Between 2005 and 2010, local musician and photographer Jason Hamacher made several trips to Aleppo, Syria, and its environs. One of his goals was to record Edessian chants that are the oldest known Christian music, dating to the second century. He also photographed people and places in Aleppo, a city with religious sites from the era of the Hittites, some three millennia ago. A selection of these pictures is at the Gallery at Convergence in Alexandria, under the title “Syria: Sacred Spaces. Ancient Prayers.”
Since the photographs were made, of course, Syria has become a war zone, known for atrocities rather than antiquities. Most of Hamacher’s pictures depict buildings, but there are also portraits, including one of an Orthodox archbishop who hasn’t been seen since he was abducted last year.
Hamacher mostly focuses on older upheavals. He offers rare interiors of the Great Synagogue of Aleppo, largely unused since 1947, and a view of the Krak des Chevaliers, seized from European crusaders in the 13th century. Even older is the Hittite Ain Dara Temple, circa 1300 BC, which some archaeologists associate with Solomon’s Temple. Even the buildings that were still in use when photographed, such as the Umayyad Mosque and the St. George Syrian Orthodox Church, are ancient.
The exotic subject matter may upstage Hamacher’s technique, but these are well-made photographs. While they’re all carefully composed, especially notable is a large-format shot of the Aleppo Citadel, in which the rectangular stone edifice is framed within a curved archway that also contains a blue sky. The stray satellite-TV dish can’t disturb the sense that the photographer has journeyed into the past.
Edessian chants can sometimes be heard at the exhibition, but aren’t always available. They can be sampled at lostorigins.com/projects/projects-audio.
Syria: Sacred Spaces. Ancient Prayers On view through April 28 at the Gallery at Convergence, 1801 N. Quaker Lane, Alexandria; 703-998-6260; ourconvergence.org/arts/exhibits.
Like the mid-20th-century abstract expressionists, Andrei Petrov attempts a pictorial equivalent of music. But where the usual preference was jazz, Petrov’s “Sedition of Sound” was inspired by Delta blues and 1960s protest songs. The New York painter writes that his show, at Morton Fine Art, reflects “the shifting moods and sentiments captured in those recordings.”
The colors and textures in Petrov’s paintings shift, although usually over a steady visual beat. Typically, his pictures emphasize a vertical pattern, something like a wood’s grain. Over that matrix, the artist adds splatters, rough circles, contrapuntal gestures and areas that simulate tears in the canvas. These may represent another of Petrov’s themes, “the distortion, incompleteness and rare moments of clarity in the shadows of memory.”
The artist employs both addition and subtraction. He builds up layers of oil paint over pencil and charcoal drawings, and ink and acrylic washes, yet later rubs and scrapes pigment from the surface. Most of his pictures feature a wide array of hot hues, often in gushes or glimmers than suggest lava or sunlight. Some of the show’s most striking compositions are more limited in color, whether to black, white or gray or the blue, white and orange of the vast “Theoretical Geography.” Whatever it represents, subtraction serves Petrov well.
Sedition of Sound: New Paintings by Andrei Petrov On view through April 22 at Morton Fine Art, 1781 Florida Ave. NW; 202-628-2787; www.mortonfineart.com.
Germaine Bonifacio & Nancy Angulo
Moving from front to back, visitors to Alex Gallery’s “Germaine Bonifacio: A View from Argentina” will eventually encounter two tapestries by the Argentinian artist. Most of the show is painting, but the fabric works don’t come as a surprise. Bonifacio’s canvases show the instincts of a textile maker.
Among the pieces are a few small mixed-media works and one painting, “Estuaries,” that hints at landscape. More often, though, Bonifacio arrays brightly colored, roughly rendered rectangles on black backgrounds, with streaks and spatters on top. These pictures, which suggest a more orderly Hans Hoffman, are unsurprising but handsome. If Bonifacio is not an innovator, she is a skilled designer.
Downstairs at Gallery A is Nancy Angulo’s “Reflections in Oil and Bronze.” The Peruvian artist’s paintings are mostly abstract, but one echoes the subject of her bronzes: the vigor and grace of horses. From the easily read “Invincible” to others that are more abstracted, the equine heads and necks are powerfully rendered, with patinas in mottled brown and green. Particularly effective is “Shadow Dance,” a relief sculpture that uses three panels to conjure motion.
Germaine Bonifacio: A View from Argentina and Nancy Angulo: Reflections in Oil and Bronze On view through April 30 at Alex Gallery and Gallery A, 2106 R St. NW; 202-667-2599; www.alexgalleries.com.
“Pure” is a loaded word, favored by various sorts of absolutists. Perhaps a better title for “Pure,” Manuel Pandalis’s suite of head-and-shoulders portraits at D.C.’s Leica Store, would be “Crisp” or “Precise.” There’s so much detail in the German photographer’s black-and-white pictures that they’re almost eerie. In some images, Pandalis himself can be glimpsed, reflected in the pupils of his models’ eyes.
What’s pristine about these photos is that they were shot with natural light and that the subjects used no makeup. These are digital images, which means they were originally in color, not chaste black and white. Faces glisten with sweat and oil, while freckles and other impurities are emphasized. Pandalis may have used filters to exaggerate the skin tones or boosted the contrast in post-production. The photographer often does fashion shoots, so perhaps his idea of purity was to remove every bit of the costuming that would usually cloak these professional models. What he demonstrates is not naturalness, however, but photography’s ability to emphasize minutiae to the point that the images become subtly yet unmistakably unreal.
Pure: Manuel Pandalis On view through April 30 at Leica Store, 977 F St. NW; 202-787-5900; shop.leicastoredc.com/gallery.
Mark Jenkins is a freelance writer.