Sign up for our free newsletter
Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.
TO FEB. 26
It’s hard to imagine that civilization will ever abandon paper. Even in the age of the Palm Pilot, paper keeps its versatility, its strength, its delicacy, and, yes, its sensuality. All these qualities are on display in the work of Jae Ko, a Korean-born Washington artist who studied in Japan, one of the world’s great makers—and cherishers—of paper. The 11 untitled pieces in this show are all made from many sheets of thin rolled paper, which have been wrapped and then submerged in a bath of black sumi ink, where they find both their colors and their shapes. The resulting objects are both fragile and solid, monochromatic and subtly multihued. The artist calls her work “natural,” because she uses ink made from charcoal and because the watery ink determines what shape each sculpture will take. Those shapes do indeed suggest organic forms: flowers, labia, a set of inwardly curving horns. Appropriately, though, they also resemble natural objects arranged by human hands: The lone piece in the gallery’s back room, for example, implies a basket, and others recall a geisha’s hairstyle—fluid and organic but meticulously contrived. When the ink has finished its work, Ko fixes the pieces’ forms with glue and wooden backings; obviously, she doesn’t want her sculpture to be so natural that it immediately begins to decay. On view from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday, to Saturday, Feb. 26, at Marsha Mateyka Gallery, 2012 R St. NW. Free. (202) 328-0088. (Mark Jenkins)