When Jason Gubbiotti’s recent work is seen in reproduction, its sharp edges, bright colors and geometric forms suggest computer-generated imagery. A visit to Civilian Art Projects, where Gubbiotti’s “War Paint” is on display, reveals something else entirely. The artist contrasts flat surfaces and straight lines with texture and depth, and he stresses the paintings’ handmade quality. These machine-like abstractions could only have been made by a human.
Gubbiotti, who once lived in Washington and now lives in France, salutes his former home — or at least its art scene — with paintings dedicated to the late Tom Green (who taught Gubbiotti at the Corcoran) and Colby Caldwell. He also shows an affinity for Washington Color School predecessors who worked without brushes. Gubbiotti reportedly owns two, but he often applies paint with rollers or squeegees. Among his other favorite tools: razor blades, to incise tiny grooves into areas of seemingly uninterrupted pigment, and masking tape, used not only to assure crisp boundaries but also to build up planes of such colors as gray, copper or pool-table green. About 40 layers of paint underlie “End of August,” whose mostly black surface cloaks an array of submerged shapes.
Other disruptions include curved wooden panels, such as the one veering out at the top of “Beautiful Weapons,” and cut and torn canvases. “I Am Rainbow” grafts pieces of linen and canvas, and one of the horizontal stripes in “Stay Alpha” is actually a rip that reveals a green band on the wooden panel below. “Honor thy mistake as a hidden intention,” counsels “Oblique Strategies,” Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s set of instructive maxims for artists. Perhaps that’s what Gubbiotti does. In these painstakingly made and thought-out pieces, though, no detail ends up looking like an error.
Jason Gubbiotti: War Paint On view through Dec. 20 at Civilian Art Projects, 4718 14th St. NW. 202-607-3804. www.civilianartprojects.com.
As she demonstrates with a series of monotypes now at Honfleur Gallery, Sheila Crider can layer complexity onto a flat image. But her show is titled “Volume” because of its other work, which comes off the wall more assertively than Jason Gubbiotti’s. The D.C. artist paints on a variety of paper, cuts the sheets into partial strips and then hangs them so that gravity chooses their contours. The artworks turn into banners, DNA-like helixes or — in the case of the brown-red “Volume 11” — sinews that suggest an anatomy textbook or a butcher shop.
Crider’s technique recalls Sam Gilliam, who began exhibiting unframed canvases in the 1960s. But most of Crider’s hanging pieces are snipped into thin segments, so they dangle rather than drape. The two artists also possess different color senses: Crider paints mostly in a single hue or a limited tonal range, relying on shape and light to vary the effect. Yet the acrylic pigment (and occasionally plasticized paper) gives the works a contemporary sheen. Where the artist’s attractively muted prints are largely in earth and rain tones, punctuated by an occasional red slash, her sculptural paintings boast a city-street vitality.
Volume: Sheila Crider On view through Dec. 19 at Honfleur Gallery, 1241 Good Hope Rd. SE. 202-365-8392. www.honfleurgallery.com.
The late artist Alma Thomas was best known for arranging daubs of paint in irregular columns, sometimes employing a lone color but often the entire rainbow. Most of her preparatory work in “Thirteen Studies for Paintings,” at Hemphill Fine Arts, follows this model, but it’s not the only kind of painting she did. The show also includes circular formats and other variations, all done on paper with watery acrylic, save for one actual watercolor — a floral-like abstraction that’s closer to French impressionism than the Washington Color School painters to whom Thomas is loosely linked.
Thomas (1891-1978) started painting seriously only after retiring in 1960 after 35 years as an art teacher at Shaw Junior High School. Unlike the celebrated Washington colorist Morris Louis, whose working methods remain largely a mystery, Thomas left behind many studies. These preliminary sketches reveal how she combined several compositions into one, sometimes cutting and combining sheets of paper.
Aside from that insight, the rough drafts offer colors and shapes that can be subtler and more fluid than in the painter’s mosaic-like paintings. In a few of the mostly untitled studies, Thomas’s trademark columns blur into something not unlike a color field. Rather than resembling shards of pottery, the marks suggest such natural forms as leaves, ripples or reflections. These works may be tentative, but that gives the best of them an appealing ephemerality.
Alma Thomas: Thirteen Studies for Paintings On view through Dec. 20 at Hemphill Fine Arts, 1515 14th St. NW. 202-234-5601. www.hemphillfinearts.com.
Although the holiday gift-giving season is the occasion for shows at two local art spaces, the items on display are largely untraditional. “Urban Bungalow,” a 14-artist selection at Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery, includes jewelry and stoneware but also Peter Malinoski’s handmade electric guitars and Shawn Arlauckas’s artisanal skateboards. And “Home Is Where the Art Is II,” a nine-artist array at Eleven Eleven Sculpture Space, features ceramics and furniture as well as a neon-flamed walnut menorah by Margery Goldberg, whose Zenith Gallery programs the space.
Among the nonfunctional attractions at Eleven Eleven are elegant sculptures by Michael Young, who conjures trees with aluminum and neon, and Alison Sigethy, whose mushroom-, jellyfish- and shell-like glass forms may be attached to a wooden slab or submerged in tubes of bubbling water. The aquatic works have a kinship with two of the more memorable porcelain creations at Hisaoka: Yoko Sekino-Bove’s “Ocean Land” sushi set and Laurel Lukaszewski’s parlor-size “Octopus.” One is practical, the other less so, but both evoke salty breezes.
Urban Bungalow On view through Dec. 20 at Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery, 1632 U St. NW. 202-483-8600. www.smithcenter.org/arts-healing/joan-hisaoka-art-gallery.html.
Home Is Where the Art Is II On view through Jan. 3 at Eleven Eleven Sculpture Space, 1111 Pennsylvania Ave NW. 202-783-2963. www.zenithgallery.com.
Jenkins is a freelance writer.