to jan. 6, 2007

Since a visit to Japan in 2001, Iona Rozeal Brown has been obsessed with ganguro, Japanese youths who adopt the trappings of hip-hop culture. These kids adorn themselves with corn rows and bling and even darken their skin—which comes across in Brown’s paintings like creepy post-modern minstrelsy. In “Blending Lines,” her current show at G Fine Art, Brown continues to depict this phenomenon with acrylic paint, ink, and gold and silver leaf on unprimed wood panels. Her spare graphic style mimics ukiyo-e, Japanese woodblock printing that dates back to Edo Japan. (One for the Money, Two Faux the Show is pictured.) In Women Under the Influence (based on Kitagawa Utamaro’s Women Under Wisteria), Brown depicts two geishas lasciviously sticking out their tongues as they peer over their bare mottled shoulders—marked with strange spiraling patterns of caramel and mocha colored dye. Each stands wrapped in fur and wears a cloud of surreally kinky hair. Like her friend and mentor, Kehinde Wiley, Brown detaches cultural signifiers from their contexts and finds unexpected correspondences between them. Also like Wiley’s, Brown’s methods have become a little familiar. A series of ink drawings running along one wall of the gallery offer an exception. In white ink on brown card stock, Brown shows fragments of overstated accouterments—here a thumb tugging at an impossible array of necklaces; there a pair of boxers emerging from the top of oversize jeans. Looking slightly half-baked and cartoonish, these pieces don’t quite satisfy. But they might just indicate the stirrings of Brown’s next big idea. And—while she’s certainly mined the current motif successfully—it might indeed be time to move on. The exhibition is on view from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, to Saturday, Jan. 6, 2007, at G Fine Art, 1515 14th St. NW. Free. (202) 462-1601. (Jeffry Cudlin)