One of the first things visitors to “Please Touch” will encounter is a dirty trick. Charles Benjamin Rosecrans’s piece, just inside Target Gallery’s front door, sports a handle that appears to operate it. All that happens when someone seizes that grip, though, is that it pops off. The handle is easily reattached, but the experience is a warning that this is a mischievous show. Yet a few of its entries are positively utopian.
The 15-artist exhibition, at the Torpedo Factory Art Center, responds to the typical fine-art museum, whose contents are cloistered by glass, guards and alarms. The selection, made by former Artisphere curator Cynthia Connolly, includes Sherman Finch’s wall sculpture that resembles an early-20th-century abstraction but can be spun like a toy. Magdalene Gluszek’s equally kid-friendly contribution is made up of two stoneware creatures, ready to be dressed with hats, wigs and a pair of bunny ears. More combative are Art Vidrine’s three small canvases, designed to be dragged behind a borrower (and already frayed from such treatment).
The two most compelling pieces speak not just to the impersonality of museums but also to broader issues of isolation and alienation. Jennifer Hansen Gard’s “Project Share” offers to loan a set of stoneware dishes, if they’ll be used “to eat with someone you would not normally share a meal with.” Fumi Amano’s frosted-glass partition is designed to bring its users together in a playfully messy way: The glass will clear, allowing people on opposite sides to see each other, if both lick the surface at the same time. Emotional rapport is available, for just a moment, at a small cost to dignity.
Please Touch On view through July 17 at Target Gallery, 105 N. Union St., Alexandria. 703-838-4565, Ext. 4. torpedofactory.org/partners/target-gallery.
Curving cylindrical forms link the art of Pat Goslee, Lynn Putney and Veronica Szalus, the three local artists in “E(3)” at the BlackRock Center for the Arts. Szalus strings crushed soft-drink cans into gleaming garlands that connect the space’s two floors, hanging from a balcony and pooling below as though the containers were soft, rather than hard. The artist also photographs cans, compacted into tight compositions that highlight shimmering metallic colors.
Goslee’s and Putney’s work is essentially abstract, but each includes rounded shapes that, if not quite representational, don’t seem to have emerged randomly. Goslee’s sometimes appear biomorphic, while Putney’s may suggest such musical devices as horns and even a gramophone speaker. (Perhaps the resemblance is coincidental, but she does name many of her pictures after songs.) Goslee’s style is brighter and has a wider palette; Putney often frames her imagery with areas of solid black.
Although Szalus’s work literally has the hardest edge, Putney’s is craggier than Goslee’s. Putney uses pigmented casein (milk protein) on wood, and the results seem as much incised as painted. Goslee’s pictures are lusher, with more sense of depth. They look like X-Ray Spex panoramas, depicting the internal and external simultaneously.
E(3): Pat Goslee, Lynn Putney and Veronica Szalus On view through July 16 at BlackRock Center for the Arts, 12901 Town Commons Dr., Germantown, Md. 301-528-2260. blackrockcenter.org/gallery.
Four artists are included in the politically charged “Hear/Here,” but only two of them have work on the Honfleur Gallery’s walls. The others’ contributions are in the air, via an audio collage of ideological gibes and poetical rejoinders.
Representing city life and conflict, New York’s Daphne Arthur combines graphic-novel-style renderings of people with such items as broken glass, paint spatters and a clump of rope. Omolara Williams McCallister’s paintings on cloth include an urban street scene, but much of the D.C. artist’s work is engagingly dreamlike. Snowflakes and bicycles float in midair over not-so-mean streets.
In one Arthur painting, a man stands before a scrum of camera-wielding reporters. The mass media gets equally skeptical treatment in the audio piece: Two loudspeakers emit attacks on President Obama and the Black Lives Matter movement — many of them from political TV talk shows — while the third offers Fire Angelou’s vehement verse. Both the poet and the sound designer Andrew Paul Keiper are from Baltimore, and that city’s turmoil informs the point-counterpoint. But “Hear/Here” curator Jarvis DuBois clearly intends that visitors look beyond West Baltimore — and Southeast D.C.
Hear/Here On view through July 16 at Honfleur Gallery, 1241 Good Hope Rd. SE. 202-365-8392. honfleurgallery.com.
“Unscripted, Naturally,” the title of Isabel Manalo’s show at Addison/Ripley Fine Art, refers to Baybayin, a syllabary used in the pre-colonial Philippines. The local artist, who’s of Filipina heritage, uses the Sanskrit-derived characters as both inspiration and visual motif. Sometimes they bounce around the picture plane, but they also appear lined up as if in text. Manalo writes that her use of the script is “non-linguistic” and that the patterned paintings are more akin to textiles than manuscripts. Yet occasionally messages appear in English: “With Syria” and “Black Lives Matter” can be read on one of the three six-foot-high paintings that dominate the gallery.
Manalo’s influences include 19th-century landscape painting and abstractionist Helen Frankenthaler, and there’s some of the latter’s style in the pictures’ smudges and drips. These and larger freehand gestures play against simple repeated forms that march across the canvas. The contrast between structure and spontaneity provides tension and a sort of harmony.
Isabel Manalo: Unscripted, Naturally On view through July 16 at Addison/Ripley Fine Art, 1670 Wisconsin Ave. NW. 202-338-5180. addisonripleyfineart.com.
Natasha Karpinskaia knows when to stop. The Russian-bred Connecticut artist specializes in monotypes — one-of-a-kind prints that may be hand-colored after they emerge from the press. Many of the nature-alluding abstractions in “Sequent Narratives,” her show at Susan Calloway Fine Arts, are elaborately enhanced with paint, charcoal and colored pencil. Others are potently stark.
The distinction is not a matter of color. Karpinskaia’s “Nebulous” series features blotches of vivid red and mossy green, but the dominant hue is white, as if the scenes had been bleached by sunlight. Several in the more-layered examples of the “Unearthed” series are chiseled in earthy tans and stone grays, although a few contain gardenlike pinks and limes. Whether the inspiration is botanical or mineral, Karpinskaia does not simply use subdued tones to set off bright ones. Some of the show’s most sensuous pictures are lushly monochromatic.
Natasha Karpinskaia: Sequent Narratives On view through July 16 at Susan Calloway Fine Arts, 1643 Wisconsin Ave. NW. 202-965-4601. callowayart.com.