The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

In the galleries: With two group exhibits, maximum exposure for photographers

"The Return of What Passes Away (self portrait)" by Iwan Bagus. (Iwan Bagus/Studio Gallery)

“Lost” and “Found” are the titles of two vivid Steven Marks pictures in Studio Gallery’s annual group photography show. Those vignettes are not the only reason to call the entire exhibition “Lost/Found,” Marks notes. “The very essence of the art form is its uncanny ability to give presence to something that is absent,” he says in a statement. Indeed, “Lost/Found” would be a fitting alternate handle for “Signature Images,” the Multiple Exposures Gallery show that includes work by two artists also represented in Studio’s survey.

Most of the contributors rely on serendipity, but the selections include a few more deliberate images. Java-born Iwan Bagus embodies his heritage by posing in an inherited antique sarong, surrounded by balloons emblazoned with copies of his late mother’s final CT scan. Korea-bred Soomin Ham turns old family snapshots into layered collages, whether colorful and abstract (at Studio) or spare and lyrical (at Multiple Exposures). The former derive from flawed negatives exposed during her childhood; the latter from her grandfather’s pristine black-and-white pictures from the 1930s.

Marks’s street pictures are bright and bustling, conveying urban action with garish colors and people who blur into semiabstract shapes. They complement two very different pictures at Multiple Exposures: Sarah Hood Salomon’s shot of people alone together, clustered under bus shelters in the rain, and Eric Johnson’s more classical scene of a Capitol Hill fountain, its moving water iced by a long exposure.

Many photos in both shows depict places that are unpopulated or that isolate a single person. At Studio, Rania A. Razek renders a dirt road through a forest as a sort of stage set, while Alexandra Silverthorne sees night as quiet yet humming with possibility. Emptiness aches in Leena Jayaswal’s still lifes of uninhabited bedrooms, although the pictures are not as bereft as Matt Francisco’s close-ups of window shades that partly shield sunlight from a friend’s longtime home that’s about to be sold.

Illumination appears more exalted in Fred Zafran’s elegant photo of a single figure in a medieval church, the distant person’s body bathed in the multiple hues of a stained-glass window. Zafran’s two pictures at Multiple Exposures employ a similar strategy but are starker and more jittery, in part because they’re lighted by competing multiple sources.

The photos at Multiple Exposures were picked by the individual artists without a theme in mind. Yet Zafran’s are not the only ones to focus on mysterious interiors. Timothy Hyde finds the theatricality in an abandoned herring factory; Francine B. Livaditis takes an off-kilter glance at an industrial space; and Alan Sislen gazes at and through multiple doorways in a house that appears ordinary, except that it’s partly filled with sand. In this evocative scene, nature and mankind are both visible and hauntingly absent.

Lost/Found Through Nov. 23 at Studio Gallery, 2108 R St. NW.

Signature Images Through Nov. 21 at Multiple Exposures Gallery, Torpedo Factory, 105 N. Union St., Alexandria.

Confluence and Foreword

The 10 artists in “Confluence 2019 Select” and the eight in “Foreword” constitute groups that could each be designated a “Class of 2019.” The first show, at Otis Street Arts Project, is of work shown last year and reviewed in East City Art’s new anthology of critical writing. The second introduces “Cohort 3” of participants awarded nine-month fellowships by Halcyon Arts Lab to foster what it calls “emerging artists seeking social impact.”

The Otis Street show ranges from the formalism of Hsin-Hsi Chen, who extrapolates shimmering pencil and charcoal abstractions into 3-D constructions, to the erotically charged imagery of Marion Colomer and John Paradiso, who temper fleshy subjects by employing wispy watercolor or embroidery, respectively. Where Isabel Manalo and Duly Noted Painters (Kurtis Ceppetelli and Matthew Malone) emphasize the sensuousness of paint, James Huckenpahler’s computer-generated abstractions are decayed yet crisp.

Nehemiah Dixon III shows a trio of disembodied hoodies made of fiberglass, one with a hole from when it was punched by a passerby. Michele Colburn’s antiwar layer cake is a paint-frosted assemblage of Vietnam-era military tripwire spools. Stephanie Mercedes dangles dozens of antique lockets in memory of Argentina’s “disappeared” and has scored the installation to the chants of mothers who protested in Buenos Aires.

Sound is essential to two works at Halcyon, where Alex Braden’s installation deploys overlapping drones and electro-stuttered vocals, while Molly Joyce’s close-up video of hands in motion is keyed to singing inspired by a Nico recording. There’s no painting here, but lots of video and photography and a fair amount of poetry.

Sobia Ahmad erases ID photos of Muslim immigrants to represent the fragility of their lives. Ashley M. Freeby plants rectangles of earth and gravel with grass to suggest African American heritage. History also is packed into Stephanie J. Woods’s assemblage, which uses old fabric and furniture to frame a photo of a woman who has wrapped her hair in a T-shirt emblazoned with a contemporary slogan: “Black Girl Magic.”

Confluence 2019 Select Through Nov. 23 at Otis Street Arts Project, 3706 Otis St., Mount Rainier.

Foreword Through Nov. 26 at Halcyon Arts Lab, 1801 35th St. NW (entrance at rear).

Matina Marki Tillman

To explain the etchings in “Humanography: Shifts and Variations,” Matina Marki Tillman begins with classical sculpture. She cites the example of a statue of a man in mid-step, his pose giving a sense of motion to the inert material. The Connecticut artist also takes cues from films and comics for the work in her Washington Printmakers Gallery show, which sometimes offers multiple views of the same scene to convey what her statement calls “the weight of the instant.”

Tillman draws her immaculately detailed pictures in charcoal and pencil on translucent masters, whose images are transferred to photosensitive plates with ultraviolet light. The method eliminates the harsh chemicals of old and retains the subtle gray tones of the original. Sinew, flesh and bone appear impressively tactile, and contrasts between light and shadow are strong. Whether depicting a landscape of dozens of abutting humans or a single pair of hands in assorted poses, Tillman conjures both the weight and the lightness of being.

Matina Marki Tillman: Humanography: Shifts and Variations Through Nov. 24 at Washington Printmakers Gallery, 1641 Wisconsin Ave. NW.