Artist’s tin­ker­ing brings new pur­pose to bro­ken things

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

Of all the words in the ti­tle “The Tem­po­rary Art Re­pair Shop,” only one is inar­guable. Swedish-born artist Tobias Stern­berg will be pack­ing up soon, re­turn­ing his tools — they came from art pro­fes­sor Andy Holtin at Amer­i­can Univer­sity, which un­der­wrote Stern­berg’s stint in Wash­ing­ton — and go­ing back home to Ber­lin. Trans­former, which has hosted the artist since early Oc­to­ber, will no longer look like a re­pair shop.

That takes care of “tem­po­rary.” As for “re­pair,” Stern­berg re­ceives ob­jects that are bro­ken or in some way un­sat­is­fac­tory and trans­forms them; he does not ren­der them ca­pa­ble of per­form­ing their pre­vi­ous func­tion. And “art”? Well, the vis­it­ing sculp­tor/con­cep­tu­al­ist prefers not to of­fer a de­fin­i­tive an­swer. He re­makes peo­ple’s use­less stuff, free, and re­turns it so they can pon­der its pos­si­ble use­ful­ness. “You wait for them to ask the ques­tions, rather than telling them,” he says.

One re­cent af­ter­noon at the shop, Stern­berg dis­played a busted half of a theater-light lens to which he had added a wooden frame and two ear­pieces, yield­ing an eye­glass for a Cy­clops. He ad­mired the lens’s jagged edge: “With bro­ken things, you of­ten get th­ese amaz­ing sur­faces.” Stern­berg and his stu­dent as­sis­tants also had trans­formed a toy crocodile into an adult play­thing, with a bot­tle opener at one end and a cig­a­rette lighter at the other. Blink­ing lights from an­other toy had been trans­planted into a model of the Pen­tagon bought at a dol­lar store.

Stern­berg, who set up tem­po­rar­ily in Belfast and Ed­in­burgh, Scot­land, in 2013, ac­knowl­edges that the shop is part theater. The counter, the tools, the re­pair­man’s white jacket — even the car­bon-pa­per forms filled out by the non­pay­ing cus­tomers — evoke an age when the most pop­u­lar items weren’t elec­tronic or man­u­fac­tured thou­sands of miles away. Al­though the vibe is homey, the re­sult­ing mash-ups are more in the tra­di­tion of Dada and surrealism than high school wood shop.

The re­pair­man is still ac­cept­ing items — “I’ll take any­thing that isn’t il­le­gal, alive or food,” he says — but will start re­turn­ing the trans­fig­ured ob­jects Oct. 29. He doesn’t guar­an­tee com­ple­tion or sat­is­fac­tion. That makes Stern­berg’s part-time gig sound a lot like art.

Tobias Stern­berg: The Tem­po­rary Art Re­pair Shop On view through Oct. 31 at Trans­former, 1404 P St. NW. 202-483-1102. www.trans­

Scott Hazard

Land­scape ar­chi­tec­ture is Scott Hazard’s day job, but view­ers of “Mem­ory Gar­dens” might guess that he is a poet or a Bud­dhist monk. Hazard’s wall sculp­tures, on dis­play at Adah Rose Gallery, are 3D dio­ra­mas of torn or cut white pa­per in­side aus­tere wooden frames. Words or phrases, writ­ten or stamped on the pa­per in black ink, com­ment on the vi­gnettes but also serve as vis­ual el­e­ments. “Read This Line,” for ex­am­ple, fea­tures a cave con­structed from lay­ers of pa­per; its printed text leads the eye into the grotto’s re­cesses.

The North Car­olina artist has called his work “crafted med­i­ta­tive space,” and his “Heavy Rocks” re­sem­bles a stone-and-gravel Zen gar­den.

The rounded forms — al­most black from re­peated im­prints of the words “heavy rocks” — also could de­pict boul­ders in a field of snow or moun­tain­tops jut­ting above thick mist. Yet Hazard’s rocks protrude from the bot­tom of the piece as well as the top, re­mind­ing us that they’re pa­per and not heavy at all.

