The easiest way to get a sense of the three-venue Curator’s Office exhibition “Geometrix: Line, Form, Subversion” would be to visit the location on Dupont Circle’s gallery row. But the selection there is so intriguing that viewers will probably want to continue to the other two venues — a warehouse in Northeast Washington converted to artist studios and a home in Bethesda, Md. The three parts overlap, and a few of the 44 artists are represented in more than one place, but each array has a slightly different vibe.
Geometry connotes straight lines and regular forms, but that’s not what curator Andrea Pollan’s “mischievously educational exhibition” delivers. Curves occur as frequently as right angles, and even tightly patterned compositions can have a freewheeling quality. Amy Lin loops blue dots atop a smaller spiral of magenta ones, and Linn Meyers’s off-white atoms ripple and coalesce on milky black plastic. Perhaps the furthest from Euclidian principles are Peter Fox’s jungles of multicolor drips, each applied with an eyedropper.
Cubism and De Stijl may be inspirations for such participants as Ted Gahl, Logan Grider and Lori Ellison (the title of whose “Bedford Boogie Woogie” invokes Mondrian). Vivid color renders the linear sensuous in such abstractions as Jason Gubbiotti’s green-heavy flip-phone-shaped “Groom’s Lake” and Warren Isensee’s pink-grounded, twin-menorah-shaped “Snake Eyes.”
A few of the artists simulate a third dimension, while others enter it, often with unexpected materials. Travis Childers constructs a metallic stripe painting from staples, and Alex Ebstein builds a still life out of twine and hand-cut PVC yoga mats. Seth Adelsberger surrounds a central void with an elaborate, and irregularly shaped, wooden frame. Jason Hughes etched a pattern on glass that draws its intricacies on the wall with shadows. Conversely, Charles Cohan flattens a 3-D form by turning the plan for Tokyo’s Narita Airport into a stark black outline.
Most of the pieces aren’t that minimal. Vivid colors and freehand gestures challenge the grids, whether the results are dense and multi-chromatic, as in Andy Moon Wilson’s mosaic-like drawings, or as direct as John Zinsser’s crosshatching of thick purple strokes. Such pictures may not be subversive, but their verve transcends plain geometry.
Geometrix: Line, Form, Subversion On view through April 16 at the Curator’s Office at Gallery 2112, 2112 R St. NW; 703 Edgewood Studios, 703 Edgewood St. NE; and 5706 Newington Rd., Bethesda. 202-360-2573. curatorsoffice.com.
Washington abstractionist Maggie Michael paints in series, such as the recent “Perfect X,” that are characterized more by visual motifs than different techniques. Nearly all of her pictures contrast hard-edged shapes, sometimes stenciled, with looser gestures, and employ a variety of pigments, including ink, acrylic, latex and spray paint. These liquids and more flow through the American University Museum’s “A Phrase Hung in Midair as If Frozen,” which surveys Michael’s output since 2002, the year she earned an MFA at AU.
Although the artist emphasizes paint’s fluidity, she can apply pigment so thickly that it becomes sculptural. This is most evident in the show’s earliest pieces, the “Clones” (one of which is also in “Geometrix”). These single-color pools of latex paint were poured onto panels, then shaped into near-identical blobs. They’re playful yet spartan, with an austerity not evident in the other pictures, even quiet recent ones such as the lovely “Violin Mantra: Dark Room Puddles Develop Blue Skies.”
As her titles suggest, Michael likes words; the show’s title can be found, upside down, in one picture on a wall busy with dozens of small ones. Her basic style may be traced to Abstract Expressionism, but the use of text, collage and neon-bright colors recalls Pop Art. The nonrepresentational imagery courses like the rivers that inspire her, with fragments of the actual world carried along as flotsam.
Maggie Michael: A Phrase Hung in Midair as If Frozen On view through March 13 at the American University Museum, 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW. 202-885-1300. american.edu/museum.
A pair of paintings from Kesha Bruce’s previous Morton Fine Art show hang alongside the current one, “Magical Spells and Reminders.” These renderings of mystical “guardians” are precursors of two newer pictures of silhouetted patchwork figures that wear crowns. But the recent work is in a different style, and most of it is not figurative. Instead, it emphasizes what the Arizona-based artist calls a “personal, magical alphabet” that developed from her drawings. Among the glyphs are a teardrop shape and a cross with arms of equal length.
The latter is featured in “The Crossroads,” a potent collage-painting that is mostly in bloodlike shades, with white and black marks and glittery areas. The mixed-media piece began, as did the others, with bolts of cloth from a defunct Seattle upholstery factory. The artist painted and cut the material, assembled the roughly rectangular scraps and then painted some more.
The process yields works that suggest both mid-20th-century abstraction and traditional hand-printed fabrics. Bruce’s symbols are new to her, but they tap into something ancient.
Kesha Bruce: Magical Spells and Reminders On view through March 17 at Morton Fine Art, 1781 Florida Ave. NW. 202-628-2787. mortonfineart.com.
Wonder Woman and a little girl do laundry. Stock images of a 1950s housewife are printed on an apron. A woman emerges from a flower whose petals are gray flatirons. Such comic images of domestic emancipation are commonplace in “Wings From Chains,” organized by the Athenaeum on the occasion of the national meeting of the Women’s Caucus for Art last month in Washington.
The 14 local artists’ contributions are well-made and often witty, even if some of the jibes appear dated. A collaged landscape has mountains made of female nudes, probably cut from magazines such as Playboy, whose “philosophy” is little studied these days. And although statistics indicate that women still do more housework than men, washing and ironing are perhaps not as central as they once were.
More contemporary are Ann Stoddard’s series of headscarves and wedding veils, demonstrating shared aspects of Muslim and Western women’s garb, and Cherie Redlinger’s charcoal of a female figure, altered by breast-cancer surgery yet essentially intact. It’s one of the simplest pieces here, and one of the most powerful.
Wings From Chains On view through March 13 at the Athenaeum, 201 Prince St., Alexandria. 703-548-0035. nvfaa.org.