Sculptures by Elizabeth Miller McCue, "Circle of Life," left, and "Nesting Ground," right. (Elizabeth Miller McCue)

Plastic foam, wooden sticks and VHS tape are not the most monumental of materials, but then one of the advantages of building “Micro-Monuments” is that they needn’t be made of durable substances. In fact, it’s appropriate that some pieces in this Washington Sculptors Group exhibition are relatively fragile.

Now at the Center for Hellenic Studies, the 23-artist array was first shown at a museum in Schonebeck, Germany, close to where a restoration of the 4,300-year-old “German Stonehenge” opened to the public in July. Although possibly related in design and use to the better-known British stone circle, Schonebeck’s was made of wood, and thus rotted into near oblivion.

Most members of the Washington Sculptors Group, whose president is the German-born Artemis Herber, didn’t respond directly to the site. Elizabeth Miller McCue’s “Circle of Life” was inspired by Schonebeck’s Neolithic graves, although its painted bronze forms could be taken for lily pads. Mike Shaffer’s foam-based “Pyramid of Djoser” is modeled on an Egyptian structure from 2630 B.C. Those are the only apparent forays into ancient history, and the other architecturally inspired pieces look to the much more recent past. Jonathan Guyer, for example, made earrings that emulate details of New York’s art deco American Radiator Building.

A few of the sculptures had to be micro because they’re constructed from small items. Tom Greaves purposely misassembles model-car kits into boxy, shiny abstractions. Others reduce larger worlds to microcosms. Jim Paulson’s “Landscape: Memories of the Moors” is a mixed-media slice of simulated rock, earth and grass, with a windmill and a cloud atop. Leigh Maddox’s “Changing Landscapes” overlaps two slices of glass painted with abstracted scenery; the view shifts not with the weather but with the viewer’s position.

Several participants offer downsized versions of ideas for which they are well known: Carol Brown Goldberg’s bronze assemblages of faucets, electrical sockets and such; Jin Lee’s blocks of concrete, shattered by wood and metal wedges, and Julia Bloom’s wired-stick cages and nests. Even more nestlike is Stephanie Firestone’s contribution, which fixes terra cotta eggs in wire frames, and another McCue piece, a tangle of coiled silver wire.

Garrett Strang’s sloping arrangement of steel plates, both rough and elegant, is a maquette for a bigger piece. Other sculptures, notably two bronzes by Felicia Glidden, might serve the same role. An enlarged version of her muscular yet playful “Tripod,” a five-pronged piece that balances on only three of them, could tower over a plaza.

“Miniaturization is a symptom of our times,” Herber writes, but a handful of these micro-monuments are ready to get large.

Micro-Monuments On view through Oct. 15 at the Center for Hellenic Studies, 3100 Whitehaven St. NW. 202-745-4409. chs.harvard.edu.

Infrastructure

Local artist Trevor Young paints airplanes, generating stations and other things burly, dynamic and everyday. His aesthetic informs, yet doesn’t dominate, “Infrastructure,” an 11-person show he curated for Addison/Ripley Fine Art. The work encompasses Frank Hallam Day’s vast photos of hulking ship hulls, Richard Vosseller’s 3-D wing model, made of steel and rice paper, and Olivia Rodriguez’s sculpture of a shovel used to scoop excrement.

That last piece is one of the most direct acknowledgments of nature in a show that extols the man-made. William Christenberry’s “Roadside Tableaux” features an antique Coke sign. With oil on linen, Valeri Larko paints a McDonald’s, and Andrew Fish a crosswalk, seen from above. Young’s lone painting depicts power lines in the dark, illuminated in the center by a halo-like glow. In these artworks, the commonplace can be strange and even sacred.

Where Day seems most interested in rich color and texture, others seek patterns. Crossing the country with black-and-white film in her camera, Cynthia Connolly found a series of inadvertent X’s; she even printed some on postcards, as though they were landmarks in need of acknowledgment. “Infrastructure” celebrates things people have built, but not necessarily for the reasons they were built.

Infrastructure On view through Oct. 15 at Addison/Ripley Fine Art, 1670 Wisconsin Ave. NW. 202-338-5180. addisonripleyfineart.com.


Cindy Kane. "Wing on Wing," on view at Cross Mackenzie Gallery. (Cindy Kane/Cross Mackenzie Gallery)

Cindy Kane

Whether perched in rows or speeding outward from the center of the composition, birds teem in Cindy Kane’s paintings. Yet the message of the Massachusetts artist’s show at Cross MacKenzie Gallery, “Wing to Wing,” is not the 19th-century notion of nature’s boundless profusion. The selection includes a photo of Kane’s “Empty Skies Project,” an installation of death beds for avian extinctions. Each includes a pillow on which Kane has painted an example of the lost species.

The pictures in this selection, although rendered just as exquisitely, have a more whimsical tone. The title piece, the only one to feature butterflies, catalogues 144 different wings like treasures from an organic jewel box. The birds of “Neighborhood” are painted on pages of a 1970s directory from the Fairfax County development where both Kane and gallery proprietor Rebecca Cross grew up. Also included are nearly two dozen hand-painted magazine covers, which imagine birds instead of humans as the latest news. Perhaps that will actually happen before the skies empty.

Cindy Kane: Wing to Wing On view through Oct. 5 at Cross MacKenzie Gallery, 1675 Wisconsin Ave. NW.  202-337-7970. crossmackenzie.com.


Michael Fischerkeller. "Bubble Burst (Homelessness)." (Michael Fischerkeller/The Art League Gallery)

Michael Fischerkeller

The pictures in “The Art of Politics,” Michael Fischerkeller’s Art League show, have some of the characteristics of political cartoons. Each one is a symbolic vignette on a single theme, such as campaign finance and global warming. But the local artist, who has a doctorate in political science, works with acrylic spray paint and rarely portrays political notables. Although President Obama and Vladimir Putin are here, the central figures are women in colorful gowns, arrayed in classical poses against black backdrops.

The word “art” in the show’s title, it turns out, is something of a joke. The women who appear in these paintings are lifted from earlier ones by the likes of John Everett Millais and Edward Burne-Jones, aesthetically backward-looking Victorian Britons. The collaged pictures juxtapose these retro images with pop-art appropriation, graffiti-style technique and immediate concerns such as the Syrian civil war. Borrowing archetypal women from earlier eras may be an art-history joke, but Fischerkeller’s concerns are entirely up-to-date.

Michael Fischerkeller: The Art of Politics On view through Oct. 2 at the Art League Gallery, Torpedo Factory, 105 N. Union St., Alexandria.  703-683-1780. theartleague.org.