The walls of Studio Gallery are now lined with mirrored medicine chests, but Chris Chernow and Abigail Maxey don’t intend for visitors simply to look at their reflections. The local artists want everyone to see inside — the cabinets and their own craniums. That’s why the show is titled “Brainstorm.”
The selection combines Chernow’s paintings and drawings with Maxey’s sculptures, all of which can be found both within and outside the vintage, somewhat rusted metal chests. As titles such as “Neurons” indicate, the striking white-on-gray pattern paintings allude to microscopic internal pathways. The drawings are of human heads, placed unnervingly behind the mirrors.
Also enclosed are small, white resin renderings of people, most of them inside pill bottles. Some of the containers hold white tablets — they’re just saccharine — rather than figures, as if the physical and the pharmaceutical have achieved a disturbing equivalence. In “Escape,” the figures are trying to get out of the bottles, but permanent confinement is always a possibility. Climbing out of your head is no easy thing.
Brainstorm: Chris Chernow and Abigail Maxey On view through April 22 at Studio Gallery, 2108 R St. NW. 202-232-8734. studiogallerydc.com.
Observers can see themselves also in Esther Ruiz’s sculptures at Cross MacKenzie Gallery, but what’s essential here is the sense of depth beyond the reflected visage. These neon-rimmed, sometimes kidney-shaped pools of colored Plexiglas are called “Wells” because they hint at dimensions past their glossy surfaces. Their Brooklyn-based creator calls them “wormholes or portals to . . . other worlds.”
Only one of the pieces is a watery blue, and it’s edged in a neon pink that’s more akin to commercial signage than a natural hue. Another of the sculptures, which are all titled just with Roman numerals, flips that color scheme, to even more exuberant effect. There’s one that’s grass-colored, like a shimmery putting green, and outlined in a darker emerald. A fourth is deep black, but speckled with white. Rather than eternal darkness, it evokes a starry night.
Shown together, Ruiz’s wells not only mirror people in the gallery, but also one another. Although not as tightly arrayed as neon signs along an attention-seeking street, the sculptures do conduct a luminous, multicolored dialogue. Perhaps they must be seen individually for their capacity to access other worlds to be appreciated fully.
Wells: Neon sculptures by Esther Ruiz On view through May 3 at Cross MacKenzie Gallery, 1675 Wisconsin Ave. NW. 202-337-7970. crossmackenzie.com.
Because they’re listed alphabetically, Larry Ringgold comes third among the artists of “Into the Woods.” But the sculptor contributed both the most and the most striking pieces to the show in the 1111 Pennsylvania lobby space programmed by Zenith Gallery.
On the wall are four colorful multifabric tapestries by Amanda Richardson, a Cornish artist who crafts landscapes that are dense with hand-dyed, appliquéd foliage. Nearby are wooden sculptures by James Butler, whose figures are as spindly as Giacometti’s, although more acrobatic.
Ringgold also works with wood, but he doesn’t shape it himself. Instead, he collects pieces that wash ashore throughout the Chesapeake watershed, and then combines them into sculptures that are often impressively realistic. Ringgold has a discerning eye. He sees what a chunk of wood could be, and how it might best fit with others.
This selection includes fanciful beasts such as a mermaid and a centaur. But “Egret,” “Charlie” (a horse) and “The Great Escape” (in which a rabbit eludes a raptor) would fit as neatly into a natural-history museum as an art gallery. The wooden remnants the artist uses give his creatures a coiled intensity, suggesting sinew and even flesh. Ringgold might not actually sculpt the parts of his assemblages, but he does transfigure them.
Into the Woods: James Butler, Amanda Richardson and Larry Ringgold On view through April 29 at 1111 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. 202-783-2963. zenithgallery.com.
By definition, collage is a motley medium, so it makes a certain sense that Latela Gallery’s 16-artist “Collage Group Show II” allows work that ventures into painting and sculpture. Tamora Ilasat’s “Olympia Redux” is partly painted over a reproduction of Manet’s original; Aliana Grace Bailey’s “Quiet Flame” gathers fabric to suggest flowers; and Imani Pierre’s pictures include lines rendered with string and thin sticks rather than ink or pencil.
Several pieces conjure places, whether outer space in Rachel Wishner’s black-backdrop works or 11th Street in one cityscape by Mills Brown, who tightly clumps shards of urban imagery on white fields. Kate Fitzgerald’s abstractions suggest landscapes, an affinity highlighted by incorporating scraps of maps. Less collage than history lesson is Sarah Canzoneri’s “Food Vendors,” which offers contrasting views of D.C. past and present, cut into strips so that each entire image can be seen intact from opposite vantage points.
Collage suited Dada and Surrealism’s absurdism, which Sarah Jamison recalls with two combines that feature retro glamour girls. One pops out of a banana before a backdrop of upside-down Chinese text. These playful juxtapositions take the genre to its logical destination: the impossible.
Collage Group Show II On view through April 29 at Latela Art Gallery, 716 Monroe St. NE, Studio #27. 202-340-3280. lateladc.com.
Washington Printmakers Gallery recently added photography to its menu, and its current exhibition has painting, as well. But “Wild About Spring” is not a group show. All of the work is by Marian Osher, a Marylander who calls herself an “eco-artist.” She has arrayed the monotypes and paintings below nearly three dozen photographic close-ups of flowers, all trimmed to fit 6½ -inch wooden circles.
If those blossom miniatures are the show’s vernal parade, the wildness emanates from realistic prints and paintings that are mostly of African megafauna, notably lions. Osher draws on Mylar and then makes a single print of the image, preserving the character of the original. Although her pictures might benefit from a freer hand or a less literal approach, combining them with the floral photos makes for an exuberant display.
Marian Osher: Wild About Spring On view through April 29 at Washington Printmakers Gallery, 1641 Wisconsin Ave. NW. 202-669-1497. washingtonprintmakers.com.