An early spring is al­ways wel­come

The Washington Post Sunday - - ARTS & STYLE - BY MARK JENK­INS

Spring has ar­rived early in area gal­leries, which are bud­ding with flo­ral im­agery. Not all of it is soft and del­i­cate. The ma­jor­ity of the works in Ad­di­son/Ripley Fine Art’s “Branched” is by Ju­lia Bloom, who ar­ranges bare twigs into lat­tice­like forms. These are the in­spi­ra­tion for her char­coal draw­ings, some of which climb higher than the sculp­tures.

The D.C. artist’s model is the for­est, where trees di­vide space, dif­fuse light and cast shift­ing shad­ows. Yet Bloom’s wired to­gether con­struc­tions can re­sem­ble build­ings as much as bas­kets or bird­cages, and are some­times painted in bright, ar­ti­fi­cial col­ors. “Clear For­est #5 Gray” is a lean­ing tower of sorts, and most of the sticks in the wall­mounted “Aba­cus” are vivid blue.

Al­though Bloom’s draw­ings es­sen­tially de­pict her sculp­tures, they have a dif­fer­ent feel. The hard edges are some­times soft­ened by smeary grays, and per­spec­tive deftly sim­u­lates the di­men­sions of the twig-built grids. The seven-foot-high “Mono­lith 3” evokes misty depths with gray-on-gray ges­tures and has nearly the pres­ence of a 3-D piece.

“Branched” also fea­tures Jackie Battenfield’s paint­ings, in which sil­hou­et­ted trunks and twigs are em­bel­lished by leaves and flow­ers. From a dis­tance, these vi­gnettes ap­pear re­al­is­tic. But the New York artist paints with wa­tery acrylics on My­lar panel, so the pig­ment flows and pools, and yields ac­ci­den­tal pat­terns when it dries. Usu­ally ex­e­cuted in just two or three col­ors, Battenfield’s pic­tures are part min­i­mal­ist and part ab­stract. And yet they con­vey na­ture’s serene as­pects.

Branched: Jackie Battenfield and

Ju­lia Bloom On view through March 4 at Ad­di­son/Ripley Fine Art, 1670 Wis­con­sin Ave. NW. 202-338-5180. ad­dis­on­rip­leyfin­eart.com.

Kiki McGrath & Jean Jinho Kim

Swirls of green sug­gest the botan­i­cal ori­gins of Kiki McGrath’s ex­pres­sion­ist ab­strac­tions, but the lo­cal artist also has drawn on an­other source, ex­am­ples of which are part of this Stu­dio Gallery show. Along­side the paint­ings, “Aerial Roots” dis­plays three sculp­tures in­spired by ike­bana — Ja­panese flower-ar­rang­ing — and made by lo­cal devo­tees of the art form.

These are large, burly and far from tra­di­tional. Rather than dainty flow­ers and grasses, the as­sem­blages fea­ture log-size branches and un­nat­u­ral ac­cents; one in­cor­po­rates chunks of vine painted or­ange. With them, McGrath has in­stalled a black rub­ber hose, coiled and hang­ing in midair. The shape of this gar­den­ing ac­ces­sory echoes the spi­rals in the paint­ings and pays an amus­ing trib­ute to ike­bana. The found-ob­ject sculp­ture is not flower-ar­rang­ing, but it is an act of trans­for­ma­tion, and that’s an fun­da­men­tal theme of Ja­panese art.

Down­stairs, Jean Jinho Kim has clus­tered ev­ery­day ob­jects in ways that com­ple­ment “Aerial Roots.” The Lees­burg artist’s “No Bound­aries” is more far­rang­ing, but it does in­clude glit­ter­ing mock but­ter­flies and — in a piece ti­tled “Gar­den 1 6012” — two rose­like blooms. If Kim’s as­sem­blages in­clude many in­dus­trial ma­te­ri­als, there is a hint of ike­bana amid the car parts and LEDs. Kiki McGrath: Aerial Roots and Jean Jinho Kim: No Bound­aries On view through Feb. 25 at Stu­dio Gallery, 2108 R St. NW. 202-232-8734. stu­dio­gallerydc.com.

These Flow­ers . . .

