Classical and Renaissance art depicted the same things again and again, but most canvases and statues stood alone, as if imagining their subject for the first time. In the age of mechanical reproduction, art more often arrives in sequences of multiple views or variations. These series can extend fruitfully almost without end, as Susan Goldman’s “Squaring the Flower” demonstrates. Two dozen of these screen prints are featured in “Taking Territory,” a four-woman show at MPA at Chain Bridge Gallery. All of the artists are local printmakers, although they don’t limit themselves to ink on paper.
Goldman’s title refers to squaring the circle, an ancient (and unsolvable) geometric puzzle. Her solution, artistic rather than mathematical, is to divide a square into four quadrants with curving figures within. The figures can be circles, targets or rounded floral ornaments that evoke Victorian design. The elements may overlap or vanish, or yield to another form at the juncture with another quadrant. Intricate filigree abuts blocks of pure color, often bright and sometimes metallic.
Goldman, curator of the American University Museum’s impressive current “Forward Press” show, has often worked with circles. Immaculately made as always, “Squaring the Flower” could be described as “wallpaper goes pop art.” But Goldman’s prints combine a few simple motifs in so many different ways that they’re both intellectually and visually engrossing.
Eve Stockton’s “The Rosie Project” arrays casts of female elbows to celebrate strong women. (“Rosie” is a homage to Rosie the Riveter.) Placed on woodcut prints that are square and silvery, the white plaster forms exhort women “to keep their elbows out — and sharp,” notes Stockton’s statement.
Both Barbara Kerne and Patricia Underwood offer mixed-media artworks that depict trees and forests as solace: “home” in the titles of all of Kerne’s entries and “temple” in one of Underwood’s. Kerne’s densely textured pictures employ earth tones and swirling shapes, conjuring depths to be explored. Underwood, whose series gives the show its title, ventures further into the third dimension by constructing a large tree of separate pieces that seem to grow up the wall. This is the artist’s “Temple,” as imposing as it is sheltering.
Taking Territory: Susan Goldman, Barbara Kerne, Eve Stockton and Patricia Underwood Through June 1 at MPA at Chain Bridge Gallery, 1446 Chain Bridge Rd., McLean.
The wall between the United States and Mexico is cultural, not geographic, in “Underlying Borders,” which presents work by five artists who have lived in both countries. The Mexican Cultural Institute exhibition opens with Gerardo Camargo’s “You Can’t Be Hungry in the Land of the Free,” a monumental pillar of aluminum food trays. Characteristic of the show are the pieces’ whimsy, attention to everyday life and use of commonplace materials.
Alison Lee Schroeder offers two needlework samplers, one depicting a Mexican house and the other a U.S. one, that are linked by threads sewn into both. She also sings of musical connections with a series of handmade record album covers, mostly featuring bilingual text, and an audio mash-up of tunes about Mexico by performers who live north of the border.
Two of the artists, Irene Clouthier and Felipe Baeza, focus more on personal identity. Baeza depicts what a gallery note calls “the migrant fugitive body” in a triptych of portraits of the same indistinct likeness in disparate media: oil, collage and glitter. Clouthier partially fills seven clear fish bowls with shiny beads and plastic googly eyes, each under a round picture of an eye. The eye is the mirror of the soul, it’s said, but these orbs reveal little.
The most striking technique is that of Marela Zacarias, whose creased 3-D color-field paintings appear soft, although they’re made of plaster. The artist renders hard-edge patterns on rumpled surfaces mounted on the wall or other objects; one dangles on a hanging tire, and another is furled across a battered old mirror. The metaphorical significance of Zacarias’s work is open to discussion, but her fusion of painting and sculpture is exhilarating.
Underlying Borders Through June 1 at the Mexican Cultural Institute, 2829 16th St. NW.
The world is spinning, but not as quickly as Dottie Campbell. The Baltimore digital photographer captures action by whipping her camera past the subject as she opens the shutter, producing the mostly abstract pictures exhibited in BlackRock Center for the Arts’s “Amped-Up.”
A few of the whooshing images, which are not manipulated with image-processing software, include identifiable objects. But most of them register just as splashes of bright, translucent color. The dynamic yet indefinite pictures merit such titles as “Streak” and “Plumes.”
One photo fractures the reading room of San Diego’s main library into glistening planes. More typical are apparent close-ups that locate such bits of nature as leaves or grasses amid visual tumult. Such pictures as “Emergence” probably depict streams, fountains or waterfalls. Campbell conveys motion as liquid, halted by the camera but still a watery blur.
Dottie Campbell: Amped-Up Through June 1 at BlackRock Center for the Arts, 12901 Town Commons Dr., Germantown.
The imagery of “Lyrical Flight,” Barbara Januszkiewicz’s show at the Athenaeum, is as fluid as Dottie Campbell’s, but in a different mode. Taking inspiration from such late-1950s Washington colorists as Morris Louis, the Virginia abstractionist employs diluted acrylics. These can combine the intensity of oils with the delicacy of watercolors.
Januszkiewicz, who has explored various strategies, rarely stains pigment into canvas, as Louis and his contemporaries did. Nearly all the paintings in this show are on paper, usually vellum. Made expressly for the high-ceilinged venue are a few towering pictures divided across several sheets, notably the 13-foot-high “This Moment On/Ribbons in the Sky.” It’s exuberant, but less centered than the artist’s best work.
More satisfying are some smaller paintings in which the washes of color overlap organically or seem to blossom from a single bud. Also on display are a watercolor, three resin-covered pictures on panels and a piece hung in a corner, rippled like one of Sam Gilliam’s draped paintings. “Lyrical Flight” is a laboratory of experiments, most of them successful.
Barbara Januszkiewicz: Lyrical Flight Through June 2 at the Athenaeum, 201 Prince St., Alexandria.