Michael Francis Reagan. "In the Mekong Delta" from the "Bird Deam Series." Oil, acrylic, watercolor, ink, graphite, charcoal, and varnish on Strathmore board, 30" x 40", 2014; on view at Gallery A. (Courtesy Michael Francis Reagan and Gallery A/Courtesy Michael Francis Reagan and Gallery A)

With an elegance that suits such publications as Harper’s, Outside and Smithsonian, Michael Francis Reagan paints maps that illustrate regions and history. Some of these work-for-hire watercolors are included in “Ways of Flying,” at Gallery A. But most of the pictures are more personal, combining the North Carolina artist’s avian and literary interests with material from his dreams and nightmares.

A map-collage series charts the careers of Van Gogh (who collected bird’s nests), Goya and Audubon. These acknowledge the violence of the men’s lives — Audubon killed birds to paint them — and eras. Sometimes, Reagan’s personal history enters the imagery. The artist prepped planes on an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War, an experience indirectly recounted in the bloody sky and distant fire that frame the red-necked heron at the center of “In the Mekong Delta.”

That picture is one of several large paintings of birds, rendered in oil and acrylic as well as watercolor and ink, that prove Reagan can work in a bolder mode than the one of his magazine work. Yet the artist still likes to convey information, whether it’s about war-torn Spain in Goya’s time, oil fields and refugee camps of the Middle East or red tailed hawks’ mysterious enmity for rattlesnakes. (They kill them, but not for food.) Nature is red of claw in Reagan’s work, but also extraordinarily beautiful.

“Way of Flying” closes Oct. 31, but some of the pieces will remain on display through November.

Michael Francis Reagan: Ways of Flying On view through Oct. 31 at Gallery A, 2106 R St. NW; 202-667-2599; www.alexgalleries.com.

Kathryn Freeman. "Into the Trees," 2014, oil on linen, 36 x 48”; on view at Jane Haslem Gallery. (Courtesy Kathryn Freeman and Jane Haslem Gallery/Courtesy Kathryn Freeman and Jane Haslem Gallery)
A Look at the Past

Printmakers are listed first in the subtitle of the current show at Jane Haslem Gallery, “A Look at the Past,” but the two artists who rate the most wall space are painters. An entire room is devoted to the luminous watercolors of George Harkins, whose pictures of stream-etched landscapes are both delicate and epic. Such large paintings as “Cascade and Reflection” capture the gentle play of light and the energetic rush of water, in fastidious detail yet with unbridled brushwork.

Also included are three paintings by Kathryn Freeman, a local artist whose whimsical scenes often feature dogs. In one, pooches prance around a garden whose topiary has been cut into canine shapes; another picture spoofs the tradition of the female nude by displaying a woman in the rapt gaze of a four-legged admirer (while a cat diffidently looks the other way). The show’s bestiary also includes an elegant Leonard Baskin crow and a somewhat ominous kangaroo, by veteran D.C. painter Joe White.

The show’s prints, too various to be encapsulated, range from a 1908 John Sloan etching to pieces done in the last few years by woodcut master Gordon Mortensen and hyperrealist Peter Milton. The latter, who switched from traditional techniques to digital printmaking, represents the up-to-date nature of this look at the past.

A Look at the Past: American Printmakers, Painters and Works on Paper On view through Oct. 31 at Jane Haslem Gallery, 2025 Hillyer Place NW, 202-232-4644, www.janehaslemgallery.com.

Dalya Luttwak

Silhouetted branches and roots might not seem versatile artistic subjects, but they’re playing many roles at the moment in local galleries. They serve as counterpoint to boldly colored, graffiti-like gestures in Angela To’s vigorous urban/rustic paintings at Cross MacKenzie Gallery, and as stark, brushstroke-like forms in Paul Jett’s austere painting-like photographs at Susan Calloway Fine Arts. And they achieve a literal third dimension in Dalya Luttwak’s “Germination of Gold,” sculptures that represent complex root structures in black-painted steel.

Luttwak’s show at the Greater Reston Arts Center includes an array of dried foliage. The sculptures identify their inspirations, from soybean plants and running bamboo to the ever-controversial Cannabis sativa. Yet the artist’s work is not simply illustrative. The multifold metal strands, whether attached to wall, floor or ceiling, spawn elaborate shadow patterns that transcend botanical depiction.

Luttwak paints the trunk root gold, to symbolize that it pulses with life. This also highlights that the constructions are metallic, not fibrous. The emphatic gold even gives some of the pieces, such as the thick-cylindered “Root of Beech Tree,” an industrial air. As opposed to Le Corbusier’s architectural “machines for living,” Luttwak’s sculptural roots are machines for creating and sustaining life.

Dalya Luttwak: Germination of Gold On view through Nov. 1 at Greater Reston Arts Center, 12001 Market St., Reston; 703-471-9242; www.restonarts.org.

Gene Davis

The back room at Marsha Mateyka Gallery contains one of Gene Davis’s early stripe paintings, “Sunball,” a 1960 composition of thick regular bands in yellow and orange, bracketed by blue-green combos on each side. But the bulk of the pictures in “Gene Davis: Intuitive Color” are from 1952-56, and were executed without benefit of a straight-edge.

The show’s goal is to demonstrate what the freehand drawings have in common with the ruled paintings for which the late D.C. artist is known. The answer is: color and line. Both are important in the earlier work, although the lines are scraggly and spontaneous. Straightening them out allowed Davis to amplify his flair for contrapuntal hues, which later reached a jazzy intricacy that retains the spirit of his loose-limbed beginnings.

Gene Davis: Intuitive Color
On view through Nov. 1 at Marsha Mateyka Gallery, 2012 R St.
NW; 202-328-0088; www.
marshamateykagallery.com

Antonia Ramis Miguel

The largest painting in Antonia Ramis Miguel’s “Constructivist Perceptions” is based on a section of “Las Meninas,” perhaps the best-known canvas by Diego Velázquez. That 17th-century Spanish master is a logical influence on Miguel, who is Spanish and divides her time between D.C., Cape Cod and Majorca. Yet the principal style of her Watergate Gallery show is constructivism, which arose in early-20th-century Russia, although her link to it is through Uruguayan artist Joaquín Torres García.

Constructivism is associated with architecture, so it’s not surprising that some of Miguel’s most cogent pictures are cityscapes and depictions of arch-supported interiors. These stress the subjects’ geometric planes. There are also echoes of another Spaniard, Picasso, in still lifes of fractured ceramics and fruit. Less striking are Miguel’s depictions of horses, cats and human faces, which disrupt the images without transforming them.

Antonia Ramis Miguel: Constructivist Perceptions
On view through Nov. 1 at
Watergate Gallery, 2552 Virginia
Ave NW; 202-338-4488; www.
watergategalleryframedesign.com.

Jenkins is a freelance writer.