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Even the most compelling conceptual art can be difficult to display in a traditional gallery setting. “Between Us: Variance Invariance Project by Judy Rushin &” suffers that fate.
The idea is promising. Rushin created a series of abstract paintings, designed to attach or detach in modular form. She then shipped them around to a variety of artists. These collaborators (the unspecified “&” in the work’s title) then documented how they displayed the paintings in their homes and places of work, sometimes sending back tokens of appreciation to Rushin.
As a concept, this is all well and good – a case study in artistic collaboration and renewal over long distances. A few collaborators find clever repurposes—-one stacks them in a way that approximates a David Smith Cubi sculpture, while another leaves them haphazardly stuck in the sand, approximating an unexpectedly festive array of beach chairs (right).
For the most part, though, the project doesn’t create the most intriguing visuals for a gallery exhibit.
Many of the destinations for the paintings seem rather humdrum (blocking a window, occupying a mantel, stuck to a tree trunk) and the images that document these actions are made by collaborators with uneven photographic skills.
Indeed, lost in the conceptual commotion is the work’s most appealing aspect: the paintings themselves. Rushin, known as an abstract painter, has created a diverse yet coherent set of designs, consisting mainly of thin, crisply painted stripes in cheerful hues—-a resonant choice for her first solo exhibition in Washington, D.C., given the storied history here of Gene Davis and the rest of the Washington Color School.
The idea of artistic exchange is one worth exploring, but in this case, a more rewarding choice may have been to let the original artworks speak for themselves.
Through June 21 at Flashpoint Gallery, 916 G St. NW, Washington, D.C. (202) 315-1305. Wed-Sat 12-6.