Hand Print Work­shop cel­e­brates two color­ful decades

The Washington Post Sunday - - ARTS & STYLE - BY MARK JENK­INS style@wash­post.com

The con­trib­u­tors to the Athenaeum’s “The Hand Print Work­shop: Twenty Years of Part­ner­ship in Print” in­clude such well-known D.C. (or D.C.rooted) ones as Wil­liam Chris­ten­berry, Renee Stout, Steven Cush­ner, Tom Green and Y. David Chung. But the cat­a­logue also lists a lot of Slavic names, in­clud­ing those of the cel­e­brated team of Vi­taly Ko­mar and Alexan­der Me­lamid. How did they in­fil­trate the ret­ro­spec­tive of an Alexan­dri­abased ate­lier?

It turns out that the non­profit work­shop’s his­tory cov­ers a lot more than two decades — Den­nis O’Neil founded it in 1983 — and in­cludes a 1991-1997 stint in Moscow. The 20 years count from when Hand Print Work­shop In­ter­na­tional re­turned to Vir­ginia, but the ear­li­est pieces in this hand­some show are from 1998, and about a third of them are by Rus­sians or Ukraini­ans.

O’Neil, who made four of the 32 prints, cham­pi­ons non­toxic ma­te­ri­als and new tech­niques in screen print­ing. Th­ese can pro­duce looser, more fluid re­sults than tra­di­tional silkscreen meth­ods. Such in­no­va­tions might be what in­spired Chung, known for his bold black forms, to add sub­tle color to his two vivid prints. Wax me­dia was mixed with pig­ments to yield Stout’s strik­ing “Rev­erend Zom­bie’s Win­dow” (which also in­cor­po­rates glass beads) and O’Neil’s “Moscow Re­vis­ited,” a grid of about 400 por­traits.

There’s no over­ar­ch­ing aes­thetic, but the work­shop seems to fa­vor weath­ered im­agery and vin­tage sub­jects. Th­ese in­clude Chris­ten­berry’s bat­tered signs, plug­ging retro prod­ucts and old-time re­li­gion, and Vera Kh­leb­nikova’s mas­sive ar­ray of can­celed Rus­sian stamps. Among the other high­lights are Leonid Tishkov’s im­pres­sion­ist cityscape and Pavel Makov’s “Nightin­gale,” which sets the bird against ver­ti­cal stripes of serene, ab­stract color. Like many of th­ese print­mak­ers, Makov com­bines ob­ser­va­tion of the world with a cel­e­bra­tion of sheer in­ven­tion. The Hand Print Work­shop: Twenty Years of Part­ner­ship in Print On view through April 2 at the Athenaeum, 201 Prince St., Alexan­dria. 703-548-0035. nvfaa.org.

Zeit­geist IV

If the pieces in “Precon­cep­tual: Zeit­geist IV” ap­pear un­like in style and con­tent, that’s in­ten­tional. The 16 artists in the Hil­lyer Art Space show were asked to ex­em­plify var­i­ous ideas, from the tra­di­tional (“land­scape,” “fig­u­ra­tive”) to the trendy (“iden­tity,” “ap­pro­pri­a­tion”). Most of the re­sult­ing works are mixed-me­dia and three­d­i­men­sional.

The cur­rent po­lit­i­cal cli­mate, un­sur­pris­ingly, shaped some en­tries. Lau­rel Lukaszewski spells out “RE­SIST” in black stoneware let­ters, and Amer­i­can and Rus­sian flags merge in Justyne Fis­cher’s wood­cut.

Other pieces toy with form and found ob­jects. Jes­sica Beels mounts a crow’s nest full of avian trea­sures atop a tri­pod of rusted gar­den tools. Anne Smith as­sem­bles a min­i­mal­ist sculp­ture of wood and string, char­coal and graphite. Ira Tat­tel­man em­ploys a white vinyl ban­ner, hung asym­met­ri­cally, to con­jure swoops and shad­ows. Zade Ram­sey gave fig­ures of cir­cus per­form­ers an added play­ful twist: One is made of steel, the oth­ers of fab­ric painted to sim­u­late metal.

The premise of cu­ra­tors Son­dra N. Arkin, Thomas Dry­mon and El­lyn Weiss for the show in­volves a “precon­cep­tual” trick. That gam­bit won’t be re­vealed here, but it has some­thing to do with Weiss’s con­cern that at re­cent art ex­hi­bi­tions, “the wall plaques de­scrib­ing the work are of­ten more con­se­quen­tial than the work it­self.”

