There are metal and wood pieces in “Louloudi: Flower / To Flower,” the Washington Sculptors Group show at the Athenaeum but also ones made with vines, seed pods and dried blossoms. Some of the two dozen artists craft works that appear fragile, while others merely forgo delicacy, using household or industrial materials. Elizabeth Burger arranged brown pods in a sunburst; Mike Shaffer placed red-painted light bulbs as the blooms in a most unnatural floral arrangement.
While “Louloudi” is Greek for flower, that theme was meant to be loosely interpreted, explains curator Renée Stout’s statement. What the art generally shares, besides its representation of foliage, is a modest scale. Artemis Herber contributed “Stems,” five towering stalks of corrugated cardboard, painted yellow-green, that evoke both Anne Truitt’s painted columns and asparagus. Yet most of the other sculptures are smaller and wall-mounted.
Both Shaffer and Annie Farrar incorporate dried flowers into all-black assemblages, defying spring’s palette and seasonal themes of rebirth. Craig Schaffer and Barbara Kobylinska fabricate curving vegetal forms from, respectively, bronze or clay. Perhaps the most incongruous substance is plastic, crimped into a sort of bush by Joel D’Orazio and planted among diverse other ingredients in several mixed-
media gardens. Whether represented in silk, steel or polyurethane, the flower remains a powerful archetype.
Louloudi: Flower / To Flower On view through May 4 at the Athenaeum, 201 Prince St., Alexandria; 703-548-0035; www.nvfaa.org.
Just a short walk away at the Torpedo Factory, an Art League Gallery show complements “Louloudi.” Natalie Shudt’s “Sway” consists mostly of simulated leaves and fronds, stitched from brightly hued silk and mounted on wooden blocks or found-wood pieces. Also included are textile lily pads, which hang from the ceiling, and fabric fungi that grip the walls the way mushrooms grow on tree trunks. The whimsy is magnified by the Virginia artist’s choice of colors, which include red, purple and peacock blue. If “Sway” evokes a greenhouse full of tropical plants, it also suggests more dreamlike experiences.
Natalie Shudt: Sway On view through May 5 at the Art League Gallery, Torpedo Factory, 105 N. Union St., Alexandria; 703-683-1780; www.theartleague.org.
Ben Van Dusen
& Roy Kesrouani
The current exhibition at Cross Mackenzie Gallery balances the fantastic and the utilitarian. “Two Architects — Design” pairs Ben Van Dusen’s large drawings of a “Cosmic Metropolis” with Roy Kesrouani’s “Spooning Armchairs,” minimalist yet comfortable seating made from thick sheets of partially recycled plastic. Both artist/architects work in black and white and employ straight lines, so that the L.A.-based Kesrouani’s functional creations fit neatly with the D.C.-dwelling Van Dusen’s rationalist fantasias.
Combining Bauhaus austerity and art deco detailing with M.C. Escher’s sense of play, Van Dusen renders elaborate, multi-panel cityscapes that soar and sprawl but always tidily. There are no visible people, and — it seems likely — no oppressed workers underground, as in Fritz Lang’s 1927 film “Metropolis.” Indeed, the wall-filling compositions don’t suggest any particular sort of inhabitant or society. Yet there is a human touch, because Van Dusen draws these computer-precise vistas by hand. He also, for those who don’t want to commit to an entire Euclidian universe, offers details of his drawings in the form of prints or wrapping paper. The latter would be ideal for bundling one of Kesrouani’s spare chairs.
Two Architects — Design: Ben Van Dusen & Roy Kesrouani On view through May 7 at Cross Mackenzie Gallery, 2026 R St. NW; 202-333-7970; www.crossmackenzie.com.
There’s something fundamentally urban about Bobby Coleman’s paintings, and it’s not just his use of spray paint to add graffiti-like markings. The title of the artist’s Randall Scott Projects show, “The Things I Think I Can Make,” refers to the way he combines observations stored in what he calls “my lexicon of available imagery, or visual vocabulary.” That draws from the overlapping, and sometimes competing, graphic vernaculars of city streets.
A 2011 American University MFA graduate who now lives in Baltimore, Coleman paints and draws on wooden panels, using pencil, permanent-ink markers and acrylic pigment. These media, along with the evident wood grain, provide a sense of multiple perspectives and accretions over time. Coleman also contrasts freehand painting with hard-edged blocks of uniform shape and color that serve as various sorts of borders. In “Where the Tracks End,” a procession of yellow bars suggest the rail lines that often divide neighborhoods.
The artist avoids the primary colors and neon hues that might suggest the commercial vitality of city life. Despite the vigor of Coleman’s approach, the results are muted. The colors have been diluted and the contours frayed, whether by urban decline or just softening memory.
Bobby Coleman: The Things I Think I Can Make On view through May 3 at Randall Scott Projects, 1326 H St. NE, 2nd Floor; 202-396-0300; www.randallscottprojects.com.
Four local artists are showing work inspired by a two-week visit to Beijing at Transformer, the gallery that organized their 2013 trip. “Atmosphere” seems to take its title from the contribution of Zach Storm, who painted slivers of smoggy sky as seen from his hotel window on 11 successive days. Rendered on aluminum with paint, gold and automotive primer, the pictures have a metallic shimmer that’s lively and lovely. The idea of breathing the air they depict, however, is not so pretty.
Stephanie Kwak’s video “smfoggy” takes an aerial tour of Chinese landmarks, surveyed by two airborne women in a playful jaunt that combines travelogue, rock video and those vintage Chinese action movies with hokey special effects. In his video “Smog,” Paul Shortt tours a fast-redeveloping capital while wearing a cloth mask over his face. But the city is Washington rather than Beijing. The two towns’s equivalence seems obvious, yet not profound. Chandi Kelley’s photographs include images of such made-in-China novelties as a toy insect and a bag of “Real Plastic Snow.” They’re two small examples of a de-natured city — and world.
Atmosphere On view through May 3 at Transformer, 1404 P St. NW; 202-483-1102; www.transformerdc.org
Mark Jenkins is a freelance writer.