In 1980, when he was better known as the synthesizer player for the Urban Verbs, local painter Robin Rose and fellow artist Kevin MacDonald devised Scriptronics, in which amplified felt pens produce sound as someone draws. But the Verbs broke up, Rose spent a few years in New York, MacDonald died in 2006, and Rose abandoned the process. Now he’s reconsidered, and the McLean Project for the Arts is offering “Scriptronics: An Art for the Future.”
It’s a three-part show. The introduction tells about the Verbs, Rose and MacDonald’s collaborations and downtown Washington in the early 1980s, when the neighborhood was much livelier (and much less upscale). The main gallery showcases Rose’s encaustic paintings, which mix pigment and wax in undulating or crosshatched patterns that somewhat resemble those used to produce both sound and line in Scriptronics.
Finally, there’s a drawing-board-and-amplifier setup, where Rose has demonstrated the technique and offered his sound-enabled markers to participants. At one workshop, the artist wrote in an e-mail, a woman with Down syndrome tried her hand: “It was very moving and intense. When she finished she turned toward everyone and said over and over, ‘Bravo bravo bravo.’ ”
No more demonstrations are planned, but visitors can still view Rose’s paintings and prints, many of which are in muted colors. Rather than the rumble and squeak of Scriptronics, these pictures suggest the ambient music of onetime Verbs collaborator Brian Eno. They also evoke the cool hand of MacDonald, whose large pencil drawing of the Verbs’ musical equipment flanks the real public address setup at the other end of the gallery.
Nearby at the venue is “Color Riffs,” Barbara Januszkiewicz’s suite of paintings named for blues songs. The local artist has explored the style of the Washington Color School in watercolor, but she recently adopted those painters’ favored medium — diluted acrylic on unprimed canvas. Januszkiewicz’s pictures can resemble Morris Louis’s “florals,” yet her style is hotter, with a hint of the abstract expressionism the Color School abandoned. She allows grains of undissolved pigment to show and occasionally applies paint thickly rather than having it seep into the fabric. Such twists don’t revolutionize the Color School style, but they do endow it with welcome energy.
Rose and Januszkiewicz share more than the proximity of their shows and an interest in combining music and visual art. Both had in recent years sought the wisdom of Paul Reed, the last of the original Color School artists, who died Sept. 26. Reed spurred Januszkiewicz’s switch to acrylic and gave her vintage canvas to encourage her. Reed “could not have been a cooler guy,” Rose says, with a “wonderful curiosity to the end.”
Robin Rose Presents Scriptronics: An Art for the Future and Barbara Januszkiewicz: Color Riffs On view through Oct. 24 at McLean Project for the Arts, 1234 Ingleside Ave., McLean. 703-790-1953. www.mpaart.org.
For the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Japan, the University of Maryland Art Gallery is showing more than 80 posters by artists from around the world. (Most are new, but a few date from a similar effort in 1985.) The starkly powerful placards in “Questioning the Bomb: History and Non-Proliferation” are heavy on red and black, stylized bomb shapes and such universally understood symbols as the skull and bones. Origami, cherry blossoms and Japanese fans are inevitable motifs, as are the dove and the mushroom cloud. Also recurring are the names of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, written in Japanese characters or Roman letters, and “heiwa” (“peace”) in Japanese.
Some of the images seem too gentle to be an adequate response. Doves peck at a missile, and a bomb mutates into a feather; another bomb bears the slogan “All we need is love” and is trailed by a heart-shaped cloud. In a misfired attempt at whimsy, a manga-style Benihana chef filets a bomb as if it were a shrimp, accompanied by a slangy epithet.
Nearly all the posters, however, are beautifully executed and demonstrate the force of simple ideas and direct expression. One just highlights the “n” and the “o” near the beginning of the names of the two devastated cities; another, in the style of an Asian ink painting, shows a tree whose roots are drips of blood. The poster’s spare lines are as ominous as the black wires that outline the skeletal model, hanging at the gallery’s rear, of the bomb that hit Nagasaki.
Questioning the Bomb: History and Non-Proliferation On view through Oct. 23 at the Art Gallery, 1202 Art-Sociology Building, University of Maryland, College Park. 301-405-1474. artgallery.umd.edu.
While a show of his paintings and mixed-media work is at the temporary Georgetown space of Virginia-based Artful Living, Eduardo Cardozo has been walking the neighborhood with pencil and paper. He makes representational sketches that look very unlike the finished pieces in “The Other Side” but are the basis for his style.
The Uruguayan artist melts natural forms into abstract compositions that employ mostly pale, earthy colors.
Because of their light hues, the pictures have an open feel yet are complexly layered, sometimes with bright colors almost buried under white and tan. Acrylic provides the substrata, with oils on top; ink and pencil may intrude, adding line to the patches of soft color. The results look worn and ancient, as if weathered by rain and wind.
Cardozo takes the shapes he saw yesterday, or last year, and turns them into things that appear to have existed for ages.
Eduardo Cardozo: The Other Side On view through Oct. 31 at Artful Living pop-up, 1666 33rd St. NW. 703-447-9848. www.artful-living.org .
One way to turn a white-box gallery into a cave would be to cloak the room’s edges and dim the lights. For “Chromatic Canyon,” Elisa Berry Fonseca did neither. She recast Vivid Solutions Gallery by filling it with tapered formations made of stacked, multicolored scraps of felt. Some rise from the floor, supported by metal rods; others hang from the ceiling. The tallest is more than six feet high. Although the colors range from subdued to day-glo, and the shapes from naturalistic to abstract, the constructions fit together conceptually.
Grouped tightly together at the center of the room, the pieces combine to produce a strong sense of place. It’s possible to negotiate a path on foot through Fonseca’s installation. But the cloth buttes and spires are so suggestive of Monument Valley that the proper means of transit would seem to be a stagecoach.
Chromatic Canyon: Elisa Berry Fonseca On view through Oct. 27 at Vivid Solutions Gallery, 1231 Good Hope Rd. SE. 202-580-5972. www.vividsolutionsgallery.com.
Jenkins is a freelance writer.