Weiss’s es­say sug­gests this is a new de­vel­op­ment, but Tom Wolfe de­rided the phe­nom­e­non back in 1975, in a short book ti­tled “The Painted Word.” Par­o­dy­ing the outlook of art crit­ics, Wolfe wrote that, “frankly, th­ese days with­out a the­ory to go with it, I can’t see a paint­ing.” At the time, much of the art world did not rel­ish Wolfe’s es­say. Precon­cep­tual: Zeit­geist IV On view through April 2 at Hil­lyer Art Space, 9 Hil­lyer Ct. NW. 202-338-0325. hilly­er­artspace.org.

Women Now

It has been a hun­dred years since about 170 suf­frag­ists were ar­rested in Wash­ing­ton and sent to Lor­ton Prison, where they were phys­i­cally abused. The pen­i­ten­tiary is de­funct, but its re­main­ing build­ings now house the Work­house Arts Cen­ter, which is mark­ing the cen­ten­nial with “Women Now.” Most of the 11 artists are lo­cal, and many of their themes are fem­i­nist.

The most top­i­cal is Erin Devine’s au­dio-video mon­tage of the Jan. 21 Women’s March, flanked by an­gry, funny protest posters col­lected from marchers. Natalie Wood con­trib­uted two por­traits of rev­o­lu­tion­ary women, cut into whitened card­board to re­veal brown images be­low.

Sev­eral artists are show­ing vari­a­tions on fa­mil­iar work. Helen Fred­er­ick’s in­stal­la­tion of hair, flow­ers and images of a fall­ing wo­man echoes one re­cently at Brentwood Arts Ex­change. Linn Mey­ers’s piece fea­tures, on a smaller scale, the tight swirls and half-vis­i­ble cir­cles of her epic wall draw­ing now at the Hir­sh­horn Mu­seum and Sculp­ture Gar­den. Christie Nep­tune’s video tracks a wo­man’s form while hint­ing at her in­ner life, the same strat­egy Nep­tune has demon­strated at Hamil­to­nian Gallery.

Emily Fran­cisco’s novel “Ocu­lar Harp­si­chord” also in­volves video, but it’s a live feed from 12 cam­eras, each ac­ti­vated by a dif­fer­ent key. The images, which pop up on quad­rants of three low-def mon­i­tors, re­veal the gallery and the player in an in­ten­tion­ally frag­mented, am­bigu­ous way. On this in­stru­ment, there is no per­fect chord. Women Now On view through April 9 at Work­house Arts Cen­ter, 9601 Ox Rd., Lor­ton. 703-495-0001. work­house­arts.org.

Mary Arm­strong & Phillip Adams

Nei­ther tech­nique nor outlook links the pic­tures of Mary Arm­strong and Phillip Adams, on dis­play to­gether in Cross MacKen­zie Gallery’s “Dream­scapes.” But both artists do make land­scapes that are airy and open, while also hav­ing a tac­tile qual­ity.

Paint­ing with oils mixed with wax, Arm­strong uses a midair per­spec­tive that sim­u­lates float­ing, and de­picts sea, earth and sky so dif­fused by mist that the views be­come nearly ab­stract. Adams uses char­coal (oc­ca­sion­ally sup­ple­mented with pen­cil) to draw pho­to­re­al­ist scenes of ice and rock, into which he in­serts a sin­gle whim­si­cal ele­ment ren­dered with acrylic pig­ment.

Adams’s painstak­ing com­po­si­tions, in­spired by pho­to­graphs but drawn free­hand, con­sist of thou­sands of black and gray lines. Arm­strong’s paint­ings are looser, yet em­ploy scratch­ing to re­veal ar­eas of un­der­paint­ing and yield pink­ish-white high­lights. At close range, both artists’ works ap­pear in­tensely worked.

The fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ence is that Adams is a joker. His land­scapes are punc­tu­ated with items such as a swing, an in­flated clown and a flock of pink flamin­gos. Whereas Arm­strong seeks the sub­lime, Adams prefers the ironic. Dream­scapes: Land­scapes by Mary Arm­strong & Phillip Adams On view through April 6 at Cross MacKen­zie Gallery, 1675 Wis­con­sin Ave. NW. 202-337-7970. cross­macken­zie.com.


Renee Stout’s “Rev­erend Zom­bie’s Win­dow,” 2011, screen print, acrylic ink with cold wax medium, glass beads and oil paint. On view in “The Hand Print Work­shop: Twenty Years of Part­ner­ship in Print” at the Athenaeum.

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