At a time when everything from sandwiches to used clothing can be “curated,” Artomatic declines to be judgmental. The volunteer-run arts fair, which has surfaced every year or three since 1999, is open to all. That leads to jarring yet now-familiar juxtapositions of art, craft and kitsch, now all on display in a four-story office park building near the New Carrollton Metro station.
Illustrative art inspired by movies, cartoons, pop music and comic books abounds. So does well-made decorative work in glass, wood, metal and fabric. There’s lots of photography, some of it distinguished by both technique and subject. Among the best are Eugene Madatov’s moody views of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, Kristin Adair’s tightly framed vignettes of El Salvador and Lewis Francis’s studies of abandoned and threatened structures; these include a dramatic “location undisclosed” that looks a lot like D.C.’s historic McMillan Reservoir filtration plant.
Some artists who show in local galleries are participating, but there’s relatively little serious painting. A notable exception is William Tinto’s “Chair,” an essay in pink and blue stripes that uses shadow and perspective to simulate depth while acknowledging the image’s inherent flatness. It’s Edward Hopper upholstered by Gene Davis.
Artomatic generally sets up in unused office buildings, whose walled cubicles can be converted into complete environments. This time, elevator-shaft wells also have been enlisted; they house cartoonist Ben Claassen III’s tableaux (best seen from inside the glass-walled elevator) and Roger Cutler’s lively array of pirouetting umbrellas.
Much starker is Cherie M. Redlinger’s memorial to the victims of back-alley abortions, a dark room whose centerpiece is a gory mattress. The installation is a sobering, real-world intrusion into an fantasyland where blood is more likely to be shown on a vampire’s fangs.
The most complete mini-universe is Leigh-Ann Friedel’s “The Studio,” depicted in the white-on-blue lines of an architectural blueprint. This room for drawing, drawn by the artist, melds one- and three-dimensional experiences. A few objects, including a typewriter and a cat, protrude from the walls, yet remain flat. Buttons, real rather then rendered, activate collaborator Jeffrey Dorfman’s ambient soundscapes. Simple yet impeccably realized, “The Studio” is a fine refuge from Artomatic’s intentional chaos.
Artomatic On view through Dec. 12 at 8100 Corporate Dr., Hyattsville, Md. www.artomatic.org.
Stereotypes and archetypes share the walls with recognizable individuals in Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery’s “Implicit Bias: Seeing the Other: Seeing Ourself.” On one side is David Ibata’s epic painting of a beleaguered African American, surrounded by gunmen and references to spaghetti westerns. (“Score by Ennio Morricone,” reads one inscription.) On the other are Justyne Fischer’s stark woodcuts of recent victims of controversial police actions. The anger is more than implicit.
Most of the 20 participants address the centuries-long American oppression of people of African descent. Herberth Romero’s “White Feminism” depicts a pale hand over a black woman’s mouth; Holly Bass flips the script with a photo of a white woman on her knees, cleaning as a black woman supervises.
Among the pieces that depict Asians or Arabs are Franco-American artist Gwenn Seemel’s portrait of a Vietnamese American Uncle Sam and two pop-art-inspired commentaries by Lebanon-born Helen Zughaib.
In “Share a Coke,” the name on the bottle is not John or Jennifer, but “Yasir.” That might have been merely whimsical when the show opened in mid-September, but in a country where some are now advocating internment camps for Muslims, the joke has turned much darker.
Implicit Bias: Seeing the Other: Seeing Ourself On view through Dec. 5 at Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery, 1632 U St. NW. 202-483-8600. www.smithcenter.org/arts-healing/joan-hisaoka-art-gallery.html.
The most significant word in the tangled title of Juliana Netschert’s Washington Studio School show, “Early Spring/March/in the Potomac Gorge,” may be “in.” The artist observes forests of the Great Falls/Carderock area from vantages within, drawing what is close at hand. Later, these tightly focused sketches may become mixed-media paintings, although Netschert occasionally leaves them unadorned. Drawings such as “Serpentine” are all outline, both intricate and open.
Although Netschert’s style is immersive, she doesn’t overwhelm with sheer size. Instead, she usually presents narrow slices of the landscape, more often horizontal but sometimes vertical. One of the latter, “Frog’s Breath,” is verdant and coolly enveloping. Among the wide-angle pictures is “Waking Up at the Deer Crossing,” whose dominant yellows conjure daylight in a woods unshaded by full summer foliage. The palette of “Rose and Umber/Whale Rock” appears more autumnal, but perhaps it, too, captures an early-spring instant. The season is less important than the impressive way Netschert locates the viewer amid terrain that is actually miles away.
Juliana Netschert: Early Spring/March/in the Potomac Gorge On view through Dec. 18 at Washington Studio School, 2129 S St. NW. 202-234-3030. www.washingtonstudioschool.org.
“Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others,” the title of one of Dana Ellyn’s recent paintings, also is the theme of her show at P Street Gallerie, “Speciesism.” The vegan D.C. artist contrasts animals that Americans tend to keep as pets, mostly cats and dogs, with ones that are commonly eaten, notably pigs, cows and chickens. Ellyn makes her point by showing entire creatures in place of meat, as in a painting of child trying to dunk a live chick into dipping sauce, or by substituting pets for food, as in a picture of a woman who’s about to swallow a kitten. Another motif is an animal in a mask or hat that represents another species.
The images are effective, but the execution variable. Ellyn appears sometimes to rush her work, as if too intent on the message to bother with finesse. Yet several of the paintings are fully realized. “Pug Pig,” a split portrait of two animals, is both stylish and powerful.
There also are a few charming, and not particularly ideological, small paintings of roosters. In these works, the artist’s love for animals is conveyed by skill as much as mockery.
Dana Ellyn: Speciesism On view through Dec. 4 at P Street Gallerie, 3235 P St. NW. 202-333-4868. www.pstreetgallerie.com.
Jenkins is a freelance writer.