Anil Revri is a God seeker. The Indian-born, Corcoran-educated artist is from a Hindu background, but the work in his “Faith and Liberation Through Abstraction” encompasses, and respects, many traditions. These “visual aids to meditation,” on display at the American University Museum, contain no images that transgress some sects’ ban on representing living creatures. Instead, they’re constructed from lines, dots and words.
The exhibition includes several series, with large paintings and smaller works on paper. One sequence highlights similarities among the teachings of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism, choosing generally noncontroversial sentiments. (The Hillel text that equates women with witchcraft seems an odd choice, however.) Other pieces incise Hindu holy words into handmade paper or pay tribute to Revri’s late mother, an Indian classical dancer.
Some of his larger works are extraordinarily detailed inventions with forms that resemble arches, domes and other features of religious architecture. The principal colors are black, white, silver and gold, hues that evoke both jewelry and machinery — much as the use of grids suggests computer graphics. Touches of red and orange occasionally lurk within the intricate patterns, and “Ram Darwaza #11” even allows a bit of blue in billowing, cloudlike shapes, hinting at the natural world.
Impressive for its craftsmanship and dedication, Revri’s art can be accepted as he presents it, as “my mantra for the new millennium.”
The work in Joan Lederman’s “Where the Seafloor Melts: Ocean Mud, Ceramic Change and the Connected Mind” at Georgetown University’s Spagnuolo Gallery is unabashedly didactic. But it’s so beautiful that it can be appreciated without reading a word of the extensive documentation. A ceramicist for more than 40 years, Lederman makes pots and bowls whose rich, earthy glazes seem primordial.
It turns out that they are. The Massachusetts artist works with sediment from the ocean floor, sometimes as deep as two miles beneath the surface. Some small jars of this stuff, nannofossil foraminiferal ooze, are included in the show. It’s remarkable to be in the presence of such exotic muck, located and retrieved by underwater robotic devices. Visually, however, what Lederman does with this raw material is even more striking. The intricate bio-geologic patterns and lushly metallic tones combine a modern sensibility with classic craftsmanship.
“Earth is a spinning kiln,” writes Lederman. This show is full of scientific information to support that, including video of undersea seismic activity. Even the work itself offers documentation: In flowing script, the artist decorates her pieces with the location from which the mud was taken. All potters must respect their material, but Lederman goes further. She pays tribute to the complex forces that created that material.
In “Black White and In Between,” Fran Abrams paints with clay. Not on clay; the polymer modeling material she uses already has pigment impregnated into it. For these works, which are on display at Foundry Gallery, Abrams chose only black, white and shades of gray, which she aligns in squares within black boxes.
Although the Maryland artist uses simple squares and angles and a limited color scheme, she adds a third dimension: texture. The clay ripples and folds, suggesting folded or painted fabric — sometimes there’s a herringbone design — or water in its various forms. Some patterns suggest swirled ice cream from a world in which Baskin-Robbins has 31 flavors but no colors. “Snowmaggedon” is all white, but with a wealth of shapes creased into the clay.
In a sense, “Black White and In Between” is a variation on some of the abstract painting of 50 years ago. Like that work, Abrams relies on the tension between a spartan palette and sensuous forms. These pieces are more sculpture than paintings, yet they could be described as painterly.
Whether rendered in oils or lasers, the quality of light is a long-standing artists’ preoccupation. Few painters or sculptors approach luminance with the same mind-set as Roisin Fitzpatrick, however. The Dublin artist arrays Swarovski crystals in patterns to evoke the visual sensation of almost dying.
Fitzpatrick, who had a career in international finance and diplomacy, suffered a brain aneurysm several years ago. (She was “lucky enough” to have one, is how she puts it.) Since then, the artist has worked with the cut-glass crystals, stitching them to backdrops of silk (usually white) to evoke shells, webs, vortexes, galaxies and other spiraling natural forms. Some of her work is on display in “Artist of the Light” at La Luna Gallery, a Palisades engineering-firm office doubling as an exhibition space.
The artist says her near-death experience made her realize the oneness of things, and her outlook encompasses Asian mysticism as well as the sort of Western “new age” thinking that will make skeptics, well, skeptical. Her pieces seem most rooted when they draw on Celtic motifs and places, such as Newgrange, the prehistoric Irish landmark that floods with light every winter solstice. Newgrange is flanked by rocks that were decorated, some five millennia ago, with whorls much like Fitzpatrick’s. Compared with such monuments, Fitzpatrick’s coils might appear merely decorative. But when the light hits them just right, these garlands of glass suggest larger, and more primal, things.
Jenkins is a freelance writer.
on view through April 15 at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center, 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW; www.american.edu/museum.
on view through Sunday at Spagnuolo Gallery, Georgetown University, 1221 36th St. NW; 202-687-9206; art.georgetown.edu/galleries.
on view through Sunday at Foundry Gallery, 1314 18th St. NW; 202-463-0203; www.foundrygallery.org
on view through April 30 at La Luna Gallery, 5171 MacArthur Blvd. NW; 202-316-4481; www.lalunagallerydc.com.