Ques­tion­ing vi­o­lence by in­ter­twin­ing toy bears and trip wire

The Washington Post Sunday - - MUSIC - BY MARK JENK­INS Jenk­ins is a free­lance writer.

Michele Col­burn shoots guns. She also knits, and for the same rea­son — to call into ques­tion the mech­a­nisms of vi­o­lence. “War Paths: The Art of Michele Col­burn” con­flates im­ages of bar­barism and in­no­cence, us­ing gun­pow­der and teddy bears, trip wire and cam­ou­flage-pat­tern di­a­pers.

The cen­ter­piece of the show at Charles Krause/ Re­port­ing Fine Art is Col­burn’s on­go­ing “Trip Wire Pro­ject 2014-2015,” as­sem­bled from thin ca­bles used to ac­ti­vate land mines dur­ing the Viet­nam War. The somber man­tle is draped on the gallery wall along with large wooden knit­ting nee­dles; it con­tains one stitch for each Amer­i­can mil­i­tary death or wound­ing and for ev­ery ac­knowl­edged civil­ian death in Iraq and Afghanistan since U. S. troops in­vaded in 2001 and 2003, re­spec­tively. The D.C. artist has been known to work on the piece out­side the homes of prom­i­nent ar­chi­tects of those in­con­clu­sive for­ays.

Col­burn’s gun­pow­der land­scape draw­ings mix the ex­plo­sive with ink, pen­cil and char­coal on pa­per, re­sult­ing in rough, craggy tex­tures that sug­gest wartime trenches. Some of these works are fin­ished on the fir­ing range, where the artist punc­tu­ates them with bullet holes. Other draw­ing- paint­ings, done in a more con­ven­tional mix of media, jux­ta­pose hearts and hand grenades.

Some­what more cud­dly are stuffed toy bears, dec­o­rated with pic­tures of he­li­copters and ma­chine guns, or with mil­i­tary medals for eyes. These war toys, it might be said, are as Amer­i­can as ap­ple pie.

War Paths: The Art of Michele Col­burn On view through Aug. 2 at Charles Krause/Re­port­ing Fine Art, 1300 13th St. NW. 202-638-3612.


Marie Ring­wald

Although she is a Bronx- bred ur­ban­ite, Marie Ring­wald has an affin­ity for sim­ple, rus­tic struc­tures: sheds, barns, Quon­set huts and the like. The range of uses she can make of these ar­chi­tec­tural archetypes is on dis­play in “Adding + Sub­tract­ing” at Artists & Mak­ers. It in­cludes sculp­ture, col­lage and paint­ing, much brightly col­ored but some of the most ap­peal­ing work in el­e­gant shades of gray.

Ring­wald, a long­time Wash­ing­to­nian, is of­ten in­cluded in lo­cal group shows. Her art fits many con­texts, yet with­out ever sac­ri­fic­ing its es­sen­tial con­cerns. This se­lec­tion in­cludes small, free-stand­ing mod­els of Quon­set huts made of painted wood and var­i­ous met­als, whose char­ac­ter gives the lit­tle pieces real-world heft. Most of the other sculp­tures are wall mounted and im­ply build­ings or their parts, such as win­dows and doors. Yet in her “Think­ing About” se­ries, Ring­wald uses the same ba­sic vo­cab­u­lary to pay trib­ute to such no­table 20th-cen­tury fe­male artists as Lee Kras­ner and Louise Nevel­son.

She also varies her for­mula with the vi­brant “Mardi Gras” pieces, ab­strac­tions that sug­gest the com­plex­ity of ur­ban fab­ric rather than evoke in­di­vid­ual ed­i­fices. More aus­tere but just as strik­ing are the “Grey Shed paint­ings,” whose com­po­si­tions are in­trigu­ingly off-cen­ter and whose grays are heathered and sil­very. As with the other monochro­matic works, the el­e­men­tal forms are stark yet sen­sual.

Marie Ring­wald: Adding + Sub­tract­ing On view through July 30 at Artists & Mak­ers, 11810 Park­lawn Dr., Suite 208, Rockville, Md. 240-437-9573. www.artist­sand­mak­ersstu­dios.com.

