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Reflections on Architecture: Paintings by Joey P. Mánlapaz

For painter Joey Mánlapaz, Washington, D.C., and Miami’s South Beach represent, respectively, the worst and the best of architectural preservation. In Washington, Victorian- and Federal-style façades were preserved in the ’80s only to be surrounded and dwarfed by clashing modernist boxes; around the same time, South Beach’s decrepit Art Deco buildings were rehabbed as trendy nightspots and living spaces. One could claim a similar dichotomy between the two Mánlapaz series now on display at the American Institute of Architects Headquarters Gallery. Her paintings of Washington aspire to the photorealism of Richard Estes but end up being too visually disorienting for their own good. Her paintings of South Beach, however, strike the perfect balance between realism and abstraction. The Washington images—featuring such local landmarks as Ben’s Chili Bowl, Julia’s Empanadas, and Meskerem Ethiopian restaurant—toy with overlapping forms caused by reflections in plate-glass storefronts, but with more claustrophobia and less psychological depth than other artists’ takes on the trick (such as photographer Lee Friedlander’s work). By contrast, Mánlapaz’s South Beach works offer pleasing planar geometries and retro curves, rendered in shades of aqua, peach, and cantaloupe—paintings as festively decorative as the buildings they celebrate. If her pictures are to be believed, it’s hard to understand why Mánlapaz hasn’t abandoned her home on Capitol Hill for the sunny confines of that Florida haven. The show is on view from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday, to Friday, Aug. 1, at the American Institute of Architects Headquarters Gallery, 1735 New York Ave. NW. Free. (202) 638-3105. (Louis Jacobson)