Maybe it doesn’t mean anything that Maggie Evans conceived “Human Hierarchies” during a residency in China. But the Savannah, Ga., artist’s installation, now at Flashpoint Gallery, does seem to reflect a society organized, if along different lines, by Confucius and Mao.
Hundreds of miniature chairs face a single one, identical save that it’s on a pedestal. The stark seats — unoccupied, yet strongly suggesting their sitters — are sort of Terra Cotta Warriors for the conference-room age. The unseen people are not divided, at least not visibly, by vocation or class. Every phantom person is alike in the sea of sameness, except the one whose chair is elevated and pointed the other way.
Actually, there are tiny differences. The chairs were molded in four shades of plastic, from near-black to charcoal gray. The hue gets ever-so-slightly darker as the chairs recede from the front; the rows also get messier toward the back of the room, a realm notorious for harboring nonconformists and malcontents.
Gray is a color for uniforms, including the flannel suit that was a 1950s metaphor for the American midlevel corporate executive. But gray also is the color of graphite, and Evans’s furniture arrangements begin as delicate pencil drawings on filmy rice paper.
Soft yet crisp, the freehand pictures of lined-up chairs are precise enough for architectural renderings. Although the subject is essentially geometric, the drawings depict the effects of light and distance to a surprisingly sensuous effect. The “Human Hierarchies” installation can be read as making a variety of sociological observations. The drawings are simply beautiful and, ultimately, more memorable.
Maggie Evans: Human Hierarchies On view through Saturday, Jan. 9 at Flashpoint Gallery, 916 G St. NW. 202-315-1305. culturaldc.org/visual-arts/flashpoint-gallery.
Examining Dana Westring’s pictures of Cambodia, it’s easy to guess that the Virginia artist has a background in architectural illustration. His drawings and watercolors, on display with Mark Willems’s at Susan Calloway Fine Arts, focus on the buildings of the Angkor Wat area, not on the jungle that has largely overgrown them. One vignette shows a tree growing from a ruin, but Westring usually emphasizes arranged stone and open, blue-streaked sky. The work is measured and precise, and all the more so in pencil drawings on tan paper, which subtract all color except for a few white-chalk accents. The abandoned edifices represent “the fleeting impact our will has on history,” Westring writes.
Unlike Westring, Willems is not a detail man. The Los Angeles artist’s ink and watercolor sketches indicate contour and motion with the fewest possible lines. The male and female nudes — and a few horses — are defined with brushstrokes that outline the bodies, although occasionally they imply such internal structures as the spine. Spontaneity is key; these drawings succeed by being as fluid as the movements they freeze.
Dana Westring & Mark Willems On view through Saturday, Jan. 9 at Susan Calloway Fine Arts, 1643 Wisconsin Ave. NW. 202-965-4601. callowayart.com.
The titles of Jan Kern’s “Collaged Paintings” disclose not only her international influences but also her lack of interest in simply mirroring them. The D.C. artist’s Corner Store show references Mexico and Morocco, countries whose decorative styles are as bright as their sunlight. But a composition titled “Moorish Echoes in Bali” suggests what Kern does with the colors and motifs she spots on her journeys: rips, chops and reassembles them.
The artist’s earlier work compounded found objects, but now Kern combines scraps of her own paintings, executed with acrylic on canvas. She paints or cuts basic geometric shapes, sometimes complicating the pieces by punching through the fabric or drawing freehand patterns in the pigment before it dries. Squares and triangles alternate with such abstracted body parts as the palms and fingers of “Hands Dance With Zebra Stripes,” the most Matisse-like of the lot. Some of Kern’s assemblages are framed by black rectangles, but they’re all rhythmic and upbeat. In her vision, what links Africa, Asia, Latin America and us is music for the eye.
Collaged Paintings by Jan Kern On view through Saturday, Jan. 9 at the Corner Store, Ninth Street and South Carolina Avenue SE. 202-255-2180. cornerstorearts.org.
Small formats, elemental motifs and muted hues are among the attributes that link much of the work in Long View Gallery’s multi-artist “Holiday Group Show.” Gian Garofalo’s acrylics on paper are as boldly colored as the work of such inspirations as Gene Davis and Frank Stella. But their streamlined “X”s dovetail with those of Lori Katz, whose slab-built stoneware squares are in subdued earth tones and use such basic figures as boxes, circles and parallel lines, sometimes raised above the main surface. Laurel Lukaszewski’s ceramic tangles are fully three-dimensional, but their dangling, dynamic spirals are rendered in only black or ivory.
There are vivid colors in Anne Marchand’s mixed-media paintings, which contrast hard-edged shapes and free-form gestures, and in Zachary Oxman’s two “Homage to Alma” pieces. The latter are smaller, simplified versions of the sculptor’s tribute to the late D.C. painter Alma Thomas, which is installed on the wall of a building nearby at Seventh and O streets NW. Oxman’s interpretation of a Thomas painting is hidden from direct view, but reflected onto a mirrored cone. The lustrous surfaces complement those of Mike Weber’s gold-on-black portraits of animals both wild and domestic, coated with resin to produce a seemingly metallic sheen.
Perhaps the quietest offerings are Val Rossman’s abstract pastels, also square. They emphasize airy grays and oceanic aquas, with occasional intrusions of pink or green. Misty in effect yet solid in craft, Rossman’s pictures exemplify this handsome show.
Holiday Group Show On view through Saturday, Jan. 9 at Long View Gallery, 1234 Ninth St. NW. 202-232-4788. longviewgallery.com.
Jenkins is a freelance writer.