The techniques of some of Suzanne Caporael’s pictures denote her as a color-field painter, while the titles of others identify her as a landscape artist. In fact, as her show at Addison/Ripley Fine Art reveals, the exurban New Yorker blurs those categories, and other things as well. Caporael’s artworks are inspired by stars and scenery, but can be appreciated as exercises in color and form.
This selection is mostly prints, with a few paintings. Some are recent, but the earliest dates to 1985. In that time, Caporael has moved from making lithographs and linocuts to integrating traditional methods with digital technology. Her 1998 star charts, arrayed in rough grids on gray or black backgrounds, are both unearthly and mathematical. “The Wheel,” a show highlight that was produced 13 years later, is a circle of wedges in cold hues — including black, mint and dried-blood red — given depth by computer-generated shadowing. It’s an intriguing sort of cyborg, man-made and machine-enhanced.
“627 (Newton’s Bucket)” employs the post-painterly gambit of making raw fabric (in this case, brown linen) as essential to the composition as oil pigment. The bright, slightly irregular bands of color that constitute the eye-catching “Franchise” are from the same school, but it’s a print, not a painting.
The artist also melds the two in such impressionistic pieces as “Parker Cove,” a mixed-process print whose array of blue blocks and bars suggests a landscape (and is clearly meant to). The picture is characteristic of Caporael’s art, which deftly combines precision and spontaneity, observation and intuition.
Suzanne Caporael On view through Jan. 21 at Addison/Ripley Fine Art, 1670 Wisconsin Ave. NW. 202-338-5180. addisonripleyfineart.com.
People make art from materials, but what do we know about the people who made those materials in the first place? The starkest answer offered by Johab Silva’s show at Transformer, “Profiling: I Want Order,” is a wall covered by a series of charcoal drawings of interlocking metal links. The chain may represent captives held in slavery, recalling a shameful chapter in history, but the context is modern: The drawings are on manila file folders, essential links in the document chains of law offices and corporate HQs.
A Washington artist who hails from Brazil, Silva incorporates into his work such agricultural products as coffee, sugar and cotton — once cultivated by workers brought in shackles to this country and Silva’s homeland. He’s just as interested, though, in contemporary exploitation and the bureaucracies that sustain it. The show’s title piece is a towering wall of file cabinets, assembled into a vast canvas for paint and photo-transfer imagery.
Transformer is a small place that Silva has nearly filled, overwhelming the viewer with his work’s repeated motifs and looming presence. Adding to the immersive experience is the artist’s looped soundtrack, which thumps and occasionally chatters. The score helps make the show as confined and inescapable as a prison cell.
Johab Silva: Profiling: I Want Order On view through Jan. 21 at 1404 P St. NW. 202-483-1102. transformerdc.org.
In 2015, Brooklyn-based Italian photographer Renato D’Agostin rode his motorcycle 7,439 miles to San Francisco and back, carrying a camera loaded with black-and-white film. He wasn’t looking for America so much as for patterns.
The grainy pictures in “7439,” D’Agostin’s Leica store show, are high contrast and low context. Some depict vast landscapes, but many focus on details, often geometric and automotive. The photographer likes the straight lines down the center of two-lane highways, and the curved ones left by swerving tires on a speedway. The locations may be exemplars of Americana — Las Vegas, Monument Valley and don’t forget the Motor City — but they’re presented in a mode that’s far from mythic.
The photographer also is drawn to mists, shadows and light that pierces darkness, whether sun through a rounded window or a spot trained on a nude dancer. The human presence is often enigmatic in D’Agostin’s pictures, but it can be amusing. In the wittiest of the photos, two ant-size humans seem to teeter on the apparently hard-edge crest of a massive dune, dwarfed by both nature and abstract forms.
Renato D’Agostin: 7439 On view through Jan. 18 at Leica, 977 F St. NW. 202-787-5900. leicastoredc.com/gallery.
Children appear in about half of the large-format photographs in David A. Douglas’s “Moving Through,” but they don’t seem to represent the future. That’s because there is an out-of-time and even nostalgic vibe to the hand-tinted pictures in the Alexandria artist’s show at MPA at Chain Bridge Gallery. (This is a new temporary storefront location for the McLean Project for the Arts, whose galleries are closing for renovations April 1.)
Most of the photos feature open, grassy areas framed by large trees and old frame or brick structures. The muted, blotchy and weathered hues imply damage and loss, while the buildings invoke tradition and permanence. This is a world where children have a certain freedom, as indicated by a swing and a treehouse, and the lost shoe in the foreground of one picture. Yet it’s the setting, not the activity, that is crucial. These are “personally significant landscapes” for Douglas, a gallery note explains. To enter them, as their large scale seems to make almost possible, is to venture into the artist’s memory.
Moving Through: Works by David A. Douglas On view through Jan. 21 at MPA at Chain Bridge Gallery, 1446 Chain Bridge Rd., McLean. 703-790-1953. mpaart.org.
Dolls merge into humans, and frozen dancers conjure movement, in Diane Wilson’s fluid drawings and paintings. The works in the local artist’s show at the Washington Studio School use expressionist lines and brushstrokes to construct block-built figures that suggest patchwork but also Picasso. Some pictures depict toys, while others show performers, but all have a sense of play.
Wilson’s oils are rendered in mottled earth tones, sometimes set off by black backdrops, that make them appear both primal and timeworn. Many of the pictures evoke transformation, whether by growth or decay. In a series of wispy drawings of faces, one visage is mostly a skull. The image doesn’t feel ominous, though. The artist’s attempt to burrow into the essence of things yields action as well as stillness, life as well as death.
Drawings & Paintings by Diane Wilson On view through Jan. 20 at the Washington Studio School, 2129 S St. NW. 202-234-3030. washingtonstudioschool.org.