August isn’t traditionally the liveliest month for local galleries and museums, but there’s still plenty to see, including gem-encrusted miniatures crafted for Europe’s aristocracy and a much larger piece built with pull tabs from beer cans. There also are two examples of contemporary art that are all light and motion, one of which is pulsating in plain sight.
This survey was initially inspired by the National Museum of Women in the Arts’ collection of objects made by 18th-century female silversmiths, but it grew to be the largest show in its “Women to Watch” series of international contemporary art. The array includes copper jewelry and silver cups, but also edgier work. One artist melts lead-crystal pitchers received as wedding gifts; another makes “self-portraits” of women’s clothing rendered in metal mesh and steel. Both playful and imposing is a shiny red wall piece, six feet in diameter, constructed entirely out of pull tabs from Budweiser cans. Through Sept. 16 at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, 1250 New York Ave. NW.
The main event in Artechouse’s latest installation is a 23-minute video loop by Dutch movie special-effects expert Julius Horthuis, never before shown in a gallery. The constantly receding images suggest a sci-fi movie’s depiction of space travel, but the changes are not scripted. Instead, they’re generated by fractals, complex mathematical progressions that yield irregular yet closely related patterns — “worlds that already exist,” as the artist puts it. Of the other pieces, the niftiest one projects a cavern inside a large bowl. It’s expansive and microcosmic at the same time. Through Sept. 30 at Artechouse, 1238 Maryland Ave. SW.
In 1842, Gustav Fabergé opened a jewelry shop in St. Petersburg. Nearly 170 years later, Apple introduced the iPod. The link may not seem obvious, but it becomes so when inspecting the 90 glistening objects in this exhibition. There’s just something so satisfying about the perfect little box, whether it’s designed to hold jewels or tunes. (The Fabergés knew nothing of the MP3 when they fled in 1917, but they did make music boxes and musical clocks.) This selection draws mostly from Hillwood’s own holdings, but also borrows pieces from the Musee d’Orsay in Paris and Prince Albert II of Monaco. “Rediscovered” refers to new scholarship about some of the items, but viewing the immaculate craftsmanship for the first time is revelation enough. Through Jan. 13 at Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens, 4155 Linnean Ave. NW.
1968 was assassinations, black power, acid rock, Nixon-Agnew. To distill the year into images, the National Portrait Gallery has relied heavily on its collection of Time magazine covers. David Levine’s caricature of LBJ, a heroic portrait of the Apollo 8 astronauts, the smoking gun made by pop artist Roy Lichtenstein to symbolize the year’s political violence — all were originally on the front of Time. Also highlighted are “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In” and the year’s music stars, from Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin to Barbra Streisand. Many of the people depicted became casualties, but their influence endures 50 years later. Through May 19 at the National Portrait Gallery, Eighth and F streets NW.
California LED artist Cliff Garten’s light piece could be called “street art,” except that it’s three stories up. The 150-foot-long by 15-foot-high artwork flickers over the plaza in front of the Rosslyn Metro station entrance (and directly over a McDonald’s). The bright colors and abstract shapes shift regularly, governed by software linked to real-time environmental information. The patterns may appear random, but they’re illustrating such local data as Arlington’s temperature and the Potomac River’s water level. Permanently at 1800 N. Lynn St., Arlington.