Instances of terror and days of idleness are both evoked in “Postcards From the Trenches: Germans and Americans Visualize the Great War,” an exhibition to mark the 100th anniversary of the onset of World War I. The title of the show at the Pepco Edison Place Gallery doesn’t refer primarily to preprinted material, although there is some of that. The most striking of the postcards are original watercolors sent by German soldier Otto Schubert to apparent paramour Irma Muller. They show one man’s war but suggest the experiences of cohorts on both sides of the barbed wire.
Most of Schubert’s compact paintings depict everyday activities. While these benign images may have been designed not to upset the soldier’s correspondent, he did send her vivid little pictures of a burning building and a horse bucking under fire. The selection also includes some Schubert lithographs, which are even more unsettling; among their subjects are burials, corpse-strewn battlefields and hand-to-hand combat.
Schubert’s opposite number in this show is George Harding, an American. He also portrayed quiet moments, which are, of course, the easiest times to reach for paper and pencil. But the most potent of his lithographs and charcoals, starker than Schubert’s work, conjure mayhem with a minimum of lines.
The show also includes such artifacts as medals, helmets and sheet music, and large reproductions of illustrations from German newspapers. There’s a well-known print, not directly related to the war, by George Grosz, one of the conflict’s notable artistic escapees on the German side. (He faked a mental breakdown to get discharged.)
Among the most interesting printed items are propaganda postcards from both the Allied and the Central Powers; the latter’s villains include a Union Jack-festooned spider that’s spinning an ominous web across Europe. The imagery now seems quaint, but the rancor remains palpable. While Schubert’s and Harding’s illustrations show a shared humanity, these speak to the equally human tendency to demonize one’s neighbors.
Postcards From the Trenches: Germans and Americans Visualize the Great War. On view through Sept. 27 at Pepco Edison Place Gallery, 702 Eighth St. NW, Washington; 202-872-3396; www.postcardsfromthetrenches.com.
Working with thread, latex paint, floor plans and other things related to house and home, Maggie Gourlay sketches places where she used to live. Her works, often faint or white-on-white, are minimalist, but not just as an aesthetic tactic. The elements missing from her Adah Rose Gallery show, “So I Will Let It (the Ugly Wallpaper) Alone and Talk About the House,” represent memories lost to time.
Gourlay’s father worked for the State Department, as she later did. So the dwellings the local artist attempts to rebuild in her mind are literally distant. One motif is the design of Moroccan tiles and wallpaper, recalled from a period in Marrakesh. These patterns are sometimes superimposed over blueprint-like drawings made with glued-down lines of thread. (Gourlay always leaves some twirls of loose fiber to show it was rendered with thread and not ink.) Wisps of decoration can also be identified, just barely, in the “Residue” and “Chipped Paint” series, which hint at the multiple levels under clean white surfaces.
The show includes an installation, “Entropy 2014,” in which spheres of crocheted embroidery floss surround sections of wall coated with white latex paint. Simultaneously tidy and messy, the piece evokes the decay of feelings as well as places.
Maggie Gourlay: So I Will Let It (the Ugly Wallpaper) Alone and Talk About the House. On view through Sept. 28 at Adah Rose Gallery, 3766 Howard Ave., Kensington, Md.;
Lines are essential to most printmaking, and Linda Rose LaRochelle doesn’t exclude them from her current show at Washington Printmakers Gallery; the figures in “The Painterly Print” are often outlined, and most wear striped clothing of some kind. But these monotypes (one-of-a-kind impressions) are indeed painterly. The local artist applied ink to linoleum plates and then transferred the bright colors and fluid brush strokes to sheets of paper. The simple forms and blocks of red, green and blue suggest Matisse cutouts, but sometimes LaRochelle allows the pigments to mingle and blur.
The subject is classic: mother and child. Most of the women cradle toddlers, although two substitute cats for children. Of these, “Kitten and Mistress II” stands out for its more sparing use of color. The cat and woman are rendered only in black and white, creating a vivid contrast between them and the other elements, which include stars and a moon in the background and one of those striped scarves. This approach, sparer yet still painterly, is worthy of further investigation.
Linda Rose LaRochelle: The Painterly Print — Recent Monotypes. On view through Sept. 28 at Washington Printmakers Gallery, 1641 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington; 202 669 1497; www.washingtonprintmakers.com.
The work of two Kurdish emigres, of different generations and different experiences, complement each other in Foundry Gallery’s “Colors of Kurdistan.” Ramzi Ghotbaldin, born in 1955 and resident in Paris since 1990, melds French impressionism with West Asian folk art. Sardar Kestay, born almost 20 years later and an emigre (in the United States) for only a year or so, has a more fluid style and a more haunted outlook.
Landscapes and still lifes by Ghotbaldin appear somewhat realistic from a distance yet nearly dissolve when observed closely. The human figure is absent from his work, but there are hints of conflict in such pictures as “Bouquet Sauvage,” in which an arrangement of colorful flowers sits at the center of an ominously hued scene.
With watery acrylics that sometimes depict sheets of rain, Kestay paints female dancers in scenes that rarely feel joyous. In “Body . . . Grief and Pain,” nine figures lurk behind multicolored drips. Three paintings of a lone dancer, all titled “When the Body Speaks,” include one that’s splashed with bright orange and green; the others are muted save for some red. Maybe it’s the news rather the picture itself that makes the suggestion, but it’s hard not to see that crimson as blood.
Ramzi Ghotbaldin and Sardar Kestay: Colors of Kurdistan. On view through Sept. 28 at Foundry Gallery, 1314 18th St. NW; 202-463-0203; www.foundrygallery.org.
Jenkins is a freelance writer.