Jason Hamacher first traveled to Syria in search of classical beauty: liturgical music of the numerous sects that coexisted there. During several trips that lasted a cumulative many months, the D.C. drummer and photographer also documented the contemporary charms of Aleppo, Syria, where everyday life bustled amid ancient and medieval edifices. Hamacher didn’t know that the places he came to love were about to be lost to history.
“1,001 Syrian Nights: Forgotten Sunsets & Night Scenes From Pre-War Aleppo,” Hamacher’s first show at his own Lost Origins Gallery, comprises 15 previously unseen large-format, mostly panoramic photos. Shot under black or orange skies, the pictures tend to be grand in scope, although one depicts a modest, unmanned espresso stand that seems to have almost as many tiny white cups as the city’s Great Mosque had mosaics.
The pictures were made between 2007 and 2010, and Hamacher hasn’t returned to Aleppo since war began. But the photographer has followed the city’s fate, and knows that many of the sites he chronicled no longer exist. A picturesque tunnel that burrowed under buildings, the location of an evocative nighttime vignette, was destroyed in 2013. The devastation gives these immediate scenes a lingering poignancy.
Hamacher shot most of the photos with a tripod and long exposures, so that multiple light sources twinkle and objects in motion have a softness that suggests oil painting. People are mainly absent, as the photographer worked late at night or on Friday, the eve of the holy day, so as to capture urban sweep and detail without visual competition from the usual throngs. Yet these unpopulated pictures convey that Aleppo was a living city, as vital as it was venerable.
Jason Hamacher: 1,001 Syrian Nights: Forgotten Sunsets & Night Scenes From Pre-War Aleppo Through Jan. 1 at Lost Origins Gallery, 3110 Mt. Pleasant St. NW.
A series of spray-paint cans, each a different hue, adds up to a complete color spectrum at the entrance to Matt Corrado’s Blind Whino show, “Balancing Act.” Corrado is not a tagger, but he does use spray paint, mixed with acrylics, in his vivid, high-spirited pictures.
Graffiti is an influence on the local artist, who also draws from commercial graphics, comic books and 1960s Pop Art, notably the work of Roy Lichtenstein. The show features several sets of near-identical pieces, distinguished only by color; these include four 3-D pyramids topped by cutout brushstrokes — Corrado’s version of Lichtenstein’s pristine renderings of messy slurps of paint.
There’s no mess in Corrado’s style. He outlines areas of bright color with thick black lines, and slices panels into the shapes of the things they depict, such as skulls and lightning bolts. He places one of his pyramids in a room whose walls are painted with the same patterns as the object at its center. Corrado uses design motifs that are all around us to construct little cartoon universes.
Matt Corrado: Balancing Act Through Jan. 6 at Blind Whino, 700 Delaware Ave. SW.
A gloved hand that could belong to a certain animated mouse sometimes appears in Corrado’s pictures. Hands also feature in Elizabeth Casqueiro’s paintings but in far looser renditions. Without the sheet of references the Athenaeum provides for Casqueiro’s show, “Re:Vision,” viewers probably couldn’t discern that the Portugal-bred D.C. artist borrows from comic books and cereal boxes.
Most of Casqueiro’s paintings are abstracted, if not abstract. They appropriate bits of “Wonder Woman” and ads in which ’60s housewives devote themselves to scrubbing and vacuuming. These retro illustrations are simplified to shapes and colors that may be only minor parts of the overall compositions, and painted with smeary, drippy abandon. What remains of the artist’s commercial-art inspirations are brash colors and outlined forms.
Striking pictures such as the two-panel “Exit” have an affinity with Pop Art, but their technique and outlook are expressionist. Rather than emulate mass-produced images, Casqueiro transforms them into something personal and unpredictable.
Elizabeth Casqueiro: Re:Vision Through Jan. 6 at the Athenaeum, 201 Prince St., Alexandria.
“The spaces between dissolve in her emptiness.” That’s one of the cryptic poems Aliza Tucker whittled into existence by carving away the other words in a found document. Tucker sometimes uses language to make an image, as in a piece in which the outline of a lightbulb is drawn by the phrase “I have no idea” typed hundreds of times. Either way, Tucker’s work fits the theme of “T.N.T. Text,” a six-artist show at WAS Gallery.
Linda Hesh’s photos include words such as “evil,” etched into an apple in a one-frame retelling of the Adam and Eve parable. Kate Kretz superimposes angry phrases on photos of victims of human brutality. “Love” is the highlighted imperative in Barry Jones’s video collage of lessons from the Gospels. Pansies are more central than words to John Thomas Paradiso’s fabric-like collages of emblems of gay masculinity.
The most stylistically diverse work is by Judy Southerland, who stencils words onto drawing-paintings that also include physical objects that loop to places beyond the picture plane. The artist, who contributes a video piece as well, has a “distrust of words,” says curator Travis Childers’s note. Perhaps Southerland’s distrust extends beyond language, which is why her work is as open-ended as one of Tucker’s cutaway poems.
T.N.T. Text Through Jan. 5 at WAS Gallery, 5110 Ridgefield Rd., Bethesda.
The last of Zenith Gallery’s three 40th-anniversary shows, “Traveling Full Circle,” highlights six current artists. Like its predecessors, the exhibition is at 1111 Sculpture Space, which has just one wall suitable for hanging pictures. This is given to Renee duRocher’s mixed-media works, loose yet with precise details, inspired by travels to Asia. Also included are colorful impressionistic landscapes by Anne Marchand, but these are on free-standing panels that give them a sculptural presence.
The other participants sculpt soft phenomena in hard materials. Lisa Battle freezes sinuous gestures in glazed stoneware, while Darlene Davis hews wooden calligraphic forms that are mounted so they flutter in a breeze. Richard Binder and Jerome Parmet both work in steel, often painted, to evoke fire, fish and an entire rain forest. The latter piece, by Parmet, dangles copper leaves amid black and silver trunks that, like so much of this work, appear both formidable and delicate.
Traveling Full Circle Through Jan. 5 at 1111 Sculpture Space, 1111 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.