To judge from “Influence and Inspiration in Alexandria,” which spotlights current and former faculty members at the Art League, that organization’s school is a fine place to study realist painting. That’s not the only thing taught at the 60-year-old Torpedo Factory mainstay, of course. Most of one wall at the Athenaeum, which is hosting the retrospective, is dedicated to abstraction, including the show’s oldest dated item. But the bulk of the impressively deft work is recent and representational.
That possibly oldest entry is a large, immersive 1974 Sam Gilliam canvas that combines the Washington Color School’s watery staining technique with flashes of thick silver paint. It hangs next to a Lou Stovall monoprint whose stain-like whites suggest a color-field painting. (Gilliam was an early Art League instructor, and neither he nor Stovall still teach there.) Among the other striking abstractions are Hank Harmon’s “NC-LJ,” a hard-edged tan-and-brown composition softened with aqua crayon, and Delna Dastur’s “Grit,” a drip painting in yellow, red and bits of green accompanied by 10 bar-shaped mini-canvases in the same style.
The rest of the selection includes sculpture, ceramics and jewelry, alongside some prints, watercolors and mixed-media works. Betzi Robinson’s “Cold Moon,” a gentle watercolor, shows an East Asian influence, while Nancy McIntyre’s silkscreen, “Jessie’s Ice Cream Place,” emulates the reflection-happy look of photorealism. More typical, though, are neo-classical portraits, still lifes and narrative paintings. There’s a story to Danni Dawson’s deftly painted “Sea Captain” or Ted Reed’s “Jennifer, a Study in Blue,” while Carol Dupre suggests an even more complicated tale with the four-panel “Baltic Sea.” These pictures, all 2014 oils, may not fit any grand theories on the evolution of contemporary art, but their skill is undeniable.
Influence and Inspiration in Alexandria. On view through Sept. 21 at The Athenaeum, 201 Prince St., Alexandria, Va., 703-548-0035, www.nvfaa.org.
Small pastels of domestic and nature scenes are included in Jill Romanoke’s “Life Lines,” at Watergate Gallery. But the artist seems to feel that simply drawing and painting the natural world puts her at too far a remove. So she makes assemblages of shells, rocks, bones and other beach finds, as well as wall hangings on handmade Japanese paper that feature rubbings of trees, insects, tombstones and pottery shards. Although Romanoke lives in Northern Virginia, sojourns in Maine and New Mexico inspire her eclectic work.
The map-inspired hangings, part of Romanoke’s “Charting Series,” are made from layers of translucent, glued-together washi. Many are two-sided and should be hung where light can shine through them. Here, only one is, but the others look fine without that advantage. The artist elegantly juxtaposes calligraphic gestures, areas of wispy or saturated color and the ghostly images produced by the rubbings. Equally delicate are a set of “grief boats,” also made of paper; less so are pieces that incorporate metal screens and dried pig skin and guts.
Romanoke makes baskets that emulate natural forms, such as the overlapping petals of “In Bloom.” Another woven piece takes the contours of a woman’s hips and thighs, while “Old Sew” molds an antique clothing pattern into the curves of a woman’s torso. The human body is another territory to be found and charted.
Jill Romanoke: Life Lines On view through Sept. 20 at Watergate Gallery, 2552 Virginia Ave. NW, 202-338-4488.
Images of Washington
One of our town’s distinguishing characteristics is its proximity to nature: Rustling forests and rushing whitewater are close at hand. This aspect of local geography is well represented in “Images of Washington, D.C. 2014,” American Painting Fine Art’s eighth annual selection of works by the Washington Society of Landscape Painters. Included are pictures of well-known landmarks, many of them on or near the Mall. There also are portraits of such federal notables as Ben Bernanke, whose face probably would not be seen in a commercial gallery in any other city. Yet the majority of the more than 80 pictures depict side streets, rustic vistas or everyday scenes.
Interestingly, a large proportion of the paintings were executed with watercolor, which yields a more fluid and spontaneous look. These include Jean Brinton Jaecks’s luminous close-ups of orchids at the Botanic Garden, and Barry Lindley’s “Trolley Trestle, Glen Echo,” a tree-shadowed scene that’s mostly in green, but deepened by brown and enlivened by dabs of yellow. Bernard Dellario also incorporates striking color accents into his gouaches of Rock Creek, while Harry Jaecks’s (the orchid painter’s spouse) contributes beautifully detailed pencil drawings of Chesapeake watermen. If they live in a different world from the realm of domes, spires and cherry blossoms seen in many of these artworks, it’s one that’s not so far away.
The gallery also is showing a few views of Manhattan by a New Yorker, David Baise. He, too, uses watercolors, often in bright shades, giving his impressionistic montages of gray-and-black streets and steel-and-glass towers an engaging festiveness.
Images of Washington, D.C. 2014. On view through Sept. 27 at American Painting Fine Art, 5118 MacArthur Blvd., 202-244-3244, www.classicamericanpainting.com.
J. Jordan Bruns
“Chaos” may be too strong a word for the effect J. Jordan Bruns achieves in his recent paintings, on display in Long View Gallery’s “Light, Color, Chaos!” But there is plenty of contrast in the local artist’s exuberant work, which pours or spatters coils of thick pigment across areas of cleanly spray-painted color fields or honeycomb patterns. Some of the pictures add a different sort of tension by cutting the rectangular panels into jigsaw-puzzle-like pieces. These pieces are part Jackson Pollack, part shop class.
There’s an intuitive aspect to Bruns’s style that can result in surprises, such as the white void at the lower right of “Beanstalk.” In idea if not form, it mirrors the missing rectangle cut from “Ghost,” which has an unusually muted palette. Yet the paintings, many of which are small squares, have an underlying tidiness. Often they balance two basic hues, one cool and one hot, over which freer gestures can spiral. Although Bruns’s pictures have some wild patches, they’re far from anarchic.
J. Jordan Bruns: Light, Color, Chaos! On view through Sept. 21 at Long View Gallery, 1234 9th St. NW, 202-232-4788, www.longviewgallerydc.com.
Jenkins is a freelance writer.