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The exhibition “Persistence of Flora” at the Carroll Square Gallery bills itself cheerfully.
Pam Rogers’ “irrepressible gardens suspend from the ceiling and burst from wall pipes with an optimistic enthusiasm.” In works by Leslie Shellow, an amoeba-like form “lilts.” And works by Magnolia Laurie calls forth “a feeling of industrial decay and nature’s triumph over it.”
Don’t buy the optimism; there’s menace in these plants, at least in some of them.
This sense radiates most clearly in the sculptural works by Rogers. In “You Left When the Forsythia Bloomed,” Rogers suspends a log-shaped agglomeration of floral ingredients that, in writing, sound lovely—locally sourced English ivy, magnolia, hydrangea, thyme, sage, rosemary and the titular forsythia. Look closer, though, and it becomes clear that the plants are braided with seemingly random bits of tools, metal detritus and even electrical sockets, all wrapped together roughly by ropes.
Meanwhile, Rogers’ “Agri (erupted)” features a section of PVC piping (left) intertwined with plant matter. All I could think
of was the sinking feeling I’d experience upon discovering such a scene at my house; there’d be an urgent call to the plumber in my immediate future.
Laurie’s works, for their part, lean more heavily on the industrial than the natural. A diptych on easels offers a “parallax view” of a high-tension power line that echoes the paintings of Trevor Young in both its subject matter and its grayish tones. Another work by Laurie (top) pairs two scenes, one that looks like a cloud-shrouded desert and the other that suggests a camo-like design.
More common in the exhibit, though, are shades of blue. Four of Rogers’ watercolor-like paintings feature ferric hexacyanoferrate, or Prussian blue, while one of Shellow’s two complex, organic tangles prominently features a shade of deep, dark blue. The color is at times mesmerizing, but its prominence is also surprising: Bold, dark blues are among the least common hues seen in nature.
Through May 27 at Carroll Square Gallery, 975 F St. NW. (202) 347-7978. Mon-Fri 8 a.m.–6 p.m.