An­other ex­am­ple of vis­ual word­play is “Catch and Re­lease,” which hangs per­pen­dic­u­lar to the wall when re­leased, but can be folded up so as to be “caught.” Made of blond wood, white pa­per and black words, Hazard’s con­struc­tions are min­i­mal enough to be med­i­ta­tive, but they are as playful as they are pen­sive.

Scott Hazard: Mem­ory Gar­dens On view through Oct. 31 at Adah Rose Gallery, 3766 Howard Ave., Kens­ing­ton. 301-922-0162.

new. now.

Ev­ery year, Hamiltonian Gallery awards fel­low­ships to emerg­ing artists and in­tro­duces their work in a show ti­tled “new. now.” The 2015 edi­tion is a strong one, if not al­to­gether new. Nara Park, who stacks stone-pat­terned empty boxes in as­sem­blages that ap­pear much heav­ier than they are, has shown her work around town be­fore. So has sculp­tor Rob Hack­ett, al­though his black­painted, ply­wood-and-steel “Arch­way” is snakier and leaner than the sus­pended wooden beam pieces seen pre­vi­ously.

The re­main­ing fel­lows are Christie Nep­tune, whose videos and pho­tog­ra­phy pon­der iden­tity and self-de­ter­mi­na­tion; Jim Leach, whose sculp­tures rely on found ob­jects and texts, and Kyle Tata, whose prints echo mid-20th­cen­tury ab­strac­tion. Nep­tune’s fiveminute “Un­ti­tled #70” com­bines wispy con­tem­po­rary im­agery with sen­ten­tious au­dio (likely from the 1950s or ’60s) about “grow­ing up.” Leach’s as­sem­blages in­clude an of­fk­il­ter lad­der, a cast horse’s head and ref­er­ences to Dio­genes and Duchamp. Most vis­ually al­lur­ing are Tata’s cyan­otypes on can­vas, whose tech­nique sug­gests pop art but whose re­sults are closer to color-field paint­ing.

new. now. On view through Oct. 31 at Hamiltonian Gallery, 1353 U St. NW, Suite 101. 202-332-1116. www.hamil­to­ni­an­

Wil­liam D’Italia

The show now at the Water­gate Gallery was con­ceived as a se­lec­tion of Wil­liam D’Italia’s re­cent D.C. streetscapes. Then came word that the painter, who lived just a few blocks from the gallery, had died un­ex­pect­edly. So the ex­hi­bi­tion was re­cast as “A Trib­ute to Wil­liam D’Italia, 19512015.” In­cluded are nearly two dozen re­cent can­vases, some not quite fin­ished, and works from five pre­vi­ous shows dat­ing to 1999.

The artist was a tra­di­tion­al­ist in both style and sub­ject. Drawn to red-brick and brownstone build­ings, D’Italia painted views of the “new down­town” that some­how elided the newer build­ings. A former Smith­so­nian em­ployee, D’Italia used to haul his gear to tow­ers and roofs, off-lim­its to the pub­lic, to achieve dra­matic per­spec­tives on the Mall. But he pre­ferred ev­ery­day build­ings to the city’s most-pic­tured land­marks, paint­ing gar­dens, pump houses and food trucks as well as mon­u­ments. Af­ter a back in­jury, D’Italia did a suite of still lifes of things in his apart­ment. Th­ese pic­tures, like his land­scapes, are no­table for whimsy and warmth. Rather than trum­pet the un­ex­pected, D’Italia pre­ferred to of­fer the gen­tle plea­sure of recog­ni­tion.

A Trib­ute to Wil­liam D’Italia On view through Oct. 31 at Water­gate Gallery, 2552 Vir­ginia Ave. NW. 202-338-4488. www.wa­ter­gate­ style@wash­


Scott Hazard cre­ates 3-D dio­ra­mas such as “Fo­cus” by lay­er­ing white and printed pa­per in­side wooden frames. The North Car­olina artist has called his work “crafted med­i­ta­tive space.” Hazard’s cre­ations are on dis­play in the “Mem­ory Gar­dens” ex­hibit at Adah Rose Gallery through Oct. 31.

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