Lisa Dillin and Al­li­son Spence

“You are im­por­tant to us,” re­cites the recorded mes­sage from the in­ter­com at­tached to a white wall. The sen­ti­ment is in­sin­cere, of course, as is ev­ery ar­ti­fact in Lisa Dillin’s “I’m look­ing for you . . .” at Hamil­to­nian Gallery. The Bal­ti­more artist presents sim­u­lated frag­ments of sub­ur­ban life, hint­ing at the larger sim­u­la­tion prac­ticed by the de­vel­op­ers of in­stant “com­mu­ni­ties.”

The most com­pli­cated piece is a work­ing foun­tain, framed by pol­ished stone to sig­nify Euro- clas­si­cal re­fine­ment, that bur­bles blandly in the cen­ter of the gallery. It looks like some­thing ripped, com­plete with plumb­ing, from a shop­ping mall. Also in­cluded are a slab of com­pos­ite floor­ing, mounted on the wall, and a 13- foot- wide print of a golf- course- like vista, par­tially ob­scured by a cur­tain. The grassy empti­ness that’s vis­i­ble is tidily scenic but sug­gests a sort of up­scale quar­an­tine. So does the Muzak- like ditty that plays af­ter that in­ter­com mes­sage: “All by My­self.”

While Dillin ex­ca­vates the ’ burbs, Al­li­son Spence con­sid­ers science fic­tion movies, hor­ror comics and how they de­pict the hu­man body. Her “More hu­man than I am, alone,” also at Hamil­to­nian, takes its ti­tle from a line in David Cro­nen­berg’s “The Fly.” To il­lus­trate that bit of di­a­logue, the D.C. artist made some paint­ings that are crum­pled and then var­nished into per­ma­nently clenched dis­ar­ray. Two un­rum­pled can­vases re­call Fran­cis Ba­con’s butcher- shop treat­ment of the hu­man form, com­bined with the ever- ma­nip­u­la­ble qual­ity of dig­i­tal im­agery. Whether stretched flat or ran­domly jum­bled, Spence’s pic­tures are mu­ta­ble and im­plic­itly vi­o­lent.

Lisa Dillin: I’m look­ing for you ... and Al­li­son Spence: More hu­man than I am, alone On view through Aug. 1 at Hamil­to­nian Gallery, 1353 U St. NW, Suite 101. 202-332-1116.


Steve Alder­ton

It’s a se­lec­tion of land­scapes, but Steve Alder­ton’s show at Touch­stone Gallery is hardly in the French en plein air tra­di­tion. The show’s ti­tle, “Me­moryscapes — Blurry Lines II,” spec­i­fies that the D.C. pain­ter’s trees, fields and skies are rec­ol­lected, not ob­served. While the com­po­si­tions may be based on scenery from Alder­ton’s na­tive Wis­con­sin, their shades of lime, li­lac and grape come not from na­ture, but from the ice cream par­lor. Soft-edged pur­ple rec­tan­gles stand on sticks, rep­re­sent­ing trees but re­sem­bling pop­si­cles.

The vivid hues com­mand the eye, and the forms are no less in­trigu­ing. Alder­ton seems to be work­ing with rollers and large brushes, which yield both thick swathes of color and airy, par­tially translu­cent blocks of pig­ment. The ap­proach is im­pres­sion­is­tic, but the of­ten sin­gle- hue shapes com­bine into a patch­work that’s closer to Mon­drian than Monet. Although rec­og­niz­able as na­ture scenes, Alder­ton’s re­mem­brances nearly blur into for­mal­ist ab­strac­tions.

Steve Alder­ton: Me­moryscapes: Blurry Lines II On view through Aug. 2 at Touch­stone Gallery, 901 New York Ave. NW. 202-347-2787. www.touch­stone­gallery.com.



“Me­moryscapes — Blurry Lines II No. 22 ,” by Steve Alder­ton, is on view at Touch­stone Gallery. Alder­ton seems to work with rollers and large brushes, and though he uses vivid hues, it’s easy to rec­og­nize the na­ture scenes.

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