A Briefly Annotated Selection of Ignorable Art
1. Mindy Weisel (“A Place for Memory”) at Troyer Fitzpatrick LassmanThese works on paper handily illustrate the dilemma of much therapeutic art. It might have been necessary for the artist to create a suite dedicated to her dead psychiatrist, featuring his chair, ottoman, and last words to her, but it’s not necessary for us to see it.
2. L.C. Armstrong at Marsha MateykaLast year’s works are wan stripe paintings tarted up with fuzzed-out lines made by ignited bomb fuse, a gimmick that quickly becomes tiresome. They’re coated with thick resinremember those barroom tabletops with coins and playing cards in them? I’m hoping this year’s works are a ghastly joke. One picture contains a dandelion blown into stars, and the bomb fuse is used to make those twin-arc “birds” grade-schoolers draw in their notebooks.
3. Gina Sawin (“Ethereal Animals”) at StudioSunday in the game preserve with George, a bigger brush, and a rare form of colorblindness that restricts the palette to blues, greens, and grays. And yeah, the Art in America clipping’s for real.
4. Shirley Tabler (“Still Lifes Plus”) at Washington PrintmakersThere always comes a time in my monthly sojourn when I want to kill myself. This time it was while listening to the cloying strains of the hammer dulcimer in front of Reflections of a Clean Cat. Or was it Popcorn Friend, which depicts a rather brazen raccoon? Darling!
5. Lila Snow (“Totems, Boxes, and Charms”) and Xiaozhu Pan (“Faces of China”) at International Visions: The GalleryWhat, as opposed to International Visions: The Pancake House? Snow’s boxes and “totems” are either sloppy, cheap, and arbitrary or sloppy, cheap, and contrived. If you’re opening a Hunan restaurant, Pan’s a good bet; if you’re opening a vanity gallery, they both are.
6. Judith Richelieu (“Elegy II: Honoring Creative Women”) at FoundryThe most godawful thing I saw this time out. A tribute to Edna St. Vincent Millay, among others, this show pairs misshapen folkish icons with sculptures that admittedly parse pretty cleanly. Shown at right, Camille Claudel depicts Camille Claudel, and Confinement, with an abstracted head in a bell-jarlike cage, depicts her confinement. An admirer of Richelieu’s joinery, my wife wants to know if she makes TV carts.
7. Allan Hockett at Artists’ MuseumIf the perfectly composed and lovingly printed photos of buildings and architectural details don’t tip you off, the stylized handwriting will. Hockett was an architect for a quarter-century, an architectural photographer for longer. But as a friend said at a show last month, I like pictures to be about something.
8. Jan Kern (“Celebrating Color, Line, and Rhythm”) at Artists’ MuseumIf Matisse had spent his life working at a new-age cardshop before undertaking his cutouts, the result might have been something like the larger pieces here.
9. Ken Conley and Tom Raneses at Artists’ MuseumI don’t mean to keep after the vanity spaces, but AM holds an embarrassment of embarrassments. Conley can’t paint cars; Raneses can’t paint peoplewell, not so you’d want to look at them.
10. Art Ensemble at Artists’ MuseumDammit, why don’t they just start a chain? I frankly recall little about this room except that gatorboard apparently cannot be made to conform to the human outline.
Art Above the Threshold
1. Mary Annella Frank at AntonThere’s a little Brancusi, a little Joel Shapiro, and a lot of Paul Bunyan in the wood pieces. Also some bloated yet intimate bronzes of notebook pages, their “sketches” rendered in reliefmight be nice for the kitchen backsplash.
Public Disasters: Catastrophes Difficult to Overlook
1. Robert Cole at Washington GasA couple of years ago, I read Scene magazine for Cole’s artwriting alone. I’d chuckle away between sets at the Black Cat as Cole endeavored to explain away other people’s work in the most tortured, preachy, programmatic fashion imaginable. Not that his own work warrantsor receivesany better. His five hamfisted metal personages are accompanied by such indignities as Twizzleresque hair, an essay on “Essentialism,” and descriptions on the order of “I have used the cowboy archetype to express the male side of work. He carries a rope as the symbol of physical work and a cellular phone as the counterpart of the mental side of work.”
2. Semivacant Lot across 7th Street from the Lansburgh TheaterTread carefully around the lot next to the former site of d.c. space and you’ll discover one of the District’s best-used public spaces. In mockery of the homeless people and hustlers who drink Mickey’s and St. Ides there, break out the ribbed Trojans, and urinate behind the chain-link barricades strung with green plastic tinsel in the outline of trees, this “park” provides the illusion of shelter (the space is divided into “rooms”) without delivering its actuality (there is no “roof”). The arrangement does, however, allow for enough privacy to empty one’s bowels, and the gravel surface makes for something like a human cat box. The final insult, though, is the large, crouching sculpture at the sidewalk’s edge: Apparently made to announce the space’s public function, it’s a veritable monument to excretory distress. Passers-by pat its head patronizingly as it strains.G.D.