In a sense, “The District: The Streets of Washington, 1984-1994” is Michael Horsley’s attempt to reclaim images that have already gotten away from him. Shot mostly in the late 1980s, when Horsley lived not far from 14th and U streets NW, the photos went unseen for decades. In 2010, he started scanning the negatives and posting the results on Flickr. The photos have drawn in the vicinity of 2 million hits.
Horsley has nearly 400 photos on Flickr under the title “Hidden Washington DC,” but only 20 of them are in “The District,” on display at Photoworks. All of the smaller selection were shot from 1986 to 1988 and are in black and white. Selected and arranged with the help of photographer Mark Power, the exhibition emphasizes similarities in composition and the sort of juxtapositions that occur in every urban setting.
In one of the more eventful photos, a passerby gazes at an ominous graffito — it reads “sex rip trauma” and was common in D.C. at the time — while a nearby poster of President Ronald Reagan smiles obliviously. There’s a shot of a man lugging a large cross, his quest eased by the fact the cross is mounted on wheels.
Horsley attributes the popularity of his pictures on Flickr to recent arrivals who want to see what their new neighborhoods were like in the bad old days. But what the photographer documented was less urban decay than the churn of redevelopment.
Most of the neighborhoods Horsley shows were partly gentrified by the 1980s. The shot of a vacant lot next to the G.C. Murphy’s store on G Street NW suggests abandonment, but, in fact, the buildings on that block were being demolished to make way for new, bigger ones. Flickr viewers may prefer a simpler narrative, but the story Horsley’s photos tell is fascinatingly complex.
On view through Oct. 14 at Photoworks, Glen Echo Park, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., 301-634-2274; glenechophotoworks.org
Nature, collage and re-inventing the domestic arts are the focuses of “United Variation,” a show of five Maryland women artists at BlackRock Center for the Arts. Susan Feller’s handsome collages and monoprints, both executed with the pigment-infused wax known as encaustic, contrast watery and stone-like textures, punctuated by loosely drawn circles. They fit well with Ellen Hill’s pattern paintings, which are mostly abstract but sometimes include realistic renderings of birds or leaves.
Dominie Nash and Hillary Lisa Steel make hanging fabric pieces, giving contemporary twists to the quilting tradition; Steel’s “Eidetic,” for example, suspends lengths of free-hanging fabric atop an underlying set of strips that are sewed together.
Combining such motifs as nails, shoes, chairs, eggs, mirrors and dress forms, Carien Quiroga’s sculptures and installations consider womanhood as both biologically and culturally defined.
On view through Sept. 28 at BlackRock Center for the Arts, 12901 Town Commons Dr., Germantown;
Established in 2003, the Bethesda-based Trawick Prize is awarded annually to an artist from Maryland, Virginia or the District. The work of this year’s eight finalists, on display at Gallery B, is heavy on installations and found-object sculptures, although it also includes photography, painting and drawing. The $10,000 top prize went to Baltimore’s Gary Kachadourian, who drew an urban scene, framed by a chain-link fence. This slice of city is presented as a set of large-format Xerox prints that claim a full wall and part of the adjacent window and floor. Life-size but black and white, the piece revels in both artifice and the everyday.
Travis Childers constructed a tree stump from wooden pencils, while Selin Balci used living microorganisms to create abstract patterns on diamond-shaped boards, balancing chance and intent. The most memorable items are by Adam Hager and Kate Kretz, both of whom rework preexisting things. Hager’s three whimsical constructions embed a flywheel in a slice of a large tree trunk, use denim to attach two metal drawers in a way that suggests cartilage and bone, and combine a typewriter, a xylophone and a muffler into a playful monstrosity the Surrealists would have welcomed. If Kretz’s work is more delicate, it’s also more foreboding. She embroiders human hair, neatly but with a hint of the wild, and engraves tiny tempests on old spoons and ladles. These updated objects evoke a genteel past, yet with an underlying sense of menace.
On view through Sept. 28 at Gallery B, 7700 Wisconsin Ave., Suite E, Bethesda; 301-215-7990; www.bethesda.org/bethesda/gallery-b
Nearly two dozen artists are represented in “The Land,” a selection of painted or photographed landscapes that are mostly local yet mainly bucolic. While Cecily Corcoran depicts highways and downtown streets, more common are bucolic views of trees, streams and the occasional barn. Most of the paintings are in the neotraditional style that struggles to retake territory claimed by photographers such as Ronald J. Gregory, whose misty “Brookside #1” finds Kyoto in Wheaton.
A few use modernist techniques — gently — to stand out. Mollie Vardell intensifies the two most striking in her series of water-meets-sky scenes by dividing them into multiple canvases; the strongest of Ellen Delaney’s paintings are the ones, such as “Green Sky,” that flirt with abstraction. Unexpected colors and strong composition highlight Anne Cherubim’s “Precarious,” which outlines red rocks and foliage against a near-white sky. The painting may depict someplace in the DMV, but it appears compellingly otherworldly.
On view through Sept. 25 at Capitol Arts Network, 12276 Wilkins Ave., Rockville; 301-661-7590; capitolartsnetwork.com
Jenkins is a freelance writer.