are any of the pieces in this diverse survey. All that the 10 artists share is that they’re based in Wards 7 or 8 and that their work is three-dimensional, which doesn’t necessarily mean sculptural.
Among the most powerful entries are hanging assemblages by Ibe Crawley, who combines gun parts, boxing gloves, and metal chains and rings to evoke a legacy of struggle and oppression. African American history is written even more explicitly in Malik Lloyd’s two pieces. One fills a medicine cabinet with grooming supplies, books and newspaper clippings related to Malcolm X; the other features stacks of fictional newspapers with upbeat news about black America.
Veteran neon artist Craig Kraft, whose new studio is next door to Honfleur, gazes even further into the past for two lightbox pieces based on cave paintings. After touring prehistoric art sites in Europe, Africa and Asia, Kraft created multihued glass panels of handprints and feather forms, illuminated from behind with flickers that simulate fire light.
The array includes two items that are basically memorials, even if they’re not on a heroic scale. Jay Coleman’s mixed-media rendering of a man sitting atop the globe puts a U.S. flag over his shoulder and plants green turf in the shape of Africa on the orb. Nicaragua-born Luis Peralta Del Valle, the most traditional of the contributors, offers a statue of a kneeling yet apparently defiant man.
The show also includes Lisa Duluth Swanson’s ceramic foot and hands; Diane English’s woven-wire “Tree of Life”; Lyric Prince’s paper sculpture, embellished with dripped red stripes; and jewelry by Amber Mimz, who transforms found objects such as corks and dice. Mimz’s combines aren’t as fraught as Crawley’s, but both artists deal in remaking, redefining and possible rebirth.
12th Annual East of the River Exhibition Through July 28 at Honfleur Gallery, 1241 Good Hope Rd. SE.
Chile native Joan Belmar often draws from the history and topography of his birthplace, enlisting motifs from maps and the body paint of an indigenous tribe that was largely exterminated. Belmar’s new work explores a different sort of landscape: the chiaroscuro canvases of one of the most influential Italian painters. “Beguiled by Caravaggio,” at Adah Rose Gallery, builds abstractions out of the proto-baroque artist’s intense hues and sumptuous details, while incorporating elements familiar from Belmar’s earlier work.
The pictures were made mostly on paper and with a mix of ink and several kinds of paint. They’re keyed to a single primary color and a range of rich blacks, set off by white wooden frames. The darkest tones recall Caravaggio’s trademark deep shadows, while the shapes of “Conversation #1 (Red)” resemble the folds of classical drapery. It’s as though Belmar has burrowed into small patches of the Italian master’s dramatic compositions.
The paintings also feature Belmar’s usual circles and dashed lines, which suggest charts, diagrams and stylized renderings of stars and solar systems. Two horizontal “trainscapes” in blue and red conjure a sense of motion, inspired by the journey to the former Washingtonian’s current home in the Hudson River Valley. The show departs symbolically from 16th-century Italy and ends up, somewhat more literally, in Poughkeepsie.
Joan Belmar: Beguiled by Caravaggio Through July 21 at Adah Rose Gallery, 3766 Howard Ave., Kensington.
The best-known photographer regularly shown at Addison/Ripley Fine Art is Frank Hallam Day, who discovers whole worlds in phone booths or ship hulls. E. Brady Robinson, whose “It’s Complicated” is at the gallery, takes a more fragmentary view. Her pictures are off-kilter close-ups and on-the-fly glimpses, often grouped in sets of complementary or contrasting impressions.
A former D.C. resident now based in Baltimore, Robinson shoots all sorts of things, but with an emphasis here on the travails of the young and the restless. Her portraits frequently show only part of a subject’s face, and she often documents messages of discontent, whether scrawled on a wall or delivered by the latest technology: “I hate your negative energy,” “I will not come home drunk” and “my bed is much too big without you” are among the plaints in this selection.
The results can be underwhelming individually — visually, there’s only so much that can be made of a cellphone screen — but add up to a compelling vision. Her viewpoint may be negative, but it bristles with energy.
E. Brady Robinson: It’s Complicated Through July 21 at Addison/Ripley Fine Art, 1670 Wisconsin Ave. NW.
Previously at Susan Calloway Fine Arts, Katie Pumphrey showed paintings of animals, the least realistic of which depicted underwater creatures. The Baltimore artist’s “Five More Minutes,” split between Calloway and the Athenaeum, paddles deeper into abstraction. The color schemes are often aquatic — Pumphrey is a long-distance ocean swimmer, after all — but literal representation has evaporated.
Her goal is to express the sensation of having just five minutes left, whether to endure calmly or accomplish something quickly. Many of the pictures juxtapose large areas of a single color, often of hard-edge geometry, with flurries of loose, spontaneous brushstrokes.
Of the two shows, the Athenaeum’s is more striking, simply because the venue’s larger space is better suited to Pumphrey’s biggest canvases and to “Tug-o-War,” a two-sided, free-standing piece. But the artist’s strategy is effective even at its smallest scale., such as two square pictures at Calloway that nervously pit opacity against translucence. They are titled, aptly, “Jitters.”
Katie Pumphrey: Five More Minutes Through July 21 at Susan Calloway Fine Arts, 1643 Wisconsin Ave. NW, and through July 22 at the Athenaeum, 201 Prince St., Alexandria.