For longtime observers of the local art scene, the most evocative item on display at the Sculpture Space at 1111 Pennsylvania might be the model of the rowhouse complex near 15th Street and Rhode Island Avenue NW, where Zenith Gallery began 40 years ago. Built by David Neigus with miniature contributions by many Zenith artists, it includes gallery founder Margery Goldberg’s likeness of herself, featuring her actual hair.
Zenith is celebrating its 40th anniversary with “In the Beginning, the Rhode Island Years, 1978-1986,” which showcases Goldberg as a shaper of wood. Among the other sculptors are several whose styles meld abstraction and natural forms. Carol Newmyer depicts dance and transformation in bronze; Beatriz Blanco draws human motion in space with dyed steel; and Chris Malone makes elegant wooden figures with glass faces. Many of the other standouts are by Chas Colburn, whose large steel inventions are imposing, yet delicate.
After Rhode Island Avenue, Zenith moved to 413 Seventh St. NW, where it was known for (among other things) neon art. This period is recalled by “Light Up Your heART,” at Zenith Salon. Red neon script illuminates Colburn’s masklike metal pieces from inside, and Goldberg coils neon around wood. Curves of steel are paired with swoops of neon in various colors in Michael Young’s sculpture, whose subjects include trees and jellyfish.
The art also employs other technologies. F. Lennox Campello embeds video into a large drawing of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. Alison Sigethy illuminates burbling water with ever-changing LED hues. Lea Craigie-Marshall and Erwin Timmers both use backlighting, although she does ink-on-Yupo abstractions, while he realistically renders objects — including squished plastic bottles — in glass.
Then there’s Stephen Hansen, whose cartoon sculptures are in both shows. His “heART” contribution is lighted by bare lightbulbs, a characteristically down-to-earth touch amid the more flamboyant gestures.
In the Beginning, the Rhode Island Years, 1978-1986 Through April 28 at the Sculpture Space at 1111 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Light Up Your heART Through March 24 at Zenith Salon, 1429 Iris St. NW. 202-783-2963. zenithgallery.com.
Dan Tague Dan Tague Civilian Art Projects Dan Tague’s “Revolver (New Horizons: Pluto),” on view at Civilian Art Projects.
Civilian Art Projects
Dan Tague’s “Revolver (New Horizons: Pluto),” on view at Civilian Art Projects.
Dan Tague has long addressed issues of the day, from the nexus of money and power to calamitous flooding in his native New Orleans. But there are only a few explicitly political works in “Alternative Evidence,” Tague’s show at Civilian Art Projects. It consists mostly of two sets of recontextualized images: large-format photographs of carefully staged everyday objects, and actual-size paintings of punk-rock album covers.
The paintings, inspired by Matisse, have been simplified to basic shapes and colors. They’ll be recognized by fans of the records — including ones by D.C.’s Bad Brains and Minor Threat — but function just fine as abstract compositions. The rock motif continues in a piece that expands Tague’s trademark series of images derived from U.S. currency by adding Kiss’s face makeup to the engraved portraits of Lincoln, Hamilton, Jefferson and Grant.
Some of the photos arrange inanimate subjects such as books and bamboo so the resulting pictures resemble nonrepresentational paintings. Tague also toys with scale, so a single Civil War musket ball looms like a dwarf planet, and tiny plastic Lego guns appear ominously real and metallic. Viewers may or may not ascribe a political meaning to these gun shots, but there’s no ambiguity about “Make America Great Again,” which embellishes dozens of lined-up No. 2 pencils with words and phrases associated with President Trump and his supporters. For rationality in American politics, school’s out.
Dan Tague: Alternative Evidence Through March 24 at Civilian Art Projects, 4718 14th St. NW. 202-607-3804. civilianartprojects.com.
The title of Steven Cushner’s “Double Down” refers to Hemphill Fine Arts’ back-to-back exhibitions of two separate selections of the artist’s recent work. An equally apt title could be borrowed from one of the strongest pictures hanging as part of the second grouping: “Ebb and Flow.” Cushner renders rounded, tightly interlocking forms atop quilt-like patterns and lets the paint from both drip freely.
“Atop” might not be exactly right. The nature-derived central motifs dominate the compositions, yet the distinction between foreground and background is, well, fluid. Areas are partly painted over, and the order in which various elements were introduced is not always clear. Like nature itself, Cushner fuses process and outcome.
The lines run lengthwise in the Willem de Looper abstractions, three on canvas and three on paper, also at Hemphill. The Dutch-born Washington painter (1932-2009) made these handsome pictures between 1973 and 1977, applying mineral-toned pigments in watery layers. Although there are dashes of bright color, notably in the widest of the three works on canvas, the overall effect is subtle and earthy. The extremely horizontal works on paper are more reminiscent of landscape but are similarly striated. They could be core samples from an imaginary land.
Steven Cushner: Double Down and Willem de Looper Through March 24 at Hemphill Fine Arts, 1515 14th St. NW. 202-234-5601. hemphillfinearts.com.
Iowa-bred photographer Danny Wilcox Frazier travels overlooked terrain, from the South to the Midwest to the Great Plains. The pictures in his Leica Store show, “Lost Nation,” are black-and-white, which links them to well-known historical images of the Dust Bowl and Appalachia. But Frazier doesn’t depict just rural and small-town scenes, with their farmers and hunters. He has also visited Detroit and several Indian reservations, training his camera on a bustling gospel church, a sinuous lap dancer and a ravenous dog.
The photographer may specialize in hard times, but he also documents scenic beauty and serendipitous moments, some of them comic. The most playful picture is of a South Dakotan who’s working under a truck and has placed his hat on the tire that conceals his head and torso. He appears to be half-man and half-machine, a centaur of the internal-combustion era. Frazier also is drawn to fleeting phenomena such as snow, mist, beams of sunlight and reflections, whether on water or glass. He reveals people and places that are rarely noticed and captures instants that will never be seen again.
Danny Wilcox Frazier: Lost Nation Through March 14 at Leica, 977 F St. NW. 202-787-5900. leicastoredc.com.