Kathryn Polk has a story to tell, but she’s not entirely sure she wants to divulge it. The immaculately made lithographs in the Arizona artist’s “The Innate Thread” offer some information about her childhood, and the status of women, in the 1950s and ’60s. But many of the most intriguing touches in the Pyramid Atlantic Art Center show are cryptic, their meaning private.
Polk portrays women and girls in clothing that hints Eisenhower is still president, with them often doing domestic tasks as traditional as the artist’s printmaking style. Some are clearly trapped in their roles, whether by the girdle worn in “Hergatory” or by the expectations that caused the woman in “Caught in the Act” to have the word “guilty” literally written all over her face. Some of Polk’s subjects toil so hard that they’ve grown an extra arm or two.
There are occasional acts of protest: A little girl runs a rolling pin over art, not dessert, in “I Make Prints Not Pies.” But most of the unusual elements are more surreal than political. One of two pink-frocked sisters, representing the artist and her sister, lacks a mouth. Fires, cactuses and the word “Christmas,” inscribed on flesh, are motifs. (Asked about the significance of the word by the gallery director, Polk declined to reveal its meaning.)
Whatever the untold narrative, the prints are captivating. Polk shrewdly matches rough to highly detailed renderings in the same picture, much the way she juxtaposes the ordinary and the fantastic. In “The Fireman’s Daughter,” the handles of an oversize set of scissors double as a pair of eyeglasses. If these lenses provide a novel way of seeing, that’s appropriate to Polk’s singular vision.
Kathryn Polk: The Innate Thread Through Aug. 26 at Pyramid Atlantic Art Center, 4318 Gallatin St., Hyattsville.
Calligraphy meets — and sometimes overwhelms — expressionism in Yuki Hiyama’s abstract paintings. Whether the Japanese artist would agree with that formulation will remain a mystery, because she doesn’t speak. Hiyama suffered a brain injury when she was born in 1977, and she communicates primarily through her art.
Hiyama’s style has, unsurprisingly, a childlike quality. Yet the works in Touchstone Gallery’s “Yuki’s World” indicate a growing sophistication. The pictures are identified only by numbers, applied chronologically, and the more recent ones demonstrate more assured technique and composition. The Hiroshima artist (whose sales partly benefit a school in that city for children with disabilities) deftly contrasts color and line, flamboyance and reserve, opacity and translucence.
Although Hiyama signs her artworks “Yuki,” in Roman letters, the influence of Asian calligraphy is evident. Freehand gestures convey energy and individuality, while open white space suggests calm and eternity. Hiyama’s world is idiosyncratic, but not altogether unprecedented.
Yuki’s World Through Aug. 31 at Touchstone Gallery, 901 New York Ave. NW.
Aside from being diminutive, many of the 30 prints in “2018 National Small Works Exhibition” are linked by their means and style. They’re realistic, rendered in exquisite detail, and entirely in black on white. But some pieces have traces of color or flashes of whimsy and occasionally both. In the print that took the top prize in the juried Washington Printmakers Gallery show, Marco Hernandez depicts pre-Columbian Indians who water plants with Super Soakers — the only things in the picture that are colored in.
Jueun Shin’s underwater scene sets off its fine lines with a sea of pale blue, and Jake Muirhead’s portrait of an “Irish Girl” appears monochromatic, but in deep red rather than black. Adriana Broerman’s playful linocut is among the more colorful offerings, but it employs just two hues to depict a cartoonish red rabbit on a background of light and dark blue.
Disparate works by Joanne Price and Brian Cohen show the versatility of black-and-white etchings and engravings. Cohen’s “Rock” peers directly at its subject, using its simple form for an elegant exercise in tonal control. Price’s “Small Pond” gazes down at a coiled fish that seems to be flying above a boat far beneath it. The two use similar processes, but the latter’s dramatic perspective makes for a very different experience.
2018 National Small Works Exhibition Through Aug. 26 at Washington Printmakers Gallery, 1641 Wisconsin Ave. NW.
It’s a refreshing theme for a summer art show, but the ice pop is a year-round passion for local painter Cory Oberndorfer. He’s known for realistic, large-scale portraits that play on the term “pop art,” flaunt garish food-color hues and evoke childhood memories.
For “Pop: Recall” at Metro Micro Gallery, the artist has arranged small works on paper around a massive sculpture of an old-fashioned treat: the push-up pop, a tube of flavored ice in a paper wrapper. The surrounding pictures are more abstracted than Oberndorfer’s usual work, yet summon the intended recollection: the illustrations on the side of an ice-cream truck.
Alexandra Sherman uses watercolors whose liquidity suggests melting in her paintings of ice pops, which are a small part of WAS Gallery’s “Ice Pop Lollipop Art Pop.” The group show also features Sherman’s abstract paintings on waterproof synthetic paper, which causes the pigment to pool, swirl and dry unevenly.
Among the other offerings are Travis Childers’s photo-collages, notably of faces; Gayle Friedman’s blue-on-white ceramics, notched by impressions of hands or hand tools; Elle Friedberg’s delicate prints and collages, some of which feature hand embroidery; and Joumana Moukarim’s tiny renderings of slotted chairs and the shadows they cast.
As basic in form as ice pops, but here given a wintry vibe, are the blooms of Jen Noone’s assemblages. These are mostly in shades of gray, with whispers of floral pastels. For the most striking piece, she covered peonies in concrete, fastened their stalks with a lace bow and hung the arrangement upside down. This subverts the flowers’ natural appeal yet still endows the bouquet with a severe beauty.
Cory Oberndorfer: Pop: Recall Through Sept. 8 at Metro Micro Gallery, 3409 Wilson Blvd. (Kansas Street side), Arlington.
Ice Pop Lollipop Art Pop Through Sept. 1 at WAS Gallery, 5110 Ridgefield Rd., Bethesda.