The lines are just as likely to be sketched in space as on paper in “Drawn Out, Drawn Over,” a group show at the Brentwood Arts Exchange. Many of the works selected by curator Nikki Brugnoli are three-dimensional, and one is an exercise in civic engineering.
“Stitch” is a video in which a wheeled device inscribes a dashed white line along and around a Pennsylvania viaduct slated for demolition. The project was conceived by Lisa Austin, an art professor who’s running for mayor of Erie. The goal is not simply to define an urban detail, but also to preserve an artery that links two sides of a landscape bisected by heavily used railroad tracks. A city is a collection of lines, but also of the people who need to cross them.
In Helen Frederick’s installation, prints of bodies tumble down a wall, one nearly hitting the floor; multiples of the same image simulate falling, while around them, diamond-shaped kites appear to ascend. Rebecca Kamen combines drawing and sculpture, and paper and plastic, in her drip-pattern pictures, partly cutout and dangling. Matthew Pinney’s tactile wall sculpture is made mostly of torn canvas, but it glimmers with aluminum highlights.
There are more ways to enter another dimension, as Michael Pestel and Kate Ten Eyck demonstrate with a charcoal drawing of interlocking strands, accompanied by Indonesian-style music punctuated with avian chirps. Visually, this black-and-white piece is akin to some of the show’s most effective entries: Walter Kravitz’s large ink-and-wax-pastel abstractions and Janis Goodman’s elaborately shaded pencil renderings. The latter interject small zoological illustrations — a handful of bees, a few geese — into abstract maelstroms. Goodman makes nature drawings about the nature of drawing.
Drawn Out, Drawn Over On view through March 11 at Brentwood Arts Exchange, 3901 Rhode Island Ave., Brentwood. 301-277-2863. mncppcapps.org/pgparks/art_events/exhibitions.aspx?q=brentwood .
Like portraits, monuments are no longer limited to the rich and powerful. They don’t even have to memorialize any particular thing. The sculptures in Mike Shaffer’s American University Museum show, “Towers and Monuments,” include a ziggurat dedicated “to the train they call The City of New Orleans,” made primarily of blackened, cross-stacked railroad ties. But most of the Cumberland, Md., native’s art appears to flow from what calls his “childhood fascination . . . with building blocks.”
The bulk of the selection is in the outdoor sculpture garden, but not all Shaffer’s materials are durable enough for that. “Great White Way” is a stack of foam cups, artfully fitted together — top to top and bottom to bottom — in sets of four. Several grids of aluminum tubes suggest Sol Lewitt’s minimalism, except for shiny coatings of auto-body lacquer and an occasional playful break in geometric arrangements.
Most of Shaffer’s pieces are sleek, tidy and in a single color or a narrow range of contrasting hues. This reflects his credo — “my work is about ideas rather than things.” Yet he sometimes lets the material rudely speak, as in a spire of salvaged lumber from which bent nails protrude. The concept is immaculate, but the object is battered by real-world use.
Theoretical and actual also contend in Julie Wolfe’s sprawling “Quest for a Third Paradise,” upstairs at the same venue. Included are one of the local artist’s “Green Rooms,” an array of bottles filled with water samples dosed with extracts and chemicals. The infusions yield intense hues that Wolfe echoes in paintings, drawings and a collage that creates a color wheel from covers of books and pamphlets.
The third paradise the D.C. artist seeks is one in which nature, technology and humanity all flourish. She evokes this in pictures that suggest both organic and electronic systems, or by juxtaposing black-and-white photos with areas of pure color. In video close-ups of water, Wolfe celebrates the organic world’s continual flux. Yet her hard-edge pieces display a parallel enthusiasm for the archetypal.
Mike Shaffer: Towers and Monuments and Julie Wolfe: Quest for a Third Paradise On view through March 12 at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center, 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW. 202-885-1300. american.edu/museum.
Kurtis Ceppetelli and Matthew Malone, who collaborate as Duly Noted Painters, are offering an art-history lesson to patrons of the Watergate Gallery. The local duo’s “Modern Affinities” presents loose interpretations of works by Caravaggio, El Greco and other pre-modern masters. Small reproductions of the originals are on display for comparison, as are drawings that preceded the painting.
The artists, whose spontaneous brushwork dovetails and overlaps in each picture, retain the originals’ compositions while departing from their style. They prefer flat blocks of color and cartoon-style outlines to graduated modeling and shading, and they splash and drip pigment with the abandon of abstract expressionists.
Lurid biblical tales such as “Susanna and the Elders” are upstaged by the dramatic action of brush on canvas. Minor details, notably a green corsage in Joshua Reynolds’s “Portrait of Mrs. Collyear,” become central in the remakes. Ceppetelli and Malone are unbeholden to priests or patrons, so they’re free to explore the forms, rather than the themes, of these familiar vignettes.
Duly Noted Painters: Modern Affinities On view through March 11 at Watergate Gallery, 2552 Virginia Ave. NW. 202-338-4488. watergategalleryframedesign.com.
Charted on the map at Gallery O on H, the 43 locations of “Jonathan Weiner’s Potomac Journey” trek east from the river’s headwaters almost all the way to its merger with the Chesapeake. But that’s not how the 15 selected photographs are arranged on the wall. Instead, the visible contrasts are among the seasons, and between realistic images and nearly abstract ones.
The vantages are mostly close to the banks, although “Bend 51” employs a higher, more distant perspective. Many pictures were made just north of the District yet contain no evidence of human presence. The local artist’s website (jweinerarts.com) reveals that he has photographed people on the water. But in this group, the emphasis is on serenity and mystery. The river divides itself into reflected red, white and blue stripes in “Water Color 4,” and it turns to milky gauze in “Riley 2.” Rather than geographic specifics, this subset of Weiner’s project sings the universal lyric of water in motion.
Jonathan Weiner’s Potomac Journey: A Photographic Exploration of Our Nation’s River On view through March 10 at Gallery O on H, 1354 H St. NE. 202-649-0210. galleryoonh.com.