Between Trachtman’s artwork and the bulk of Wu’s are twinned curtains of another near-obsolete material: floor-to-ceiling strands of cassette audio tape hung by Wu to erect a sort of isolation chamber. The Nanjing-born D.C. resident works in many media, but her most distinctive creations are made of paint. That doesn’t mean they’re painted, exactly. Wu layers assorted colors of house paint and lets the sandwiched, multihued pigment dry. Then she cuts it into morsels to be arranged into abstract mosaics on wood panels. (A video on her website demonstrates the process.)
As a first-generation American, Wu followed closely Donald Trump’s comments on immigration. The ex-president’s words provide the titles for such sculpture-paintings as “90% of the Drugs,” but they’re otherwise unpolitical. That picture consists of hole-punched circles of paint clustered tightly on a red backdrop that is visible at the bottom. Other pieces feature fabric-like motifs that recall those of batik or, well, quilts. The geometric designs are executed with varying degrees of control and uniformity. Meticulous in construction, Wu’s patterns nonetheless slip, slide and oscillate — much like images made by simply brushing paint onto a surface.
Sherry Trachtman and Jenny Wu: Material Reality Through Feb. 27 at Fred Schnider Gallery, 888 N. Quincy St., Arlington. Open by appointment.
About as sprawling and diverse a show as the compact Gallery B can contain, “CounterCurrent” encompasses painting, sculpture, drawing and photography as well as decorative crafts. Organized by the local but globally focused Art4Us Artists cooperative, “CounterCurrent” features work by four principals of that group — Nana Bagdavadze, Katty Biglari, Antonella Manganelli and Grazia Montalto. Their art is supplemented, and sometimes contrasted, by pieces from an international competition juried by Manganelli and Montalto.
Much of the highlighted artists’ work is autobiographical, although often indirectly. Bagdavadze, originally from the Georgia that doesn’t border Florida, makes paintings and hand-finished prints of DNA double helixes that are inspired by having been a bone-marrow donor for her sister. Rather than dryly scientific, the pictures are vivid and sensuous, depicting spirals of glossy orbs that glisten like pearls or caviar.
Biglari, who spent much of her childhood in Paris with her Iranian-emigre family, filled a scroll with heartfelt drawings of the French capital; the paper is coiled on rollers inside a box that frames each scene in succession. Montalto recalls the Naples of her youth with intricate paintings that often include a volcano. Her style, which recalls both Art Nouveau and 1960s psychedelia, bends Eastward for one picture that illustrates the legend of a koi (an ornamental carp) that becomes a dragon.
In a serendipitous link, a koi is the only representational element in a painting by Alessandra Ricci, whose mixed-media compositions contrast the materiality of gold leaf with abstract blooms of watery pigment at their centers. The Italy-bred artist also contributed a striking sculptural painting divided by lengths of string that both burrow into the thick pigment and protrude from it.
Sculptors Davide Prete and Warren Chambers offer eloquent sculptures that share some attributes yet are fundamentally different. Prete’s 3-D-printed monolith of looping tendrils is both airy and imposing, with a metallic sheen derived from infused aluminum powder. Chambers’s creation is actually metallic, made from a single sheet of lead that is punctuated by four segments — each one wider than the one to its left — hand-razored into bundles of twisted ribbons. (The cutting technique must be something like Wu’s.) The artist can’t turn lead into gold, but making the hard gray substance appear soft and lacy is almost as impressive.
CounterCurrent Through Feb. 26 at Gallery B, 7700 Wisconsin Ave., #E, Bethesda.
As a group-show theme, “Red” may seem foolproof, but it entails a risk. While the prints and photographs in the Washington Printmakers Gallery exhibition are energized by the hot hue, not every artist can render fresh such familiar embodiments of redness as a rose, a firetruck or a pair of lips.
Those commonplaces are all given pleasing twists. Sandra Chen Weinstein, who also supplies a voluptuous close-up of a red-fleshed peach, photographs multiple sets of stylized lips projected on a building. Clara Young Kim places her camera tightly to reveal that a fire engine is as battered as it is shiny. Printmaker Lila Oliver Asher’s rose is a bright but dainty highlight, held by a gray silhouette of a woman.
Sally Canzoneri’s photo of a patched-together wooden structure is even less red than Asher’s print, since the building’s coat of scarlet paint has almost entirely vanished. A Bob Burgess photo depicts some sort of facade that is redder and more battered than Kim’s firetruck, and the picture is so intimately framed that its subjects become just color and texture.
Red is the color of revolution, linocut artist Norman Strike proclaims with a to-the-barricades gun-control poster. But ink, paper and an engraving tool can also yield tricky results, as Nina Muys and Rosemary Cooley demonstrate. They each offer several versions of the same basic flower, employing different colors and techniques to represent the variety in nature — and in printmaking.
Red Through March 7 at Washington Printmakers Gallery, 1641 Wisconsin Ave NW.