Seemingly the gentlest work in an exhibition with a violent title, Joanne Tod’s painting at the Art Museum of the Americas is a sylvan scene so big that its trees are almost life-size. Just two words, one unprintable, disrupt the tranquility. The artist commemorates the 1971 founding of Greenpeace with an f-bombed version of this news: You’re doomed.
There’s a lot of doom in “Punctured Landscape,” which marks Canada’s sesquicentennial with 17 depictions of the nation’s iniquities and disasters. Many concern the treatment of indigenous people and others of non-European descent.
The survey is arranged along a timeline that begins in 1944 with the internment of Japanese Canadians. Also recalled are the 1950 demolition of Halifax’s Africville, home to descendants of U.S. slaves, and the 1996 closing of the last residential school designed to indoctrinate First Nations children in Euro-Canadian culture.
If the message is more striking than its expression in some of these works, Trevor Gould’s tribute to Africville is graphically strong. Also potent is indigenous artist Barry Ace’s collage, which pairs a photo of his father in Canadian military uniform with the legend “denied the vote until 1960.”
Organized by the Canada Council for the Arts, the show even takes a shot at hockey: Pierre Ayot’s large silk screens of hockey sticks, some of which turn into the actual objects beyond the edge of the paper, respond to reports of sexual abuse in the sport.
The largest piece, Robert Adrian’s “76 Airplanes,” fills a wall with model jets, many covered with collaged newspaper or comics pages. The subject is a 1985 jetliner bombing in which 329 died, which was not the result of Canada’s policies. But the assemblage, like the rest of “Punctured Landscape,” takes an admirably clear-eyed look at history.
Punctured Landscape On view through July 30 at the OAS Art Museum of the Americas, 201 18th St. NW. 202-370-0147. museum.oas.org.
As a maker of hand-etched prints, David Avery is something of an antiquarian. He also inserts text — sometimes in Latin — into his exquisitely detailed work. So, of course, the San Francisco artist centered his display at Washington Printmakers Gallery on a print titled “Obeliscolychny.” It’s a word he allows is “obscure and rarely used,” in an essay accompanying the show, “Pursuing Invisible Reflections.”
The term refers to a lighthouse, which in Avery’s depiction is a spindly stack of many kinds of buildings, including monument, windmill and tumbledown shack. Here as in the other prints, the look and some of the content is closer to Albrecht Durer than any contemporary artist.
Yet the classic imagery is wittily updated. Avery interjects Renaissance-style intimations of mortality and damnation into everyday scenes: A skeleton rides a stick horse whose head is a equine skull, or a woman jogs with a stroller and a dog, accompanied by Death (riding a bicycle) and a demon. Such mash-ups would be only mildly amusing if the artist didn’t so successfully emulate centuries-old motifs and methods. Indeed, Avery is so adept that viewers in bygone eras might have surmised that he’d sold his soul to the devil.
Pursuing Invisible Reflections: The Etchings of David Avery On view through July 30 at Washington Printmakers Gallery, 1641 Wisconsin Ave. NW. 202-669-1497. washingtonprintmakers.com.
Like many artists in Washington and other gentrifying cities, Regina Miele has a strong interest in real estate. That’s because finding and keeping studio space is such a struggle. In “Urban Monopoly” at Gallery 102, Miele winks at that challenge by incorporating elements from the property-development board game: Her paintings are hung next to labels modeled on the board’s street- and railroad-named properties.
Miele is drawn to industrial scenes, whose metal and concrete she often contrasts with a vast, colorful firmament. Her new pictures are less sky-oriented, although the rendering of the back of Union Market does feature a vivid cloud-scape.
The style is realistic, and the subjects local; included are views of the Red Line and the New York Avenue hotel-to-be where Miele used to have a studio. The whimsical elements are images of Mr. Monopoly and game tokens such as the Scottie dog. These may appear as free-floating characters, or as graffiti on battered walls. Although one picture is titled “Boardwalk,” it doesn’t show a high-rent district. Miele prefers places that are gritty, well used and open to artistic experiments.
Regina Miele: Urban Monopoly On view through July 28 at Gallery 102, Smith Hall, George Washington University, 801 22nd St. NW. 202-994-6085. art.columbian.gwu.edu/gallery-102 .
The world is a’swirl in Gloria Duan’s “Mobius Waves.” There are four items in this Hillyer Art Space show, which is in its smallest gallery, but it’s dominated by a suspended twist of fabric, large enough to be entered by visitors. The loop of cloth was painted with a photochemical and exposed to light while objects were placed on it, yielding a cyanotype. The traces of the things that were once there linger as imperfect likenesses in white on blue. Although fixed on the material, the remnants appear ghostly, an effect amplified by the motion of the hanging coil.
The other pieces are all wall-mounted hexagons, one in translucent glass and other two with white-on-blue patterns that mirror the main attraction. The color scheme suits some of Duan’s themes, which include “waves, water, shadow.” The local artist also writes that cyanotype technique expresses the “effects of heat and light.” Yet “Mobius Waves” is as serene as it is dynamic. Although there’s tension in the blue-and-white spiral, entering it is a calming experience.
Gloria Duan: Mobius Waves On view through July 30 at Hillyer Art Space, 9 Hillyer Ct. NW. 202-338-0325. hillyerartspace.org.
He’s a connoisseur of gardens, but in his work, Matt Hollis has been limited to painting-size assemblages of artificial petals. Now, the local artist, who’s about to move to Los Angeles in pursuit of an MFA, has been given a larger plot to cultivate. He has filled the exhibition space at Otis Street Arts Project, not exactly a garden spot, with fake blooms, artificial turf and grapelike clusters of balloons.
“Florilegia” incorporates individual works, some of which have been shown before. In these, Hollis uses phony flowers to emulate the brushstrokes of 19th- and 20th-century artists, most specifically Vincent van Gogh. But these pieces are just bits of a larger horticultural scheme; they’re secondary to leaflike cushions and hanging green orbs from which flowery tongues hang, somewhat lasciviously. Hollis is headed to a desert clime, but this fecund display suggests he’d be happier in a jungle.
Matt Hollis: Florilegia On view through Aug. 5 at Otis Street Arts Project, 3706 Otis St., Mount Rainier. 202-550-4634.