There are no people in the 10 artworks that constitute “Elemental Perspectives: Land, Sea + Sky,” and most of the pieces seem to depict a world beyond human awareness or influence. Of the four artists in the Adamson Gallery show, however, one is very concerned with what men do, and it’s not a pretty story.
The most ravishing of the pictures are five photographs by Carolyn Marks Blackwood, who frames squares of sea or sky. Red-orange dominates a picture in which the sun seems to singe the image from the bottom; in a less abstract (if still rather psychedelic) photo, coral tones are reflected on partly dark clouds amid a blue sky. More quietly, the elegant “Blue Shift V” pits azure swells against the silvery ripples also seen in two other water photos.
Shades of platinum gray are the only colors in compositions by Renate Aller and Robert Longo. Aller, like Blackwood, finds profoundly open spaces not far from Manhattan; her seascape offers an illusion of endlessness in monochromatic ocean that fades to bleached sky. Longo, another New Yorker, shows primordial forest, its mists and shadows pierced by sunbeams. These two pictures, while realistically detailed, are not photographs but illustrations that juggle naturalism and theatricality.
Also dramatic are two diptychs by Martin Usborne, each with a rustic scene on one side and a galgo (a Spanish greyhound) posed on the other. The London photographer is publicizing the plight of these sleek hunting dogs, who are often killed or discarded once they’re considered too old to be useful.
The shadowy forest and the sun-blasted ravine in these pictures, whose mood the artist modeled on Velazquez’s paintings, provide visual rhymes for the dog portraits. They also depict the sorts of places where the animals are often abandoned. In Usborne’s photos, nature’s serenity is unsettlingly paired with human cruelty.
Elemental Perspectives: Land, Sea + Sky On view through March 26 at Adamson Gallery, 1515 14th St. NW. 202-232-0707. adamsongallery.com .
In the era of app-assisted courtship, it’s easy to meet guys. But that may not be such a good thing, according to the three female artists of “#THISISWHYIMSINGLE” at Flashpoint Gallery.
One of the trio, Seattle’s Jennifer Towner, doesn’t directly address digital-age mating. Her commentary, distilled to phrases that are all much shorter than 140 characters, appears on T-shirts. Such self-mocking mottoes as “Almost Desperate” and “Perimenopausal” seem designed for women who soured on dating long ago.
Dafna Steinberg also uses text in her work, inspired by crude propositions from Tinder contacts. These come-ons are mostly unprintable, and their lust sometimes deflated by the D.C. artist’s snarky rejoinders. Steinberg incorporates screen shots of the exchanges into collages of idealized amorous images, some of them culled from the covers of romance novels. But the guys whose remarks are immortalized here would never make it as Harlequin heroes.
Inarticulate Romeos may fare better on OKCupid, which enables suitors to dispatch pictures of cartoon characters and cute animals. Jenny Walton makes watercolors of these stand-ins and groups them by whether the service identified the sender as “match” or (curiously) “enemy.” If that sounds rather bellicose, most of Walton’s little paintings are gentle. The local artist may still be single, but at least she hasn’t enlisted in Tinder’s battle of the sexes.
#THISISWHYIMSINGLE On view through March 19 at Flashpoint Gallery, 916 G St. NW. 202-315-1305. culturaldc.org/visual-arts/flashpoint-gallery.
In pre-modern European art, gold signifies wealth; in Buddhist art, it symbolizes enlightenment. Takefumi Hori uses gold leaf, as well as its silver and copper counterparts, in ways that can appear both profligate and austere. But the name of his latest Long View Gallery show, “Treasures,” indicates a new concern with opulence.
The Brooklyn-based Japanese painter hasn’t changed his technique or formats. He still makes minimalist yet heavily worked abstractions, generally featuring craggy circles or battered color fields. These are executed primarily in white and gold, atop partly visible layers of black and various metals.
What Hori has added recently are such luxuriant hues as scarlet, emerald and royal blue. Juxtaposed with the gold, these suggest felt or velvet backdrops for golden relics, whether the crowns and chalices of Europe or the sacred figurines of Asia. With little more than color and glimmer, the artist conjures pomp and circumstance.
Perhaps that’s not what he has in mind. The show includes six smaller paintings that employ brighter, lighter contrasts such as aqua. These are pretty but lack the power of the larger pictures with bolder hues. It takes a rich color to stand up to gold.
Takefumi Hori: Treasures On view through March 20 at Long View Gallery, 1234 Ninth St. NW. 202-232-4788. longviewgallery.com.
After photographing such diverse locales as Ethiopia, Brazil and Namibia, Athena Tacha constructs collages from overlapping rectangular close-ups. The landscapes, titled “Shapes of Fluidity” at Marsha Mateyka Gallery, chronicle the usually long-term but occasionally sudden effects of wind, water, sandstorms and volcanic flows.
The D.C. artist’s pieced-together pictures, which are not melded with photo-editing software, focus tightly on geologic details. Images of Petra, the canyon city carved from Jordanian sandstone, show only texture and color. Occasionally, a recognizable detail neatly contrasts the near-abstract effect. In a field of Icelandic lava, for example, one sprig of greenery proves that the overwhelmingly gray photos were not shot in black-and-white.
Tacha uses a similar technique with three-dimensional natural objects, mostly derived from birds and aquatic mollusks. A flock of feathers seems ready to take to the air, expressing the idea of flight without the creature that can actually do it. Glued together, an assortment of limpet shells resembles a blossom, but one with hard-edged petals. Where Tacha’s collages offer unexpected views of real places, her witty sculptures allow organic relics to impersonate something else entirely.
Athena Tacha: Shapes of Fluidity: Photo-environments & Sculpture On view through March 19 at Marsha Mateyka Gallery, 2012 R St. NW. 202-328-0088. marshamateykagallery.com.