It's not only the predominantly gray palette that gives Julia Mae Bancroft's artwork a ghostly feel. The mixed-media pictures in her Morton Fine Art show, "Mending Moments," feature old-timey houses and interiors. Arrayed inside are women in long dresses, sometimes with faces transferred from vintage photos. The Virginia-bred D.C. artist graduated from the Corcoran College of Art and Design only a few years ago, yet seems fixed in an earlier era.
The "mending" in the show's title refers in part to Bancroft's use of embroidery. She stitches as well as draws and paints, working thin, white strands into compositions that sometimes also incorporate layers of paper pulp. The threads can be abstract elements or represent literal things, such as human hair. The vertical strings that cloak "Moonlit Overcoat" suggest both hanging moss and the mists of time.
The effect can be spooky. The subject of "Sitting in Her Easy Chair" has a indistinct face and a clawlike hand. "Reverie," the most 3-D piece, is built upon an iron grate with a tombstonelike shape. Bancroft, it appears, doesn't merely ponder the past. She actively disinters it.
Julia Mae Bancroft: Mending Moments Through Jan. 4 at Morton Fine Art, 1781 Florida Ave. NW. 202-628-2787. mortonfineart.com.
In her sculptures, often installed in such public places as the Anacostia Metro station, Martha Jackson Jarvis represents and engages with the natural landscape. The large and elegantly realized mixed-media drawings in "Sounds From the Sea," her show at Honfleur Gallery, don't explicitly depict nature. But their main ingredient is black walnut ink, a tree reduced to liquid essence, and they also include metallic pigments and wax. The hues are mostly earth tones, while the gestures flow like waves.
The D.C. artist's inspiration, she explains, is "jazz sound waves" and "found relics of various seaweed specimens." Fusing these disparate things yields pictures that are both spontaneous and monumental, like the more solemn examples of abstract expressionism. The least colorful picture in the "Earth and Sea" series recalls Robert Motherwell's vast black-and-white elegies. Yet there are glimmers of vibrant red, blue and gold amid Jackson Jarvis's black arcs.
That's not all that lurks around and inside the dominant forms. Jackson Jarvis hides feathery lines within the broad ebony shapes, scratching and crosshatching into the wet pigment. In one picture, an area of black ink cracked as it dried, leaving a pattern that suggests parched earth and fractured rock.
The show includes an additional three pieces, also identified as drawings, that encompass 3-D objects, natural and otherwise. Branches and vines, painted black or white, serve as extensions of Jackson Jarvis's brushstrokes. So do rubber tendrils, painted fabric and a copper spiral. These may stand in for musical riffs, sea-plant forms or water in motion. Or they may simply express the artist's exuberance. If most of the drawings have a cool-jazz vibe, the semi-sculptural ones display a passion for following the rendered line toward every possible direction or dimension.
Martha Jackson Jarvis: Sounds From the Sea Through Jan. 13 at Honfleur Gallery, 1241 Good Hope Rd. SE. 202-365-8392. honfleurgallery.com.
Because it's essentially a display window, Metro Micro Gallery is open 24/7. But the light is better at some hours than others, which is significant for a show such as "Luminous Passage." Andrea Cybyk has filled the tiny space with hanging, painted pieces on Mylar. Most are multi-tier and perforated with irregularly shaped holes. Sunlight shines through the openings, effecting vivid shadows and reflections, notably in late afternoon; after dark is good, too. Air from an interior fan nudges the constructions, and outside, a building vent does the same to a swarm of butterfly cutouts.
The show includes one Cybyk painting that is probably better seen from inside. (If she's in her adjacent studio, painter and Metro Micro founder Barbara Januszkiewicz will let visitors in.) The picture, the starting point for the other work, features bright colors and overlapping forms in a dance of negative and positive space. The suspended Mylar pieces do the same, but their motion is actual rather than implied.
The goal is not simply to catch the eye of passersby, but to embody change. That's why, Cybyk explains, she included butterflies even though some might see them as trite: "They symbolize how one thing becomes another."
Andrea Cybyk: Luminous Passage On view through Jan. 6 at Metro Micro Gallery, 3409 Wilson Blvd. (Kansas Street side), Arlington. metromicrogallery.com.
Rendering the depths, textures, shadows and highlights of draped fabric is a test of a realist painter's skill. Darryl Halbrooks accepts the challenge with "Natura Morta," his show at the Art League Gallery. The pictures depict almost nothing but rumpled fabric, although the shapes of simple objects can sometimes be discerned beneath the complicated surfaces.
"Natura morta" is the Italian term for "still life," and Halbrooks calls this show an homage to Bologna artist Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964). But Halbrooks's style is bolder than that of Morandi, who is known for small pictures of vases and bottles in muted hues. Brightly colored sheets in clashing patterns compete for attention in Halbrooks's still lifes, the most abstract of which suggest morning-after versions of Gene Davis-style stripe paintings.
Halbrooks does pull back the curtain in "Natura Morta #9," revealing some of the rounded things he usually hides under the fabric. These gleam, too, but their effect is more dramatic when they lurk below the shiny sheets.
Darryl Halbrooks: Natura Morta Through Jan. 7 at the Art League Gallery, Torpedo Factory, 105 N. Union St., Alexandria. 703-683-1780. theartleague.org.
The sculptures and paintings of Chinedu Felix Osuchukwu's "Facing Reality" clearly belong together. The show at Vivid Solutions Gallery even includes a sculpture that has a twinned canvas propped against it. Yet the welded assemblages of found-metal pieces upstage the expressionist pictures.
Both are representational, if often loosely. Most of the sculptures resemble faces, radically asymmetrical yet clearly human. The D.C. artist has long taught art in local schools, so it's fitting that these faces evoke children: lively, playful and still being formed.
Facing Reality: Chinedu Felix Osuchukwu Through Jan. 13 at Vivid Solutions Gallery, 2208 Martin Luther King Ave. SE. 202-631-6291. anacostiaartscenter.com/vivid.