In Celtic heraldry, the red hand represents a bloody, hard-won heritage. For Rosemary Feit Covey, whose “Red Handed” is on display at Morton Fine Art, the image has a different meaning: guilt. Her “installation experience” of mixed-media paintings and drawings catches the world red-handed, and the outcome looks like Hell.
That is, Covey’s suite recalls Hieronymus Bosch’s images of teeming, tormented humanity, as well as Francisco Goya’s despairing Black Paintings. Hundreds of red-handed, black-on-white androgynous figures line the walls, and even writhe underfoot. The South Africa-born, Washington-based artist has transferred some of her paintings to vinyl mats and arrayed them, overlapping variously, on the floor. She stopped short of the ceiling, but the experience of entering the gallery is immersive nonetheless.
Covey is known for her detailed wood block prints, a few of which are on display around the edges of this show. Her “Red Handed” pictures are looser, messier and more impulsive; precisely etched lines yield to expressionist strokes and spatters, sometimes atop collaged layers. Although gray, blue and brown tint some of the images, the emphasis on black and red suggests the artist’s background in simple, graphically direct printmaking. Long horizontal murals claim the room’s three walls, and on two of them the compositions are interrupted by other paintings, most of them miniatures. If Covey doesn’t document all nine circles of Dante’s Hell, she does offer multiple levels.
As a theme, guilt is wide-ranging, but these thronging pictures don’t suggest individual responsibility and solitary regret. The fault is clearly collective, widely known and unconcealable. Perhaps that’s why Covey was inspired to present these paintings as an installation. Everyone has done wrong at some point, so all those singular faults add up to mass culpability. To enter “Red Handed” is to be implicated.
On view through July 5 at Morton Fine Art, 1781 Florida Ave. NW; 202-628-2787; www.mortonfineart.com
Flora Kanter paints flowers, of course. Her current Studio Gallery show, “The Nature of Nature,” features bright red, orange and purple blossoms, and some lush green lily pads. Yet the key color in the local artist’s acrylic, charcoal and pencil pictures is black.
Sometimes, Kanter uses ebony backdrops to make those vivid colors pop, or give the compositions a sense of depth. But she also paints flowers, leaves and vines primarily in black and gray, with occasional red and yellow accents. Form is as important as color, if not more so. Kanter’s work is representational, but she’s as concerned as any abstract expressionist with line, motion and the quality of pigment. Strokes curve and colors run, so that the act of painting becomes part of the story.
While Kanter is certainly not a pop artist, she does arrange variations on a theme like Warholian soup cans. These sets, with names such as “The Rhythm of Nature,” can be grouped in multiples of four in rectangular formats, or bounced across a wall like musical notes in a score. Either way, the cadence is essential to Kanter’s style of flower arranging.
Downstairs at Studio, the New Members Show presents work in four styles by three artists: Deborah Addison Coburn, Sally Kauffman and Monica Perez-Roulet. Coburn’s colorful pieces, mostly prints, visually contrast order and clamor in compositions that are ultimately tidy; they suit the series’s title, “Zen Chaos Theory.” Kauffman’s “Moa” series offers busy oil-paint abstractions with lots of voluptuous Willem de Kooning-style pinks.
Perez-Roulet is not exclusively a hyperrealist, but her two most striking works here are in that mode. Both are precise portraits of individual men, viewed from the rear so that exact identities are ambiguous, and framed by a single-color background. Every crease and shadow is impeccably reproduced, yet distance remains, as if to suggest that even the most meticulous rendering can’t fully plumb someone else’s character.
On view through July 13 at Studio Gallery, 2108 R St NW; 202-232-8734; www.studiogallerydc.com
Long View Gallery’s well-established style is evident in “Refresh III,” the art space’s third annual summer group show, which features new work by many artists who have exhibited there recently. Nature is a motif, but abstracted into stylish templates. Surfaces are rich and complex, and often glossy. Realistic images are endowed with painterly effects.
Among the works that break through the picture plane are Ryan McCoy’s black-and-white pieces, which encompass rust, pine needles and baby powder, all fixed by acrylic polymer. Sondra N. Arkin’s “Bioforms” also have raised shapes, red dots and circles on blue-green backdrops, suggesting microscopic creatures and rendered in encaustic (a blend of pigment and wax).
Eve Stockton’s prints don’t enter the third dimension, but they do simplify views of nature large and small — clouds, woods and a “zoomscape” — into patterns of light and shadow, in brown, yellow-green and powder blue. Stockton’s work hangs comfortably with Bryan Nash Gill’s prints of tree rings and J. Jordan Bruns’s “Solar” paintings, which contrast hard and soft shapes and subdued and hot colors. More pop-art are Mike Weber’s photo-based but hardly naturalistic images of cows and geese.
Where the skin of Weber’s work shines, Takefumi Hori works glittery bits of metal into weathered, predominantly ivory collage-paintings. The Japan-born New Yorker’s style is compatible with “Refresh II” but just different enough to stand out. While Hori’s style is sufficiently serene for Long View’s cool aesthetic, there’s an element of struggle in his two pictures that gives them a little heat.
On view through July 7 at Long View Gallery, 1234 9th St. NW, 202-232-4788, www.longviewgallery.com
Jenkins is a freelance writer.