To judge from their fashions, hairstyles and settings, Gregory Ferrand’s paintings depict a realm where Dwight Eisenhower is still president. Yet one of the pictures in the artist’s “It Is You (and Me Too)” portrays a man staring in shock at his cellphone, trying to process the news from election night 2016. The past and the present cohabit, and those aren’t the only dimensions that overlap in this Adah Rose Gallery show.
This selection’s exemplary painting is “I Had a Dream You Were Done,” which juxtaposes three planes of existence in the same moment and the same house: a kitchen bathed in a warm orange glow, a living room dominated by maroon and a make-out scene on a porch in purple dusk. If the dramatically lighted scenario resembles a three-part stage set, that might be because Ferrand has worked as an illustrator for several local theater companies.
Yet the artist’s intent is not to stage his artworks like one-act plays. Rather, he writes, he seeks to convey “the feeling and reality of being disconnected and alienated (which results in multiple personal realities).”
The contemporary and retro elements are unified by Ferrand’s detailed compositions, precise rendering and graphic-novel style, which suggests Charles Burns if he turned from pen-and-ink to acrylic paint. Existential crises aside, the paintings are wry and packed with witty asides. In the show’s title picture, rifle-toting kids and parents line up at a carnival-sideshow shooting gallery; fireworks explode in the background; and a cat is curled up next to a whiskey bottle under the counter. The drowsy feline stands in for so many things that might be just out of view.
Gregory Ferrand: It Is You (and Me Too) Through Jan. 5 at Adah Rose Gallery, 3766 Howard Ave., Kensington, Md. 301-922-0162. adahrosegallery.com.
Not many Westerners build high-profile careers in Japan, and even fewer make their way in a profession seen as intrinsically Japanese. But Marc Peter Keane became a noted landscape architect and writer on Japanese gardens during 18 years in Kyoto. He now lives in Upstate New York, but an East Asian sensibility abides in his work — much as vestiges of plants endure in the ceramics of “Art From the Garden,” his show at the Japan Information and Culture Center.
Keane deftly arranges grasses, leaves and branches, coats them with clay and fires the constructions in a kiln. The foliage burns away, leaving castings of the shapes in ceramic frames of unglazed, earthy pinks and grays. The finished pieces most often suggest hives, nests, blossoms or cocoons, but there are exceptions. “Spine” resembles bone and “Tube Cube” is geometric, yet both reveal subsidiary forms that are clearly botanical.
A comprehensive lesson in Japanese aesthetics could be illustrated by this work, which embodies paradoxes of natural and contrived, ephemeral and permanent, simple and exalted. Yet sculptures such as the budlike “Earth Flowers” can’t be mistaken for historical museum pieces. They bow to centuries-old precedents, but their artful fusion of vegetal and mineral is Keane’s alone.
Art From the Garden: Ceramics and Sculptures by Marc Peter Keane Through Dec. 27 at the Japan Information and Culture Center, 1150 18th St. NW, Suite 100. 202-238-6900. us.emb-japan.go.jp/jicc/exhibits.html.
The photographs and collages in “The Nature of Imagination” also draw from the natural world, but this show at Long View Gallery is far from traditional. Although their work is very different, Jason Wright and Mike Weber both offer glossy surfaces and computer-age precision.
Wright, a Corcoran-educated Hawaiian, is showing epic, turbulent seascapes. In these hyper-realist photos, waves crest, clouds glower and the contrast between light and dark borders on violence. The images are almost black-and-white, with glimmers of blue that temper the severity. Only slightly, though. The pictures, which bear X-treme-sports titles such as “Iron Tide,” are clearly meant to look as formidable as a nighttime monsoon over open ocean.
Weber takes more of a pop-art approach, embellishing photos of landscapes and wild animals with words, large colored dots and, occasionally, lines sketched in luminous neon. The artist, a former Washington resident who now lives in Los Angeles, makes his photographs while on backpacking trips. Yet the final result feels urban rather than woodsy. Historical references, such as the text from an antique Boy Scout handbook overlaid on a photo of a bear, evoke bygone childhood more than the lost paradise of the American wilderness.
The Nature of Imagination: Jason Wright and Mike Weber Through Jan. 7 at Long View Gallery, 1234 Ninth St. NW. 202-232-4788. longviewgallerydc.com.
With 13 featured artists, “Black Artists of Today: Reinventing Tomorrow!” inevitably encompasses a breadth of styles and themes. Yet the most striking pieces in the show, at the Zenith Gallery-programmed Sculpture Space at 1111 Pennsylvania Ave., are stylistically and thematically related. They feature alchemical transformations or show the influence of African ritual objects.
Most examples of the latter aren’t particularly traditional; wood and clay are common, but so are mass-produced found objects. Chris Malone’s modern-day fetish figures, streamlined yet earthy, combine natural and man-made materials. Anne Bouie festooned shells on a fabric-wrapped section of industrial pipe to make “Libation Urn.” It’s one of several vertical assemblages that suggest, but don’t specify, a ceremonial use.
Two eight-foot-tall pieces by Akili Ron Anderson are constructed mostly of wood and plywood, but also incorporate synthetic materials. The idol-like “Akuaba Doll,” whose dark wood is incised with swirling cuts, is big enough to dominate some sort of temple. The more abstract “Spirit Rocket” has an open center that might be a portal to another place or consciousness.
The surfaces of Anderson’s towering talismans contrast rough and finished textures. Bernie Houston does something similar, although to a more straightforward end. He carves lengths of twisting driftwood into sinuous humans or animals, painting the bulk of the figure but leaving the bottom raw and unworked. It’s a technique that displays his skill, and also his reverence for the original wood.
Black Artists of Today: Reinventing Tomorrow! Through Jan. 6 at the Sculpture Space at 1111 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. 202-783-2963. zenithgallery.com.