December 4, 2022

Where to see art gallery shows in the Washington region

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Today’s high-tech art relies heavily on computers, but PCs, smartphones and digital imaging didn’t exist in the 1960s, when Rockne Krebs (1938-2011) began to apply the lessons of Washington color painting to art made with Plexiglas and lasers. None of his laser works are included, of course, in Pazo Fine Art’s “The Technological Sublime”; they were all designed for large outdoor spaces. Instead, the three-artist show includes some of Krebs’s early-1970s drawings for artworks made of pure light. Also featured are several of the D.C. artist’s clear plastic pyramids, some of which are partly painted.

Van Gogh through a pinhole

The idea of both series is essentially the same: to pull hues off the canvas and float them in midair. Most of the drawings are for “rainbow trees” that would curve colored light around a tree’s crown, outlining the foliage in space. Among the two-sided pyramids are ones that are merely translucent shapes, two daubed with soft abstract pigment and one whose joint holds a single vertical red line. It’s not as vivid as a laser, but that seemingly disembodied red slash exemplifies Krebs’s ambition to take color-field painting beyond painting.

The technological aspect of Beverly Fishman’s recent sculptural paintings is expressed by their precisely cut shapes and glossy urethane-paint finishes. Assembled from sleekly contoured pieces, the Detroit artist’s pictures look a bit like distilled cityscapes. Their subtitles, however, reveal a very different inspiration: pharmaceutical packaging. To describe one piece, Fishman lists the medical conditions “pain, opioid addiction, bipolar disorder, muscle spasms.” Her flawlessly made artworks refer, however obliquely, to human frailty.

Ruth Pastine’s glimmering paintings are closer to the pictures that impressed Krebs when he moved to D.C. five decades ago. Each features gradations of a single rich color, with the lightest region near the center. There’s nothing especially technological about the California artist’s pictures, which are painted with oils on canvases whose beveled edges suggest infinity pools. Yet Pastine’s assured technique yields colors that glow like lasers.

The Technological Sublime Through Nov. 10 at Pazo Fine Art, 4228 Howard Ave., Kensington. Open by appointment.

For almost 40 years, Craig Kraft has shaped glass tubes into sculptures that are illuminated by neon, drawing from such diverse inspirations as graffiti, cave paintings and endangered creatures. That the artist’s recent work is more immediate is suggested by the title of his new show, “Emergency Neon.” Gun proliferation, lost or abducted people, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are among the subjects explored at Honfleur Gallery, which is next door to Kraft’s studio.

Red-neon “Missing Persons” notices glow in the venue’s window. Inside, “Stop Putin” is spelled out in the yellow and blue of the Ukrainian flag, and a handgun outlined in pulsing red light has its barrel twisted so it can’t fire. More conceptual is “Finding Hope,” its title noun etched in white, which is designed to be mounted in what the artist calls “unlikely places” where it can be discovered and documented on social media. In a collaboration, Kraft added neon flames to the hair, tie and shoes in Luis Del Valle’s painting of Donald Trump.

The magazine that gave photography unprecedented power

The window of Kraft’s studio displays the outlined head of an African elephant, a threatened species. Environmental degradation also is the theme of the Honfleur show’s most complex offering, “Climate Change.” The artist piled and mounted metal and wood storm debris, which is backlighted in pink and blue, and punctuated by three lightning bolts: jagged white-colored tubes with red-glowing ones coiled around them. The white light travels down the vertical tubing like electricity crackling from sky to earth, endowing the installation with movement and a hint of menace. If most of “Emergency Neon’s” pieces are simple placards written in neon, “Climate Change” is a multi-act drama.

Craig Kraft: Emergency Neon Through Nov. 5 at Honfleur Gallery, 1241 Good Hope Rd. SE.

Andrew Sovjani and Graceann Warn

Sensuous surfaces are one source of affinity between Andrew Sovjani’s and Graceann Warn’s artworks, paired in “Graphic Rapport” at Calloway Fine Art and Consulting. Sovjani photographs assemblages of found books, the spines of which he often paints white. Warn makes layered abstractions on wooden panels, partly covering repeated geometric figures such as concentric circles with smeary, wax-based encaustic pigment. Both artists make pictures that are basically flat, but toy with a sense of depth.

Although Sovjani is primarily a photographer, some parts of his compositions are rendered with paint. Rather than use computer effects, the Massachusetts artist adds accents physically, whether before or after he clicks the shutter. The blue shadows of “Fact/Fiction” are painted, and the red backdrops of “Color Construct” series, which include Warn-like circles, appear flat but in fact fold from behind to below a pile of books. Sovjani, whose influences include Wayne Theibaud’s carnal cake and pie paintings, transforms everyday objects into lush exercises in color and form.

Warn’s academic background includes studies in classical archaeology, which presaged the role of excavation in her style. The Michigan artist’s paintings can resemble palimpsests, reused documents that reveal multiple levels of text or imagery, or explicitly evoke partly erased blackboards. They’re often divided into regions of contrasting colors and patterns, or literally breached into multiple panels, notably a set of three strongly vertical wall columns embellished with circles and stripes. The hard-edge rectangular wood sets off the areas of vivid mottled color, which Warn applies as if she’s concealing and unearthing at the same time.

Andrew Sovjani and Graceann Warn: Graphic Rapport Through Nov. 5 at Calloway Fine Art and Consulting, 1643 Wisconsin Ave. NW.

Initially inspired by a book about loggers in the early 20th-century Pacific Northwest, Tom Hill’s “Unnatural Desires in Natural Settings” playfully combines woodsy motifs with homoerotic imagery, some of it explicit. The deftly crafted, wall-mounted 3D collages include small stumps and miniature logs, sometimes coated in glittery pink, as well as such phrases as “cuddle slut.” The goal, explains the artist’s note, is to “move beyond taboo to a place of acceptance.”

Tom Hill: Unnatural Desires in Natural Settings Through Nov. 5 at Portico Gallery, 3807 Rhode Island Ave., Brentwood.


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