Matthew Langley gets points for audacity. His paintings draw easy comparisons to a host of latter-day abstract-expressionist titans, from Agnes Martin and Sean Scully. Make no mistake, Langley courts those comparisons—his emphasis on the grid places him squarely within that Lacanian camp that finds the sublime through repetition, variation, and trauma. It’s a dangerous proposition—Langley risks being derivative—yet in several respects his work proves to be more recidivist than redux. Soft Front, a piece featuring acrylic-painted paper tiles arranged in a loose grid, is visceral and distressing, a more sensational piece than the quiet and contemplative works it recalls. Much of the grid looks like bloody stool, with red base showing through tan overcoat; three white squares at the bottom are smeared like blood-spattered pillowcases. Color is not the only subtle violent touch in the mix. Stylus, an oil painting on canvas that also mines the grid, depicts three black squares on a yellow-and-grey background, the barest imaginable composition suggesting the object from the work’s title. Less literally, the composition is that of a sharp, black shape interrupting a harmonious horizon. Complementing the Tetris-like rigidity of Langley’s planes is a brushstroke that is anything but rigid. Neither smooth nor especially flourishy, the artist’s brushstroke is distinguished by abrupt transitions and broken parapets. In places, it resembles encaustic. His approach to the canvas and the genre of work he’s decided on suggests that the ocean that lies beneath is not necessarily a calm body of water. “Matthew Langley: Paintings + Paperworks” is on view from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, to Sunday, Feb. 17, at the District of Columbia Arts Center, 2438 18th St. NW. Free. (202) 462-7833.