Eleven artists explore as many worlds in “Strange Landscapes,” an Arlington Arts Center show whose destinations range from the everyday to the entirely imagined. There are lots of dystopias on display, but also a few wonderlands.
The most ordinary locale is a grassy plot, near the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, which Katarina Jerinic claimed via an adopt-a-highway program. There’s a photo of a sign that identifies the artist as responsible for “beautification this site,” an effort that might be charitably be described as “in process.” But then process seems more important to the artist than beauty. Alongside a trash-pickup video, she exhibits the bureaucratic paperwork involved in the adoption.
At the other end of some yellow brick road is Jaimes Mayhew’s vision of Samesies Island, a home for “transgender men who are attracted to transgender men.” A large inflated wave threatens to inundate this gallery, but conceptually the main event is a map of the refuge, whose place names show a playfully smutty sense of humor.
The two most traditional, and traditionally attractive, entries depict nature with nature-derived media. Kate Stewart’s large wall painting, abstract but evocative of foliage, was executed with ink made from walnuts. Matthew Colaizzo’s woodblock prints of rocky terrain use wood grain to suggest stone texture. Both artists’ works have a classical feel, although Colaizzo’s style is precise while Stewart’s is fluid and spontaneous.
Five of the artists use video, but it’s central to the work of Jacob Rivkin and Margarita Sánchez Urdaneta. Rivkin offers black-and-white footage of dramatic climes (Utah and Newfoundland) to which he has added a lumbering, loosely hand-drawn creature. Sánchez Urdaneta’s two installations depict a rain forest swathed in mist, also mostly in black-and-white, with full-color segments.
The land Sánchez Urdaneta displays is beguilingly mysterious, but a gallery note indicates that the Colombia-bred Brooklyn artist sees it as a place of “forced disappearances, mass graves and terror tactics.” D.C.-area artist Edgar Endress, who was born in Chile, has related concerns. Using collage, video and a 3-D assemblage, he ponders the survival of indigenous culture amid “the debris of a Spanish colonial system.”
Where Jerinic’s New York is as prosaic as a government form, Matthew Mann’s Washington is fanciful. His collagelike paintings depict the city’s redevelopment in lively hues, if sometimes grim imagery. “Ghost Eviction” features rows of candy-colored gravestones, while “The Cluss Goose” pays tribute to the German-born architect whose structures include the Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building. Of all the landscapes in the show, Mann’s are the most familiar. But that doesn’t mean they’re not strange.
Strange Landscapes On view through Oct. 2 at Arlington Arts Center, 3550 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. 703-248-6800. arlingtonartscenter.org.
Fall pigments are well represented in Judy Giuliani’s “Tutto sui Fiori,” but the Touchstone Gallery exhibition couldn’t be termed autumnal. There’s too much fire in the colors and their intense contrasts. Although the local painter may seek to represent “all about flowers” — to translate the show’s title — her work is not as quietly decorative as a typical floral arrangement.
The blooms and stems are generally rendered in red, orange or russet, the hues of chlorophyll-drained foliage. But they’re often outlined in, or placed before backdrops of, blue or purple. Giuliani’s influences include France’s early-20th-century Fauves (or “wild beasts”), who also employed jarring tonal juxtapositions. The artist’s take on botany is vibrant and robust. Rather than bud, her blossoms pop.
The colors are equally hot in Pete McCutchen’s photos of Yellowstone National Park, which he calls “The Thermal Zone.” This portfolio, also at Touchstone, contrasts the neon blues of water and sky with the electric oranges of rock and sand. This sulfurous landscape sprawls atop a buried lake of magma that hasn’t erupted for some 650,000 years yet still has the fuel to cook the terrain above it. The Arlingtonian’s pictures emphasize the eeriness with compositions that are closer to abstraction rather than traditional landscape. That’s partly the result of the Mars-like scenery, but also of a singular eye.
Judy Giuliani: Tutto sui Fiori and Pete McCutchen: The Thermal Zone On view through Oct. 2 at Touchstone Gallery, 901 New York Ave. NW. 202-347-2787. touchstonegallery.com.
A few states away from “The Thermal Zone,” Louis Foubare captured similar colors for “My American Southwest,” at downtown’s Leica Store. But Foubare, who turned to photography full time after nearly losing his sight in 2011, sometimes used a camera whose digital sensor is designed for black-and-white images. His monochromatic landscapes are rich in detail and texture, the latter both hard as rock and soft as mist. In one, white steam seeps from the ground, shrouds a bare tree and ascends vertically toward a dark sky punctuated by a horizontal ribbon of white.
Like McCutchen, Foubare likes the juxtaposition of orange and blue, but there’s not much sky in the show’s color pictures. Several depict subterranean areas whose curving furrows are as dramatic as the red and purple stone. In two seemingly similar vignettes, the central element is an underground falls. Yet in one, the substance that spills downward is sand, while in the other it’s light. In these solid-rock scenes, Foubare finds much that’s transient.
Louis Foubare: My American Southwest On view through Sept. 30 at Leica Store, 977 F St. NW. 202-787-5900. leicastoredc.com./gallery.
His subjects are domestic, yet there’s something geologic about Christian Brahe’s busy pictures. The Williamsburg artist’s impressive Hillyer Art Space show, “Accumulations,” consists of large-scale drawings on multiple sheets of paper, depicting piles of stuff. Brahe’s world is, basically, a garage sale waiting to happen. Some of the amassed items are exotic, though. Even the messiest garage is unlikely to have, as one of these vignettes does, a human skeleton.
Brahe likens the sheets of paper to tectonic plates. That’s because the individual pieces often add up to a single scene, but sometimes include a portion of another place altogether. The effect is to emphasize that these sprawling pictures are as fragmented as they are unified.
The drawings also are immediate and mutable, because they’re executed with charcoal. Strokes can be easily changed, smeared or removed, although the final image is crowded and dense. Thus subject and medium dovetail neatly, if also messily. Brahe renders mounds of things with stacks of lines.
Christian Brahe: Accumulations On view through Sept. 30 at Hillyer Art Space, 9 Hillyer Ct. NW. 202-338-0325. hillyerartspace.org.