At Adam­son, Gor­don Parks’s re­dis­cov­ered stud­ies in color

The Washington Post Sunday - - GALLERIES - BY MARK JENK­INS www.hamil­to­ni­an­ Jenk­ins is a free­lance writer. style@wash­

In 1956, Life mag­a­zine pho­tog­ra­pher Gor­don Parks trav­eled to south­ern Alabama to doc­u­ment the life of an ex­tended African Amer­i­can fam­ily living un­der the op­pres­sion of Jim Crow laws. Although best known for his black-and-white images, Parks shot more than 200 color pic­tures, many of which were not re­dis­cov­ered un­til 2012, six years af­ter his death. Adam­son Gallery’s “Seg­re­ga­tion Story” fea­tures 26 of them.

Some of the beau­ti­fully com­posed scenes re­veal an alien­ation echoed in the ti­tle of one pic­ture, “Out­side Look­ing In.” In that im­age, black chil­dren gaze through a fence at a whites-only play­ground. In an­other im­age, a win­dow-shop­ping black girl and her grand­mother gaze at cloth­ing on white man­nequins; Parks care­fully framed the shot so that the dum­mies are in the fore­ground, and the would-be shop­pers are sep­a­rated from both the store and the viewer.

So­cial hi­er­ar­chy isn’t al­ways so clear, how­ever. In one of the few pic­tures not made in or around Mo­bile, a black nanny holds a white baby in the wait­ing room of At­lanta’s air­port; a woman who is likely the child’s mother sits nearby, su­pe­rior in sta­tus yet de­pen­dent. The show also in­cludes a vi­gnette with three young play­mates, two black and one white, who seem un­aware — tem­po­rar­ily at least — of color. In an un­in­ten­tional fore­shad­ow­ing of re­cent con­tro­ver­sies, the two African Amer­i­can boys in the shot are bran­dish­ing toy guns.

Seen in ret­ro­spect, res­i­dents of the seg­re­gated South seem, in Parks’s se­ries, to have more in com­mon with each other than with their mod­ern descen­dants. The cloth­ing — a boy in a red cow­boy hat, girls in pleated dresses with bows and white col­lars — and the small-town, Space-Age ar­chi­tec­ture are all of a piece. Only the signs that dif­fer­en­ti­ate “colored” and “white” divide this lost world. But Parks, born in seg­re­gated Kansas in 1912, knew that those signs rep­re­sented un­ease as well as injustice. His seg­re­ga­tion sto­ries con­vey both the po­lit­i­cal and the psy­cho­log­i­cal bur­den of an Amer­i­can apartheid.

Gor­don Parks: Seg­re­ga­tion Story On view through Aug. 29 at Adam­son Gallery, 1515 14th St. NW. 202-232-0707.

Larry Cook

The ti­tle of Larry Cook’s Hamil­to­nian Gallery show al­ludes to the phe­nom­e­non of hostages who come to iden­tify with their cap­tors. Tak­ing the name “Stock­holm Syn­drome” from the af­ter­ef­fects of a 1973 Swedish bank rob­bery, the show, for Cook, sug­gests the twofold lar­ceny per­pet­u­ated by the trans-At­lantic slave trade: First, Africans were robbed of their free­dom, and then of their iden­tity.

The Mary­land artist uses sound and video clips ap­pro­pri­ated from movies and TV shows about slav­ery, as well as a re­pro­duc­tion of a paint­ing of a “white­washed” Je­sus. Vis­i­tors can ob­serve them­selves in mir­rors as they lis­ten, on head­phones, to a some­one who is be­ing per­suaded— un­der the sting of a whip — to ac­cept a new name of Euro­pean ori­gin. More hope­fully, Cook pairs video clips of ter­ror­ized slaves with shots of the crowd lis­ten­ing to Barack Obama’s 2008 victory speech.£

“Stock­holm Syn­drome” re­calls the sort of African Amer­i­can cul­tural broad­sides com­mon in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The cu­ri­ous thing is that Cook thinks this sort of con­scious­ness-rais­ing is still nec­es­sary. The sad thing is that he’s prob­a­bly right.

Larry Cook: Stock­holm Syn­drome On view through June 20 at Hamil­to­nian Gallery, 1353 U St. NW, Suite 101. 202-332-1116.

