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To April 29
If your plans for spring vacation don’t take you beyond the cherry-blossomed Tidal Basin, you’ll relish Ruth Levine’s “Passages and Dire Straits,” a show at Gallery 10 Ltd. that opens a portal into a world beyond the city. The artist’s paintings and monotypes evoke sketchbook journals, fading passport stamps, and pleasant junkets to big-sky destinations. Underlying works that encompass a variety of media and marking systems are linear grids done with a soft touch. For a series of oil-crayon-on-canvas works titled “Passages,” Levine draws, scrapes, and erases a textured pattern of bars and circles; over these grids she floats circular stamp marks (pictured) that progress and recede against her washed-out planes. With a nod to Agnes Martin, the artist defies strict geometry, preferring instead to stamp directly onto watercolor and ink washes, letting the medium do its thing, as in the “Dire Straits” series. The best works here focus narrowly on the play between medium and support. One series shines in particular: “Embedded Passages,” in which Levine uses a curious codex stamp and various mineral watercolors to print onto a thickly fibrous Mexican bark paper, which warps from the water stain, revealing new, organic marks. The codex is just one example of the text that peppers these works—occasionally to ill effect. Two pieces that feature collaged film copies from texts about journeys of note—including The Odyssey, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and a poem by the artist’s daughter about Abu Ghraib—read too literally, like scrapbooks. But where the artist uses text with more subtlety, it fits like more stamps in the evocative whole. The exhibition is on view from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, to Saturday, April 29, at Gallery 10 Ltd., 1519 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 232-3326. (Kriston Capps)