City Paper is not for tourists
1.) Margery Amdur at Foundry (“Seams to Be Constructed”)I was tempted to give some points for bravura deployment of window screening, but such items as Doll and Garment Bag With Hobbyhorse are so sincere. The result ranks with A. Guthrie Gudis’ “Childscapes” as one of Foundry’s worst shows this year (I do try to keep abreast of such things; the gallery’s offerings are frequently so dreadful as to elicit awe); Amdur even milks a similar sort of Kinderlust. (Oops, I almost forgot Judith Richelieu; she’s up there, too.)
2.) K.B. Basseches at Foundry (“Brutal Edges and Tender Surfaces”)The latter consist of skin, the former of paper. The photography studio: one of those tacky dark-tiled bathrooms designed to hide hair.
3.) Carole Richard Kaufmann at Alex (“Fantasy Landscapes”)To the gallerist: When you asked me what I thought and I responded, “I don’t know,” I was lying. When I said it was “not really my sort of thing,” I was grossly understating the case. I’m afraid I have an almost irrational aversion to being helped with merch I dislike, and I still haven’t worked out the etiquette for this job. (It’s tough to know when candor will be appreciated and how much cover I have left to blow.) So I hemmed and hawed and tried to figure out how I could hold onto a brochure when I’d already admitted to not liking the work, while also marveling at the way the keyed-down colors of the reproductions made the street fair-ready paintings look better; I settled on leaving the pamphlet behind. To the artist (granted, I’m guessing here): When I said I didn’t want to know anything more about the workwell, no dissembling there.
4.) Pat Bress at Studio (“Scents and Sensitivity”)OK, so the place was closed when I dropped by Saturday afternoon (and I’ve learned not to trust those “will return” signs), but the window afforded unimpeded views of some of the black-and-white shots of flowers and nudes inside. Besides, isn’t the title damning enough?
5.) “102: An Exhibit by the Directors of Gallery 10 Ltd.” at Gallery 10When Lucy Lippard wrote that the square was the only unevocative shape, she didn’t mean to imply that an entire show of square works would necessarily suggest nothing. Actually, that’s unfairAnne J. Banks’ work capably evokes attempts at geometric abstraction by a rulerless student. Aside: Is Gallery 10 a limited-liability partnership or merely pretentious?
6.) That horrid Squatting Man sculpture outside International VisionsThe GalleryEarlier this year I noted the location of this monstrosity in the turd-and-condom-strewn lot across from the Lansburgh Theater. Now it has followed me to work. If it shows up at the Silver Spring Metro, I quit. (I’ve also uncovered the reason for IV’s “The Gallery” tag. It’s to avoid confusion with the International Vision Expo. Held last month in Anaheim, the IVE is a “four-day conference program with an exhibit hall featuring 400 eyecare companies” and promises greater attention to aesthetics than its Woodley Park namesake ever could.)
Art Above the Threshold
1.) Clementine Hunter at Addison/Ripley GeorgetownWhy was Hunter one of the most warmly received folk artists of a bygone age? Perhaps because she made every situation light and pretty and rendered the hardships of plantation life nearly affectless. No Horace Pippin she.
2.) Claudio Vazquez at Kathleen Ewing (“Nudes and Other Garden Ornaments”)The fact that most of these technically adept solarizations really are of garden ornaments reminds you that you’re still in D.C.
3.) Y. David Chung at Gallery KChung’s pieces in K’s recent group show were mere trifles. Obviously, he was holding back. Such lithographs as Bus and Jam are even better at showcasing the talents of this former Washington City Paper illustrator (way before my day, OK?) than the colorful oilstick on paper works. Character isn’t Chung’s specialty (the Demons are rather tame, and the Injured Attorneys are a bit Longoesque in a cute way); the translation of speed and force into a tilting, twisting compression of space is.
4.) Patrick Craig at Gallery KThe light is a sci-fi come-on, the acrylic colors possess the hardness of computer graphics, the titles are faux-tough guy word pairs (Cold Horn, Skin Rings), the mind games are of the slight, Escheresque sort, and the spaces suggest Craig to be a better target for the not-really-an-abstractionist criticisms once leveled at Al Held, but I found myself looking at these pieces longer than I had first thought I wanted to.
5.) Oleg Kudryashov at Robert BrownThe artist by turns tips his hat to both Chagall and the constructivists but keeps the mood sunny even in a piece called Execution Day. A new twist on bleak Russian-expat irony? Probably not. My guess is that the artist hasn’t figured out that violent stabs of the drypoint tool don’t inevitably make for violent work.
Blowing the Curve:
Art Good Enough
to Be Shown Elsewhere
1.) Jacob Kainen at HemphillThese effortlessly luminous lemon custard- and salmon-colored lyrical abstractionsmuch tougher than they lookare shown to great effect in Hemphill’s compact, high-ceilinged space. One quibble: If you’ve got an immediately recognizable style, why actually stoop to signing the work? Barnett Newman absolutely ruined his Stations of the Cross series that way; thankfully, Kainen’s branding is less obtrusive.
2.) “Octoberfest” at Marsha MateykaA stopgap show that doesn’t look like one, especially not in the front room, where the rippling striations of Barbara Allen meet the obsessively arranged constellations of Andrea Way. The standout is Allen’s Refrain, the wood of which is gouged, split, and blackened in a subtle enough way that the curved shadows revealing its warping come as a refined sort of shock.
Heard on the Street: “It’s from a Norwegian painting, and it’s frequently used to symbolize people who are suffering from migraine headachesor depression.”Earnest art lover explaining to her companion the meaning of the inflatable Scream doll in a window above La Tomate.