Botan­i­cal illustration is such a spe­cific call­ing that the Cor­co­ran used to award a cer­tifi­cate in it. The 11 artists in Adah Rose Gallery’s cur­rent show, mem­bers of the lo­cal Stu­dio 155 co­op­er­a­tive, all par­tic­i­pated in that pro­gram. The paint­ings and draw­ings in “These Flow­ers Are Like the Plea­sures of the World,” do in­clude a few non-veg­e­tal sub­jects, rang­ing from small (snails) to vast (the Grand Canyon). But most de­pict flow­ers, fruits and veg­eta­bles with aca­demic pre­ci­sion.

In­deed, among the draw­ings are Wendy W. Cortesi’s “process” pieces, which cat­a­logue the vis­ual and sci­en­tific as­pects of plants she’s pre­par­ing to ren­der in wa­ter­color. Other artists add drama with black back­drops, giv­ing their paint­ings an Old Mas­ter vibe, or with im­plied ac­tion; Don­ald Beek­man Myer pic­tures fruit such as lemons and pears, tum­bling like dice. Most omi­nous is Roberta Matthews Bern­stein’s se­ries on toxic plants, pretty but po­ten­tially fa­tal. The skull and cross­bones painted on the side of one can­vas warn that botan­i­cal art is not for the timid. These Flow­ers Are Like the Plea­sures of the World On view through Feb. 25 at Adah Rose Gallery, 3766 Howard Ave., Kens­ing­ton, Md. 301-922-0162. adahrosegallery.com.

Mary D. Ott

“Me­tallics,” the ti­tle of Mary D. Ott’s show at Touch­stone Gallery, refers to her use of gold, sil­ver and cop­per paint and ink. But the sub­ject of the Sil­ver Spring artist’s paint­ings and prints is not metal but grass, a long­time in­ter­est. Wispy blades are con­jured with em­broi­dery yarn dipped into pig­ment to pro­duce hun­dreds of lines, usu­ally ver­ti­cal. The re­sult­ing im­age could be an un­mown lawn, a wild prairie or merely an ex­er­cise in color and form.

The metal­lic hues give the paint­ings an un­du­lat­ing glow that sug­gests day­break or sun­set. The prints lack that lu­mi­nos­ity, but they’re just as com­pelling. Ott uses string much as she does thread in the paint­ings, draw­ing lines on a plate that’s then etched. The el­e­gant “Wide Grass” se­ries ren­ders mead­ows in blue and sil­ver, and “Grass Bou­quet VI” con­trasts lacy, de­tailed fronds in black with looser shapes in red­dish brown. This is the meadow as a min­i­mal­ist Eden, a place of nar­row yet in­fi­nite va­ri­ety.

Me­tallics: Paint­ings and Prints by

Mary D. Ott On view through Feb. 26 at Touch­stone Gallery, 901 New York Ave. NW. 202-347-2787. touch­stone­gallery.com.

Blaise To­bia

Among some stern sects, aus­ter­ity is re­quired in pub­lic only. Open­ing the door to a pri­vate space re­veals that dif­fer­ent rules ap­ply. That’s true, Blaise To­bia’s “Plain & Fancy” demon­strates, even of such seem­ingly util­i­tar­ian ob­jects as the horse-drawn car­riages of Penn­syl­va­nia’s Amish. Inside the stark black or gray ex­te­ri­ors are bright col­ors, tex­tured car­pet and other un­ex­pected dec­o­ra­tive touches.

The Hil­lyer Art Space show con­sists of twinned pho­tos of in and out, both in close-up. To­bia made the im­ages, but the Philadel­phia artist doesn’t con­sider him­self pri­mar­ily a pho­tog­ra­pher. He’s con­cerned more with con­trast­ing found forms than with documentary sto­ry­telling (al­though he does al­low glimpses of Amish life, vis­i­ble in the back­ground or re­flected in win­dows). Al­though the back­story is in­trigu­ing, the dip­ty­chs would work even if their sub­ject were un­known. The jux­ta­po­si­tion of as­ceti­cism and flam­boy­ance re­flects hu­man con­tra­dic­tions far be­yond Lan­caster County. Blaise To­bia: Plain & Fancy On view through Feb. 26 at Hil­lyer Art Space, 9 Hil­lyer Ct. NW. 202-338-0325. hilly­er­artspace.org. style@wash­post.com

JACKIE BATTENFIELD/AD­DI­SON/RIPLEY FINE ART

Jackie Battenfield’s “Tend­ing Ten­der” (2016), acrylic on My­lar panel, on view through March 4 at Ad­di­son/Ripley Fine Art.

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