Some of the 43 printmakers chosen for “Ink It” at BlackRock Center for the Arts refuse to restrict themselves to flat sheets of paper — or even to use paper. Among the most potent pieces in this survey of recent work by Mid-Atlantic artists is Nikki Brugnoli’s robustly blackened “Back Field #1,” which adds freehand graphite and India-ink gestures to a silk-screen on Mylar. Still, there’s much classic technique on display, as is to be expected in an array that includes prints by local virtuosos of line such as Jake Muirhead, Carol Moore and Eve Stockton.
Color can be fundamental, too, as in Stockton’s “Burst — var. 122,” a woodcut orb whose metallic silver seems to levitate over a blue field. Anne Smith’s “Potomac Prints” is a set of 20 horizon lines, rendered in gradations of color. These near-abstractions are in portrait rather than landscape mode but can be seen as river views. Yet the show’s most vibrant color study, Cookie Kerxton’s “Monotype Spheres III,” doesn’t reveal any subject other than shape and hue.
Nature is a frequent motif, notably in two heavily populated prints: Veronica Barker-Barzel’s “Brown Tremblers of Guadeloupe,” depicting a flock of tightly grouped birds; and Richard Hricko’s “Second Growth,” which places the viewer almost inside a dense thicket. The assortment includes conventional renderings of people, but more intriguing are pictures in which clothing suggests missing figures: Pauline Jakobsberg’s “Extra Buttons,” a paper garment on a real metal hanger; and Amy Helminiak’s “The Way My Garden Grows,” which plants two pieces of underwear amid flowers to represent transgender identity.
Selected by Smithsonian American Art Museum curator Crawford Alexander Mann III, the works represent nearly a dozen techniques, including laser printing. Mostly, though, “Ink It” is a showcase of traditional printmaking expertise, however untraditional the subject or theme.
Ink It: Contemporary Print Practices Though March 30 at BlackRock Center for the Arts, 12901 Town Commons Dr., Germantown.
and Alvarez Yurcisin
“To Eat or Not to Eat” is not actually the question, except for someone contemplating a hunger strike. What the three local artists of this show at Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery are really asking is: What to eat? And what are the effects of that choice?
Maria Karametou, who organized the show, arranges edibles to illustrate ecological issues. Chains of blackened banana peels represent the risks of single-crop agriculture, while floral arrangements of garlic peels celebrate the healthy diet of the artist’s Greek childhood. Tea bags imprinted with pictures of hands symbolize the loss of direct contact with the plants people consume, which are increasingly picked and processed by machines.
Fabiola Alvarez Yurcisin blends cuisine and geography, offering a map of the District’s demographics (as of the 2010 Census), in which the different colors are spices, cornmeal and other foodstuffs. More personally, her set of photographs depicts a dozen tortillas, each embellished with a self-identifying noun. The 12-word autobiography journeys from “Mexican” to “American” via “artist” and “immigrant.”
Migration is also a theme for Elsabe Dixon, a South Africa-bred artist who’s known for work inspired by keeping bees and silkworms. Her hivelike structures include one made mostly of rubber and latex and another in which oversize cells are filled with rounds of bread, save for one loaf made of beeswax. Just like humans, bees gather, manufacture, store and transport food. But what Dixon calls “our cross species affinity” with the insects hasn’t worked out so well for them. And plummeting bee populations are an ominous portent for our species as well.
Elsabe Dixon, Maria Karametou and Fabiola Alvarez Yurcisin: To Eat or Not to Eat Through March 30 at Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery, 1632 U St. NW
Nostalgia is a lot sleeker than it used to be, or at least that’s how it appears in the work of Luke Ikard and Curtis Miller. The two Baltimore artists in Hamiltonian Gallery’s “IRL” conjure childhood memories, but in streamlined form. Video games from the 1980s and ’90s inspire Miller, whose paintings feature arrangements of bars and tiles in computer-age colors. Ikard simulates domestic interiors with projections and 3-D-printed models of furniture, notably bunk beds.
Miller’s pictures are similar to mid-20th-century hard-edged color abstractions, but with a few forays outside the pieces’ own borders. Several are framed within a larger frame, and stray pigment from the central area sometimes leaks onto the off-white inner border. Such quirks give a human nature to compositions that emulate machine-made imagery.
Ikard’s fake furnishings have clean and simple lines, and the architectural forms flickering on the wall behind the objects also are austere and geometric. But the beds, tables and lamps are eerily unreal, and the projections are partly distorted, as if to indicate gaps in youthful memory. The actual and virtual elements combine to suggest a haunted house outfitted by Ikea.
Curtis Miller & Luke Ikard: IRL Through March 30 at Hamiltonian Gallery, 1353 U St. NW.
The alluringly odd creatures inhabiting Studio Gallery’s main floor are made of such industrial materials as plaster and cement, yet they seem midway through an organic process of transformation. That’s partly because many of the sculptures in Trix Kuijper’s “The Art of the Improbable” resemble cocoons, albeit with protruding baby-doll-like heads. Another common attribute is a forehead that extends into a curved form that looks like a rhino horn. The Dutch-born Virginia artist’s creations suggest a collaboration between a toymaker and a gene-splicer.
Kuijper’s whimsical list of ingredients doesn’t list animal horns, but her concoctions do incorporate found objects. Many are battered or rusted metal whose well-worn look complements the simulated aging of the white surfaces to which they’re affixed. Springs serve as earrings, and heads are topped with red balls, an inverted funnel or yarn, and a pair of knitting needles. A tree sprouts from another cranium, echoing the surreal imagery of one of the artist’s three pictures on display in the gallery’s basement group show. Whether painting or sculpting, Kuijper depicts a world in impossible yet somehow believable flux.
Trix Kuijper: The Art of the Improbable Through March 30 at Studio Gallery, 2108 R St. NW.