In “Black and White,” Alex Katz’s show at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center, as many as 11 colors produce a narrow range of grays in the 89-year-old New Yorker’s lithographs and line drawings.
Katz’s 1950s paintings are precursors of pop art, and the artist shares the popsters’ affinity for commercial graphics. One of the show’s largest pieces is a three-panel portrayal of shoppers. Another image, here as both a black-backdrop silk-screen and in a cutout version, depicts a woman in motion, posing in a swimsuit and broad-brimmed hat. Feminine icons are frequent subjects, although the selection includes portraits and a few landscapes.
Always a representational artist, Katz has often worked in vibrant color. Yet his style peels nicely. The earlier pieces in this monochromatic array are less austere, tempered by shades of gray. But the show’s standouts are recent, large and stark. Their simplicity and boldness are well matched.
Most of the women in Melissa Ichiuji’s “Make You Love Me,” also at the museum, are literally plush. They’re dolls, assembled from scraps of material and memory. They’re not for kids, though. The local artist’s creations feature openings and cavities: wombs, but also wounds. One mannequin zips open her back to reveal her spine; another bleeds from where her breasts were severed by a guillotine-like device.
Bodies age, wither and ultimately fail, a process the playful yet ominous figurines evoke. They also invoke a specific loss: the fire that destroyed the artist’s family home when she was a child. This is commemorated by a series of partly charred model dwellings, and a huge steel “Goddess of the Burning House.” Like many of Ichiuji’s creations, the deity combines dread and mastery.
Alex Katz: Black and White/Melissa Ichiuji: Make You Love Me On view through Dec. 18 at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center, 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW. 202-885-1300. american.edu/museum.
The seven Mid-Atlantic artists in Arlington Arts Center’s “Fall Solos 2016” deal in incongruity and juxtaposition, whether of media or subject or both. Lewis Colburn simulates Colonial-era artifacts such as rifles and a spinning wheel, mostly in wood, yet with some pieces molded of translucent red urethane. Michele Montalbano overlaps pieces of wallpaper, primarily with designs that evoke 18th-century France but interleaving a few scraps whose imagery suggests a boy’s bedroom out of “Leave it To Beaver.”
Painting oozes into sculpture in Andrew Hladky’s mainly black pieces, the most unruly of which send tendrils off the canvas and into space. Michael Booker and Liz Guzman alternate between flat and 3-D formats, and both can paint realistically — or surrealistically — when they choose. In Booker’s striking “HSG Bust II,” a sculpture is hidden behind painstakingly rendered lacy garments. Some of Guzman’s tropical landscapes incorporate objects, but she also simulates depth in large, immersive pictures whose foregrounded leaves promise paradise beyond.
The hybrids are edgiest when they encompass human flesh. Amanda Burnham’s expressionist drawing-sculptures imagine cities as organisms, with arms and lips jumbled with doors and windows, all eerily lighted. Marion Colomer’s pencil drawings of nudes are set in painted jungles that are more colorful than their inhabitants. Yet most of the people are in sexually explicit poses, giving them an erotic charge that belies their wispy rendering. Colomer even helped craft an original perfume for the installation, adding another dimension.
Fall Solos 2016 On view through Dec. 18 at Arlington Arts Center, 3550 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. 703-248-6800. arlingtonartscenter.org.
Hamiltonian Gallery annually assembles a group of fellows, artists whose callings and careers it fosters. The latest team got a field trip to Boston, directed by curator Camilio Alvarez. The outcome can be seen — or not seen — in “[recombinant] fellows: RA.”
Although most of the eight participants worked separately, the results sometimes dovetail. Nara Park’s “Shatter” is a small suspended ceiling, made of plywood painted to simulate stone, that appears to be splintered. Jim Leach’s “Shatter Stands” features pieces of broken plates as part of a starkly lighted setting for performances. Dan Perkins also fragments his small landscape paintings, at least visually, by interrupting the vistas with hard-edge geometric shapes.
Two artists present summations of a sort, both in the form of common art-museum offerings. Nancy Daly fabricated gift-shop souvenirs of the other fellows’ projects, complete with facetious certificates of authenticity. Allison Spence’s amusing piece is an audio tour of the show, inspired by a trip to Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The aural guide’s ploy shouldn’t be spoiled, but museum buffs probably know that one of the most notable things about the Gardner is what is not on display there.
[recombinant] fellows: RA On view through Dec. 17 at Hamiltonian Gallery, 1353 U St. NW, Suite 101. 202-332-1116. hamiltoniangallery.com.
Making fabrics, and garments from them, is an art. But that’s just part of what’s celebrated in “Twist: The Art of Spinning by Hand.” The BlackRock Center for the Arts show features a dress, a cape and sparkly “art yarn,” but the implements on display are just as elegantly crafted. Among the spinning wheels, sculpted of finely grained wood, are one as small as a hardback book and another embellished with carved wooden moon and stars. Equally refined are such small implements as lucets (for braiding) and drop spindles (for spinning without a wheel).
If these devices are evidence of a handicraft revival, it’s not a purely antiquarian one. Lightweight carbon-fiber arms are part of the latest spinning equipment, and one of the larger wheels is constructed mostly of PVC pipe. The show’s “Spin Lab” includes touchable fibers of wool, silk, flax and cotton, but also recycled plastic bottles.
For all their finesse, these are tools, made for use rather than display. So it’s fitting that the show closes with spinning lessons, free and open to all, Dec. 17 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Twist: The Art of Spinning by Hand Through Dec. 17 at BlackRock Center for the Arts, 12901 Town Commons Dr., Germantown. 301-528-2260. blackrockcenter.org/gallery.