Something of an artistic class reunion, the University of Maryland Art Gallery’s “Laid, Placed and Arranged” showcases recent work by six people who studied at the school between 1990 and 2010. The work is mostly mixed media, which suits the show’s aesthetic: stark and reductive, yet abundant in its range of materials.
The only participant who is chiefly a painter is Laurel Farrin, who contributes a sort of trompe-l’oeil abstraction with lengths of black and yellow that resemble pieces of tape. Most of the others use pigment in assemblages or primarily sculptural pieces. Among these are Francie Hester’s compositions on acrylic discs and aluminum bars — soft patterns on hard surfaces — and Hiroyuki Hamada’s mysterious, coffinlike forms, made of painted resin.
Ellington Robinson and Wilfredo Valladares like to play with fire. Jumbled scraps of burned paper provide the backdrop for a Robinson combine that includes several punching bags. Both of Valladares’s aggregations include carefully charred rolling pins, alongside other intentionally damaged relics of domestic tasks.
The cleanest lines are courtesy of Meg Mitchell, whose “Fern Stations” place small plants between sets of large wooden speakers that broadcast drones, ringing tones and birdlike tweets. The natural world might be the inspiration, but it sounds far away. That’s characteristic of these artists, whose methods usually involve not observation, but manipulation and even destruction.
Laid, Placed and Arranged Through Dec. 8 at the University of Maryland Art Gallery, 1202 Art-Sociology Building, College Park. 301-405-1474. artgallery.umd.edu.
Fonseca, Fox,Yurcisin & Williams
There’s an intriguing echo of Wilfredo Valladares’s fire-shaped rolling pins in “Over, Under, Through,” a BlackRock Center for the Arts show whose three artists work with everyday stuff. Suzi Fox carves the wooden handles of hammers and clasps so they resemble human fingers. The artist responds to the innate sculptural qualities of practical items, while blurring the distinction between tools and their makers.
Fabiola Alvarez Yurcisin also works with found objects, notably a technology that’s nearly outmoded: videotape, which the artist weaves into walls and boxes. “Tile Play” is nine panels of interlaced ebony ribbon, recalling minimalist painter Ad Reinhardt’s arrangements of squares in slightly different shades of black.
Elisa Berry Fonseca’s materials include steel, but it’s often used to support constructions of fabric and paper. The artist’s wall pieces emphasize outlined forms, while free-standing sculptures suggest buttes and stalagmites, sometimes with mineral-like striations. What might be a sweater in another dimension here becomes a miniature landscape. That’s exemplary of all three artists, who find the distinctive in the ordinary.
In the upstairs gallery, Cedric Williams goes beyond merely documenting the ruin he finds at obsolete industrial sites. The evocative photo collages of “Dereliction” begin with images of a defunct Maryland cement factory or an abandoned North Wales quarry. They’re framed by bits of fabric and cardboard and caked-on sand and gravel — symbolic and actual traces of rock and earth. The Wales-bred Marylander’s pictures are in black-and-white; the 3-D elements add just brown and rare touches of green to the gritty palette. If nature is healing these man-made wounds, the process must have barely begun.
Over, Under, Through: Elisa Berry Fonseca, Suzi Fox, Fabiola Alvarez Yurcisin; Dereliction: Cedric Williams Through Dec. 17 at BlackRock Center for the Arts, 12901 Town Commons Dr., Germantown. 301-528-2260. blackrockcenter.org/gallery.
The subject of Ebtisam Abdulaziz's "Blue Freedom" is not exactly freedom. The performance piece, one of several documented at the District of Columbia Arts Center, places the D.C.-based Emirati artist inside a clear plastic sphere. She paints the interior surface with blue pigment, partly blocking herself from view. She's defining a refuge but also a prison.
The performances are shown on video, in photos or both. In one video, Abdulaziz pens the word “Muslim” repeatedly on a transparent surface between her and the camera. The word and its implications are for the viewer to ponder, but the artist maintains some control by writing from her own point of view, so the text is backward to the observer.
In “Women’s Circle,” a suite of photos, a black-clad Abdulaziz contorts herself inside a white ring that represents the bonds of culture and gender. Like the clear sphere, it’s a constraint the artist has devised for herself, but it symbolizes ones over which she has little influence.
Blue Freedom: Ebtisam Abdulaziz On view through Dec. 10 at District of Columbia Arts Center, 2438 18th St. NW. 202-462-7833. dcartscenter.org.
California artist Michael Newberry paints realistically with oils on linen and sometimes depicts scenes from classical mythology. But his depiction of Icarus, included in White Cloud Gallery’s “Intimacy,” is as contemporary as traditional. Posed serenely in midair, naked and wingless, the boy might be rising rather than falling. The emphasis is on physical beauty, not the original fable’s cautionary moral.
Newberry’s specialty is the male nude, although there also are undraped women in this array. Among the latter are two lovers (part of the sculpture-inspired “Arabesque” series) and a personification of winter, pregnant in a snowy landscape. Many of the pictures are in black-and-white, meant to denote memory. Even drained of color, though, the idealized figures appear sinewy and substantial.
Intimacy: Michael Newberry On view through Dec. 14 at White Cloud Gallery, 1843 14th St. NW, Second Floor. 202-288-1391. whitecloudgallery.com.
The five Tom Green drawing-paintings at Washington Project for the Arts, collectively known as “Stream,” depict a semiabstract landscape that almost became concrete. Inspired by the 1973 watercolors, WPA planned to paint the street outside its front door with Green-like forms in black, white and watery blue.
Then federal highway standards nixed that tribute to the beloved Green, a local artist and teacher who died in 2012. But a version of the planned mural decorates the wall, where it frames “Stream.” The pictures are softer and more eclectic than the hard-edged work for which Green is known. But the beginnings of the later style are evident here, as is Green’s affection for the natural hues and contours of the region where he spent his life.
Tom Green: Stream On view through Dec. 9 at Washington Project for the Arts, 2124 Eighth St. NW. 202-234-7103. wpadc.org.