Justin D. Strom & Akemi Mae­gawa

Justin D. Strom has a rich in­ner life — and so do you. The lo­cal artist’s vivid mixed-me­dia dig­i­tal prints, show­cased in the D.C. Arts Cen­ter ex­hi­bi­tion “Self/Non-Self: Se­quence and Ab­strac­tion,” are in­spired by elec­tron mi­cro­scope pho­to­graphs of hu­man tis­sue, as well as by such sil­lier ex­er­cises in minia­tur­iza­tion as “Fan­tas­tic Voy­age,” the 1966 sci-fi movie in which shrunken sci­en­tists cruise some­body’s blood­stream. Yet the large-scale works also evoke clas­si­cal flo­ral still lifes, their bold reds height­ened against black back­grounds.

Although the su­per­im­posed forms are ab­stract, they evoke real or­gans, mus­cles and blos­soms. They’re or­ganic and ar­ti­fi­cial, messy and pris­tine. Coated with clear resin, which is some­times thickly ap­plied, the pic­tures shine as if un­der glass. The body’s ebb and flow is frozen in an ide­al­ized pic­to­rial mo­ment.

The no­tion of art that ex­ists in the phys­i­cal realm — say, on pa­per, can­vas or celluloid — seems in­creas­ingly quaint in th­ese dig­i­tal times. But Akemi Mae­gawa has struck a small blow against vir­tu­al­ity. Her “Thank You Artist Friends on Face­book Project,” also at DCAC, con­sists of 317 two-inch-square porce­lain tiles, each hand­made and etched with a sim­ple il­lus­tra­tion. The pic­tures, mostly but not ex­clu­sively of peo­ple, turn out to be the Ja­panese-born, Wash­ing­ton-based ce­ram­i­cist’s ren­der­ings of Face­book pro­file pic­tures. The tiny squares are barely more sub­stan­tial than pix­els, yet they have a pleas­ing so­lid­ity. They may chip or crack, but will never need to be re­freshed.

Justin D. Strom: Self/Non-Self: Se­quence and Ab­strac­tion on view though June 14 and Akemi Mae­gawa: Thank You Artist Friends on Face­book Project through June 21 at Dis­trict of Columbia Arts Cen­ter, 2438 18th St. NW. 202462-7833, www.dcarts­cen­

Joyce McCarten & Miche­line Klags­brun

When her re­place­ment hip failed, Joyce McCarten didn’t curse her luck. Okay, maybe she did ini­tially, but then the lo­cal artist turned to mak­ing the paint­ings and draw­ings that com­prise “My Beau­ti­ful Bones.” The Stu­dio Gallery show con­sists mostly of large oils in shades of gray and cal­cium-white, with sev­eral vari­a­tions. Some pic­tures are more re­al­is­tic than oth­ers, and a few fea­ture a sym­bolic twist. In “Thriv­ing,” for in­stance, the branches of a bud­ding sapling grow through a bony ma­trix.

“Bones” also in­cludes char­coal draw­ings in which white forms are set off against black back­drops, and paint­ings where the back­ground is a brown­ish red — a ref­er­ence, per­haps, to the role of bone mar­row in the pro­duc­tion of red blood cells. Even when the skele­tal rhythm and sym­me­try are dis­rupted by the ap­pear­ance of harsh metal ap­pli­ances, there is no sense of vi­o­lence here. What­ever McCarten’s in­spi­ra­tion, her in­tent is beauty.

Down­stairs at the gallery, the work of Miche­line Klags­brun demon­strates how the artist has ex­panded her style. “Ves­sels of Light” are ink paint­ings on lay­ered pa­per molded into bowl-like forms, some­times held in place by wire. If the shapes re­call pot­tery, the translu­cent ma­te­rial is more rem­i­nis­cent of pa­per lanterns. Some pieces in­cor­po­rate shells, roots or other earthy el­e­ments, but the mostly blue pal­ette evokes wa­ter and sky.

The ex­hi­bi­tion also fea­tures wall hang­ings in a sim­i­lar mode. The D.C. artist draws, pours and splashes ink on pa­per, em­pha­siz­ing flu­id­ity, ac­cre­tion and the mu­ta­tions she has pre­vi­ously ren­dered more lit­er­ally in paint­ings based on Ovid’s “Me­ta­mor­phoses.” Tak­ing this tech­nique off the wall is just an­other form of trans­for­ma­tion, and a nat­u­ral move to­ward in­fus­ing her art with light. Joyce McCarten: My Beau­ti­ful Bones and Miche­line Klags­brun: Ves­sels of Light On view through June 20 at Stu­dio Gallery, 2108 R St. NW. 202-232-8734. www.stu­dio­


“GhostMan­zanita” is one ofMiche­line Klags­brun’s “Ves­sels of Light” on ex­hibit at Stu­dio Gallery.

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