With seven regional artists who work in such media as painting, photography and freeze-dried food, Arlington Art Center’s “Spring Solos” has to be diverse. Political themes do link most of the participants, although the issues they consider aren’t always the latest.
Nate Larson’s photographic suite might seem an ordinary trip from downtown to the exurbs, except that it follows John Wilkes Booth’s flight from the city where he shot Abraham Lincoln. Nichola Kinch also looks to the past, but with a newsy angle: She depicts potential 2016 presidential candidates in cast shadows and presents a simulated Victorian-era zoetrope in which an elephant becomes a donkey that becomes an elephant, eternally.
Kate Kretz’s 19th-century avocations include embroidery and silverpoint, whose delicacy she undercuts by using them to portray aging and death. She embroiders with women’s gray hair, and her paintings represent both male violence (a menacing dog, titled “Testosterone”) and female revenge fantasies (a bleeding vacuum cleaner, impaled by a knife). Her most potent images of everyday brutality are embroidered likenesses of “Buttercup” and “Buttons,” animals whose cute names didn’t prevent them from being cut into meat.
With “Professional Amateurs,” Paul Shortt turns to office politics, offering clothing, business cards and such for the nobody who aspires to be somebody. The artist A. Gray Lamb parodies science exhibitions with artifacts from a supposed mission to an asteroid, although the amount of information that’s “redacted” or “unavailable” suggests that she’s more interested in real ambiguity than in make-believe fact. Bradley Chriss, too, is on a space trip, making freeze-dried snack sculptures (“Berry Hole,” “Raspberry Red Planet”) that double as cosmic phenomena.
In large oil paintings that are bright in color yet watery in texture, Dan Perkins combines a romantic sensibility with ordinary subject matter. His subjects include vivid sunsets and metal-framed chairs, realistic landscapes and what appear to be model buildings. Perkins’s almost-recognizable world is just odd enough to require a second look.
Spring Solos On view through June 28 at Arlington Arts Center, 3550 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. 703-248-6800. www.arlingtonartscenter.org.
Somewhere in Northern Virginia, Evan Reed is raiding his neighbors’ trash. If that makes any of them nervous, a trip to Hillyer Art Space should be reassuring. The work in Reed’s “Platforms” transforms unwanted stuff into elegant raw-wood sculptures.
The artist doesn’t simply repurpose recognizable items. Indeed, his initial source of inspiration is often not immediately obvious. The wooden hive that hangs from a simulated branch, for example, looks to be entirely Reed’s work. The breached model-house frame must be mostly his, split in emulation of its pedestal: a three-part table whose center leaf is missing. A piece in which two wooden shoes seem to bud from carved bushes exemplifies not only Reed’s skill, but also his method: Everyday objects bloom in his work, even if the growing process runs backward from existing thing to imagined origin.
The popular notion that artworks evoke memory often seems vague, but not in the case of Dane Winkler’s “Conjure.” The piece takes its power from being highly specific and subjective. The artist has converted Hillyer’s smallest gallery into the interior of a hay wagon, as he recalls it from his childhood on a farm in Upstate New York. The space is dark, with glimmers of light through slats along the side and a sagging blue tarp at the top. A loamy smell completes the multisensory experience. Entering the room may not quite plunge visitors into Winkler’s recollections, but the sensation is, well, memorable.
Hsin-Hsi Chen is known for extrapolating pencil-drawn lines into such sculptural installations as the one that wraps around a corner in her Hillyer show, “Hedrons.” The chunky forms — made of wood and paper and lit from inside — suggest both modernist architecture and pure geometry. There is at least one other inspiration for Chen’s constructions: the pencil itself. In prints of 43 sketchbook drawings, the Taiwan-born local artist depicts the wood-wrapped graphite stick as a elemental form. Its cylindrical shape can mutate into more complex polyhedrons, just as surely as a series of pencil lines can simulate mass, depth and shadow.
Evan Reed: Platforms, Dane Winkler: Conjure and Hsin-Hsi Chen: Hedrons On view through June 27 at Hillyer Art Space, 9 Hillyer Ct. NW. 202-338-0680. www.hillyerartspace.org.
Printmakers fashion three-dimensional matrices to transfer ink to one-dimensional sheets of paper. But Ron Meick won’t let go of the original object, which is seldom a flat rectangle of wood or metal. His show at Washington Printmakers Gallery, “Ar-Ti-Facts,” exhibits the carved mold alongside its printed result, sometimes combining the two in a single piece. “Axiom Object,” for example, nestles a small axe, its handle distinctively etched, next to an impression made from it.
The Delaware artist works with such commonplace items as a hangar, a brush and a carpenter’s level. (The last he puts, winkingly, at the center of a print that is hung on an angle.) Some things, such as the one that gives “Investigation of a Bar Stool” its title, are too big to fit inside the frame. Yet Meick manages to turn the seat into a sort of oversize stamp, akin to the ones used to imprint an Asian artist’s seal. Spotlighting the process by which artworks are made can be pedantic, but not in this witty show. Form and function blur entertainingly as Meick loops from 3-D to 1-D and back.
Ar-Ti-Facts: Recent Works by Ron Meick On view through June 28 at Washington Printmakers Gallery, 1641 Wisconsin Ave. NW. 202-669-1497. www.washingtonprintmakers.com.
Among the ploys Aline Feldman learned from Japanese woodcuts is the dramatic vantage point. Most of the large prints in “Images From Wood, A Thirty Year Survey” at the Marsha Mateyka Gallery gaze down from a high imagined perch. Observed from such an aerial perspective, every vista turns into a colorful patchwork, whether showing the peaks and fields of “Hawaiian Memory” or the semi-fictionalized Dupont Circle of “Midtown Movement.”
Instead of making individual blocks for each color, the Maryland artist carves complete compositions and prints their segments separately, using watercolor paint rather than ink. The method allows her to blend colors and results in unusually vivid hues. (It means that none of the prints, although done in editions of 15 or 25, is identical.) The most recent works in this retrospective, two “Tidal Dialogues” made last year, employ a less elevated viewpoint and a gentler palette. They still share, however, Feldman’s well-established sense of color and harmony.
Aline Feldman: Images From Wood, a Thirty Year Survey On view through June 27 at Marsha Mateyka Gallery, 2012 R St. NW. 202-328-0088. www.marshamateykagallery.com.
Jenkins is a freelance writer.