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Glen Kessler’s “CircuitScapes” paintings at Glen Echo Park’s Popcorn Gallery are just what they sound like: works that, through sleight of hand, turn microchips and bits of computer circuitry into urban landscapes.
Kessler claims that the works explore “the shift from analog to digital that has come to shape the world of the 21st century.” It’s an intriguing idea, but one that’s not really necessary for appreciating his works; their substantive meaning is ultimately overshadowed by the artist’s self-assured vision
Kessler, a D.C.-area artist, uses oil and pastels to create fictional (but surprisingly convincing) representations of computer innards, turning them into dreamy depictions of architectural landscapes. In his hands, microscopic surfaces become plausible stand-ins for railyards, refineries, cargo trains, suburban sprawl, hydroelectric dams, buildings hunkered on promontories jutting into the water, and even farms.
Looking at Kessler’s paintings, one sees distinct echoes of Charles Sheeler’s Depression-era industrial paintings. While some works run as large as 30 inches by 48 inches, others are as small as 2 inches by 3 inches, suggesting late 19th-century genre paintings.
The exhibit’s one failing concerns the titles on the wall cards. They offer explicit descriptions of the scene, like “Downtown Stadium” (top), a dead ringer for downtown New Orleans, including the Superdome. Delineating such readings strip the viewer of the ability to ascribe their own interpretation of what they see, evincing an irritating lack of trust in the viewer. Word to the wise: Stand far enough back from the wall to ignore the titles, and let your imagination run free.
Through Nov. 23 at Glen Echo’s Popcorn Gallery, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo, Md. (301) 634-2222. Sat-Sun 12-6 pm.