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Beneath Contempt:

A Briefly Annotated Selection of Ignorable Art

1. Carol Lopatin at Touchstone (“Plein Air Painting, Southwest Texas, Montana, and Wyoming”)—If the measure of landscape painting were how quickly it got you looking at the landscape again, Lopatin’s overheated acrylics would be right up there. Unfortunately, the aim of these things is a little imprecise; they first had me looking at the ceiling, the carpet, the wall, the way out—anything to avoid taking in colors like those that, a few years back, Binney & Smith started pumping into big boxes of Crayolas, the better to attract the easily distracted eye of rad youth.

2. Mirella Monti Belshe at Gallery 10 (“Syncretism and Reconciliations”)—The argument that Joseph Campbell is the most pernicious nonvisual influence on visual art gets another boost. If a well-meaning friend drags you in, bypass the clumsily modeled goddess-happy centerpiece—a stele that flanks a bas-relief of the Virgin of Guadalupe with a carving of Aztec fave Chihuapilli Tonatzin—and head for the cast paper pieces. Destiny involves a face and a labyrinth (a-ha), but the puzzling Gravitas rends one visage asunder so another can emerge, its nose efflorescing with potpourri (hmm…).

3. Group Exhibition at Artists’ Museum—So many ways to go wrong: Bradley Stevens favors ruddy sundowns plummy enough to make Mother Nature blanch. Sarah Pitkin gives credence to the idea that local makers of box constructions are uniformly inept (Can you really fish through a junk heap—or the bins at MJ Designs—and have everything speak memory?). David Stainback’s plans and model for a condo development around the Statue of Liberty invest far too much labor in a rather wan, dated satire. A meticulous $4,000 rendering of The Red Jacket indicates that Patrick Kirwin has failed to absorb the J. Peterman catalog’s lessons on the importance of suggestion in the rendering of yuppie outerwear (Nylon shells and Gore-Tex liners are much more titillating if the viewer has to fill in the details). But the showstopper is Triton, a cocoa-patinated shell-sucker by, yes, Robert Liberace.

4. Panino Bandito at Dupont Circle, July 5—What, no peanut butter? Leave it to the Post to go nuts over the most white-bread artist in town.

Faint Praise:

Art Above the Threshold

1. Alex S. MacLean at Kathleen Ewing (“Taking Measures Across the American Landscape”)—I was lured into this show of aerial photography by Bone Yards, an ominous, transfixing perpendicular shot of a B-52 dismantling site. Orderly ranks of intact, silver or camo-painted bombers face down their shattered, white counterparts against a copper patch of desert; an undulating grid of tire tracks marks off those above, but similar patterns below have faded to traces. Where the debris has been hauled away, delta-shaped imprints remain in the dirt. Of course, that most striking image would be the one chosen for the announcement card. Aside from Motorcycling on Ice, whose circles recall bubble-chamber paths, the other pictures, focusing on agrarian topography, logjams, and the like, are familiar magazine fare. They’d make for a better coffee-table book than gallery exhibition; fortunately, there is one.

2. “Summer Show: A Group Exhibition of Gallery Artists and Their Friends” at Gallery K—Many tones struck here—the dinky existentialism of Elizabeth Falk’s Waiting, the polite, undernourished elegance of Robert Fergerson’s A Wing and a Prayer—are slight enough to render their attached works ignorable, but a couple of standouts redeem the show. Lanny Michael Bergner’s untitled conical spiral of screen wire that turns in on itself underneath is a spiky, moiré-patterned marvel. The nutty, garish play on rustic kitsch of Tahoe Love, by Hirshhorn public affairs officer Sidney Lawrence, may prove off-putting at first, particularly among such generally inauspicious company, but the campy charm of gawky portraiture, woodsy detritus, thick paint, and heavy varnish win the day, pushing through baldfaced bad taste and out the other side.

3. Sam Gilliam at Baumgartner (7th St.) (“New Drapes”)—As much as I wanted this show to pronounce Gilliam done for, I have to admit it shows he’s still kicking. I still bridle at his color sense of late—too much ’70s fem-style shimmer and glitter—but I admire his sewing. Wanna know what makes Gilliam’s “New Drapes” new? His serger.—G.D.