Local artist Eric Celarier is a quilter, but his principal materials are unlikely ones: computer circuit boards. Yanked from their protective shells, the metal and plastic pieces suggest cyber-landscapes or futuristic topographical maps.
“Trash,” Celarier’s show at VisArts’s Common Ground Gallery, includes examples of this Internet-age patchwork. But they’re looser and more randomly assembled than before and, thus, have a stronger resemblance to real-world scenery. They’re joined by a menagerie of cobbled-together sculptures that vary from machine-like to buggy (and not in the high-tech sense).
The detritus the artist repurposes is mostly industrial and includes fuel tanks, power tools and plastic tubing. These items are jumbled with fur, flowers, animal horns and a variety of wings. If none of Celarier’s concoctions actually appears flight-worthy, several are nonetheless suspended in midair. This both alters the viewer’s vantage point and boosts the creatures’ sense of possibility. It’s one thing to metamorphose junk into oversize beetles and lobsters, but it’s quite another to make them fly. Celarier might see these hybrid beings as futuristic, but he has tapped into a human craving that’s older than Icarus.
Downstairs, at VisArts’s Gibbs Street Gallery, Nicole Mueller is showing large, deep-hued works in the tradition of mid-20th-century abstract painting. Many really are paintings, but the show is titled “First Cut” for a reason. The Baltimore artist paints on PVC, as well as on canvas, and sometimes literally dissects her pictures and reassembles them into collages.
The various formats and techniques are not merely compatible, but they also actively complement one another. The assemblages look painted, and paintings appear cut together. Mueller’s method even works in translucent plastic applied to the space’s exterior windows, mimicking stained glass and adding another dimension to her cut-paint-and-paste style.
Eric Celarier: Trash and Nicole Mueller: First Cut On view through Aug. 21 at VisArts at Rockville, 155 Gibbs St., Rockville. 301-315-8200. visartscenter.org.
The deft juxtaposition of soft-edged color and hard-edged form links the artists in Hemphill Fine Art’s “Kainen, Scully, Nozkowski.” A jagged white line runs through the mottled blue-green of Jacob Kainen’s “Portent II.” Textured metallic hues are contained within broad stripes in Scully’s “Wait.” A grid of black diamonds contrasts with a heathered green field in Nozkowski’s “Untitled (P-26).”
Kainen, who died in 2001, was a mainstay of the D.C. art scene for decades. He and Scully, an Irish-born American, are represented in this show by prints. The pieces by Nozkowski, a New Yorker, are mostly oils on paper or board. The various formats don’t look very different here. All three men strike a similar balance between the structured and the impromptu, and produce rich hues whether using a brush or a press. Nozkowski’s paintings might offer the most dynamic color contrasts, but the most immersive piece is “Ahab,” a Kainen monotype whose blue-black center appears as infinite as a night sky.
Kainen, Scully, Nozkowski On view through Aug. 19 at Hemphill Fine Arts, 1515 14th St. NW. 202-234-5601. hemphillfinearts.com.
A summer tradition at Adah Rose Gallery, “Carte Blanche” is an ever-changing group show, rearranged on a regular basis by guest curators. What will be on display on any given day is impossible to predict, but several artists will be featured consistently. They include Nathan Loda, whose drawings meld American history with his family history, and Kyujin Lee, whose small watercolors of fairy-tale characters begin as gestures and then become figurative. Where Loda sketches George Washington, Lee pulls the Little Mermaid out of candy-colored abstraction.
Other featured contributors offer landscapes, but not of a traditional sort. Anne Smith makes prints of the Potomac River, emphasizing subtle daily changes in the view from her Torpedo Factory studio. Photographer Tim Makepeace focuses on industrial scenes near Union Station, which he streamlines digitally. Dave Rothschild photographs foggy rural scenes with damaged color film, so misty blues are punctuated by red streaks from light leakage. That color scheme happens to parallel the one in Gregory Ferrand’s precise, nearly monochromatic painting of a man and dog in a snowy forest. It’s in icy shades of blue but highlighted with fleshy pink to indicate blood is still coursing.
Carte Blanche On view through Aug. 31 at Adah Rose Gallery, 3766 Howard Ave., Kensington. 301-922-0162. adahrosegallery.com.
“Cultivation/Harvest/Neglect,” Kathyrn Thibault’s Flashpoint Gallery show, was inspired, in part, by memories of her grandparents’ Iowa farm. Don’t expect anything overgrown, however. A former local artist now based in Seattle, she positions sets of identical small objects in tidy patterns on white walls. The items, made mostly of vellum or plastic, include plant markers and representations of leaves, birds and sliced apples. They’re grouped in rows, lines or a circle; one of the pieces takes the form of a graph. A few words, such as “acceptance” and “dispersal,” skirt the layouts.
According to the gallery’s notes, Thibault intends “to make visual sense out of fragmented experiences of the world.” But as an installation, the most intriguing about the show is its wispiness. From a distance, it barely registers — patterns become distinct only in close-up. Viewers must enter this garden to perceive that that’s what it is.
Kathyrn Thibault: Cultivation/Harvest/Neglect On view through Aug. 13 at Flashpoint Gallery, 916 G St. NW. 202-315-1305. culturaldc.org/visual-arts/flashpoint-gallery.
Laura Berman also arrays recurrent forms on white backdrops, but hers are impressions of colored ink. “Ebb and Flow,” at Long View Gallery, is a selection of prints that are one-of-a-kind, although created in series. They include horizontally oriented abstractions whose wavy, partly overlaid lines suggest landscapes, specifically the rolling terrain west of Berman’s Kansas City base.
The most striking pictures are from the “Umbra” and “Starburst” series, in which oblongs or elongated triangles in various colors wheel around a central void. One is in gray-metallic tones, but generally the hues are gentle, although made more complex where they overlap. The spiraling compositions simulate motion, providing the lively illusion that the melding colors will continue to slide in and out of alignment as the shapes spin.
Laura Berman: Ebb and Flow On view through Aug. 14 at Long View Gallery, 1234 Ninth St. NW. 202-232-4788. longviewgallery.com.