“Drop, Hover, See-Through, Lean” — the subtitle of a three-artist exhibition at the McLean Project for the Arts, is appealingly straightforward. Barbara Josephs Liotta’s sculptures do seem to hover, although they don’t disguise the strings that suspend the stone shards. Annie Farrar combines found objects into vertical assemblages and then slants them against the wall. Joan Belmar arrays plastic forms in wall-mounted boxes — abstract dioramas that are literally if not thematically transparent.
The show’s full title is “Manifesting Phenomena: Drop, Hover, See-Through, Lean,” and it’s that first part that’s tricky. The three area artists seem less inclined to manifest than to manipulate. Liotta contrasts heft and weightlessness, taunting gravity by seeming to float rocks in midair. But she sometimes emphasizes artifice, allowing dangling string to pool on the floor or arranging green stones on a descending scale in a piece that resembles musical notation.
Farrar’s materials, which include a lot of brooms, are often made of wood. So bundling the items into upright clusters suggests that she’s returning them to their origins as trees, except that she denatures the lashed-together pieces by painting them black, yielding an industrial look. Belmar’s constructions hint at both landscapes and the maps that chart them. But placing the elements behind plastic gives them a sense of distance — the remove from his Chilean homeland? — and even mystery. While Liotta’s and Farrar’s art exists palpably in space, Belmar’s appears just out of reach.
Although it’s in a separate space, Jean Sausele-Knodt’s “Out for a Spin” is a good fit with the arts center’s main show. The artist’s wall sculptures are partially abstract, while incorporating the forms of clouds and foliage. Yet the organic shapes are conjured from building materials, as such titles as “Concrete Mix One” and “Rebar Mix Two” indicate. Like Farrar, Sausele-Knodt returns manufactured articles partway to a state of nature.
Manifesting Phenomena: Drop, Hover, See-Through, Lean: Works by Joan Belmar, Annie Farrar and Barbara Josephs Liotta and Out for a Spin: Mixed Media Paintings by Jean Sausele-Knodt On view through March 7 at McLean Project for the Arts, 1234 Ingleside Ave., McLean. 703-790-1953. www.mpaart.org.
The Washington Project for the Arts’ annual auction show is not a comprehensive overview of the D.C. art scene, but it usually includes a fair number of highlights from recent exhibitions. So it is this year with “Select 2015,” at Artisphere until the auction and gala March 7. There’s one of Jason Gubbiotti’s hard-edged abstractions, as seen at Civilian Art Projects; a black metal weed by sculptor Dalya Luttwak, recalling her show at Greater Reston Arts Center; and a garishly gorgeous Bangkok phone booth, from the series that photographer Frank Hallam Day exhibited at Addison/Ripley.
Most of the artists are local or locally rooted, but finding anything else that links them is a challenge. Some pieces are as inside-the-Beltway as New York artist A.J. Bocchino’s “Washington Post (State of the Union),” which collages headlines of presidential pronouncements all the way back to Rutherford B. Hayes. Others clearly depict someplace else, such as the sign outlined against a granulated L.A. sky in local photographer Cynthia Connolly’s picture.
Photography is well represented with images such as Kwame Shaka Opare’s ironically titled “Black Faces,” in which several figures conceal themselves from the camera so that the only visible visage is a picture on the back of a sweatshirt. The sculpture tends toward modest materials, such as the white plastic fasteners that Sui Park assembled into the spiny “Wiggling” or the cardboard boxes employed by Nara Park and R.L. Tillman. The latter’s “Aphorisms” offers tips that have nothing to do with the sometimes arcane concerns of contemporary art: “Call your mother,” recommends one, while another instructs, “Lose some weight . . . just 5-10 lbs.”
Select 2015: WPA’s 34th Annual Art Auction Exhibition On view through March 6 at Artisphere, 1101 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. 703-875-1100. www.artisphere.com.
In Western cultures, beading has traditionally been considered women’s work, so it’s not surprising that all but one of the 15 artists in “Bead” at the Greater Reston Arts Center “Bead” are female. But it’s the lone man, David Chatt, who celebrates the domestic arts. His tribute to his mother, “If She Knew You Were Coming,” is a kitchen vignette in which a mixer, a cookbook and other common objects are covered in shiny grains of glass.
Some of the artists, who hail from across the country, playfully refer to customary crafts. Karin Birch combines beadwork and stitching with watery pigment in samplers that owe as much to color-field painting as to Victorian embroidery. Lindsay Obermeyer constructs beaded pillows whose designs are modeled on white blood cells, recalling her experience with cancer. Sherry Simms’s “Excessive Ornamentation” could be a bracelet or necklace, but at such a massive scale that the strand fills one wall and curls across the adjacent floor.
Moving beyond familiar uses, Sandra Wilcoxon adds beads and other decoration to bird and mammal skulls, while Teresa Sullivan used bead-weaving to shape the voluptuous angel and devil that offer competing counsel from perches on a woman’s shoulders. Nancy Terry Hooten considers both sin and fashion in “A Present for Hester,” an elaborately garnished box that holds a beaded scarlet “A.” It’s the last word — or letter — on how adornment can be a means of social control.
Bead On view through Feb. 28 at the Greater Reston Arts Center, 12001 Market St., Reston. 703-471-9242. www.restonarts.org.
To call small works of art “gemlike” is commonplace, but in the case of Laura Kinneberg’s “Serial Specimens,” the cliche is literally true. Her meticulous 6-by-6-inch prints, on display in a corner of the District of Columbia Arts Center that has been dubbed the Nano Gallery, depict items from her childhood rock and mineral collection. Each keepsake sits on a white background, shadowed in gray to highlight its imaginary solidity. Most are brown or gray, but some are vivid and even shimmering green, aqua or scarlet.
Kinneberg prints the images as silkscreens, layering multiple impressions in what she calls a “sedimentary process.” The process is somewhat improvisational, she writes, which is surprising, given the crisp and controlled results. The artist also uses letterpress to imprint information about each specimen, which adds to the old-time vibe. It might be easier to do all of this digitally. But the prints are meant to represent memories as much as scientific observations, and the craft and precision Kinneberg brings to the project is very satisfying.
Serial Specimens: Silkscreen and Letterpress Prints by Laura Kinneberg On view through March 1 at District of Columbia Arts Center, 2438 18th St. NW. 202-462-7833. www.dcartscenter.org.
Jenkins is a freelance writer.