Simple in form yet layered and luminous, color-field painting is minimalism at its most romantic. The pictures that are Carol Miller Frost’s contribution to “Flow and Shift,” at VisArts Kaplan Gallery, evoke times of day and qualities of light, as well as ideas both abstract and playful. A study in and of aqua is titled “Inner Light”; one in pink is called “Inside of My Cheek.”
A single color dominates most of these 11 paintings (including one diptych), but other hues lurk within. A few of the Baltimore artist’s canvases are divided by subtle figures, like the inverted “T” that separates two slightly different shades of yellow in “Tangent Line.” “Blue Shift” places a light blue rectangle within a larger, pinker near-square. Such contrasts are, of course, not very dramatic. Frost’s work is meant to shimmer, not shout.
Rebecca Kamen, whose sculpture is the show’s other half, also considers color and form. But the local artist’s inspiration comes from networks studied by the sciences. Often painted on mylar spirals with two complementary colors, Kamen’s pieces look like paintings that have become wall reliefs. Given added depth by the shadows they cast, these sinuous constructions could show the pathways of a single brain, or of an entire universe.
Downstairs at VisArts’s Gibbs Street Gallery, Dawn Gavin’s “What Remains” contrasts large and small gestures, subtractions and additions. The Scottish-bred Baltimorean sometimes begins with a punch, making designs from the resulting holes and circles. “Rorschach” cuts a blotlike shape into a sideways map of Asia; the title piece is painted and pasted directly on the wall, with plus signs (another Gavin motif) pitted against bits of punched-out paper. Such assemblages are billed as “a meditation on absence,” but they also suggest the on-off switches that generate our increasingly digitized environment.
On view through Wednesday at Kaplan and Gibbs Street Galleries, VisArts at Rockville, 155 Gibbs St., Rockville; 301-315-8200, www.visartscenter.org.
Ukraine-born D.C. photographer Alexander Vasiljev often travels for his work and has previously shown pictures of Peru and Nepal at Watergate Gallery. For his current show there, he built worlds in his apartment, which has some rooms with a view. The photographer lives atop the Cairo, the city’s tallest residential structure. So he can see downtown’s landmarks, as well as red, white and blue skies and many examples of the D.C. state bird: the construction crane.
Vasiljev frames the wide-angle scenes with personal items, including plants, artist tools and a fluttering goldfish. Sometimes, the tchotchkes on the windowsill are thematic. “Contemplate” shows a Buddha’s head and a rosary; “Power Theater” features a squad of toy soldiers.
Multiple shots are combined into one immaculate image, which is then finished with a wax veneer, giving it an old master’s glow. The result has a classical look, yet is as contemporary as the scaffolding on the Mall’s towering obelisk. Also on display are four black-and-white shots of details of the Cairo, whose gargoyles and globe lights make it seem a fitting place to redefine the neoclassical still life.
Photographs on view through Dec. 4 at Watergate Gallery, 2552 Virginia Ave. NW; 202-338-4488; www.watergategalleryframedesign.com.
In a window a few blocks from the Cairo, the latest of Transformer’s storefront installations presents a different sort of tableaux. Local artist Chris Rackley’s “Protosystems” uses three TV sets to display discrete close-ups of a mechanized diorama that includes a moon, a spaceship and a rotating asteroid belt. A fourth monitor captures the likeness of any passerby who glances into a planet-shaped void.
The piece recalls the innovations of Georges Melies, who used models and stop-action cinematography in his 1902 movie, “A Trip to the Moon.” These days, computer imaging has replaced such tricks, and live video has become as commonplace as the kind of minicams that examine Rackley’s mini-universe. The piece’s contrast between new and old illusion-making technology is amusing, but there’s a larger point. By showing both close-ups and the full installation, “Protosystems” reminds us that seeing a part doesn’t necessarily reveal the whole.
On view through Saturday at Transformer, 1404 P St. NW; 202-483-1102; www.transformerdc.org.
A walk through the Arts Club of Washington’s galleries takes the viewer from Kristen Hall’s brightly colored abstractions to Alison Hall’s tightly worked gray ones, via Ruth Meixner Bird’s paintings, which share elements of both.
Herzog employs pop-art acrylic hues and fluid gestures. Areas of black, whether squiggles or billowing shapes, separate exuberant reds, oranges and blues, which sometimes blend. Her works on paper are quieter, with more-watery colors, but still executed with impressive freeness.
If Herzog’s paintings suggest abstract-expressionist florals, Bird’s owe more to Cubism, and sometimes hint at landscape. Her canvases are densely detailed and contrast vivid colors with shades of gray. The latter, especially when deployed in vertical bars and blocks, suggest cityscapes.
Hall’s work is even more architectural. The Virginia-bred artist makes intricately patterned pictures inspired by the buildings and paintings of her part-time homeland, Italy. She melds pencil with plaster on panels or with gouache on paper. The former pictures, mostly named for saints, invite close inspection. The much darker ones on paper, dubbed “Nocturnes,” demand it.
On view through Saturday at the Arts Club of Washington, 2017 I St. N.W.; 202-331-7282, Ext. 4; www.artsclubofwashington.org.
Varied in material yet cohesive in feel, Laurel Hauser’s “Ghost Stories,” at Morton Fine Art, depict phantoms as both presences and absences. Several of the D.C. artist’s paintings, inspired by 19th-century “spirit photographs,” were executed with bleach on velvet. While the phony photos were usually double exposures, Hauser’s take is starker and more elusive.
Other wraiths are more substantial, built from collaged elements and thickly applied pigments. Sometimes, Hauser combines heavy and light in the same picture. “Matinee” is principally oil, but with a face rendered in watercolor; “New World” is overwhelmingly dark, yet with flashes of simulated illumination. The painter also uses resin, acrylic, encaustic and spray paint, often removing elements and then partially painting over their traces. The ghosts in Hauser’s work, it turns out, are most often figments of her multilayered style.
On view through Friday at Morton Fine Art, 1781 Florida Ave. NW; 202-638-2787; www.mortonfineart.com.
Jenkins is a freelance writer.