‘Poor art’: Minimalist, but rich in its impact
In the 1960s, while minimalism was draining the last bits of romanticism from American art, the home of the Renaissance experienced a kindred movement: “Arte Povera” (“poor art”). The three artists in Hillyer Art Space’s “Marco Bagnoli, Domenico Bianchi, Remo Salvadori: From the Olnick Spanu Collection” are from the generation that followed Arte Povera, according to the gallery notes. Yet pieces such as Salvadori’s “Continuo Infinito Presente” share the earlier artists’ interest in simplicity, physicality and industrial materials: It’s simply a circle of heavy steel cable, suggesting both a construction project and an enso, the swoop of black ink that represents enlightenment in Zen calligraphy.
The other works are not quite so plain, and some even include pretty touches: There’s gold leaf in Salvadori’s rendering of what appear to be orbiting half planets, and Bagnoli’s minimalist sculpture places a heartlike, red-glass form at the center of a steel cage atop an alabaster column.
Such gestures are rare and generally discreet. There are calligraphic strokes in one of Bianchi’s pieces, but they’re ivory-on-ivory impressions in a wax circle atop a field of black squares. Orderly arrangements of rectangles feature in several pieces, whether they’re a series of Bianchi’s abstract watercolors or Salvadori’s array of punched and bent tin squares. This work is starkly philosophical, but it keeps one foot planted in the metal foundry.
Marco Bagnoli, Domenico Bianchi, Remo Salvadori: From the Olnick Spanu Collection On view through May 28 at Hillyer Art Space, 9 Hillyer Ct. NW. 202-338-0325. hillyerartspace.org.
Inspired by politics and cartography, Joan Belmar has often devised pieces in which images are partly hidden by ribbons or rounds of Mylar. There are just a few such constructions in “Cambalache,” the Chile-bred local artist’s show at Addison/Ripley Fine Art. Most of the works are mixed-media paintings that layer circles, grids, seemingly rocky expanses and place names. The dominant tones of these moon- or planetscapes are black and gray, sometimes set off by one brighter hue, usually red or blue.
“Cambalache” (“barter”) is the title of a 1930s tango composed for a film that condemned political corruption in Argentina. The political import of Belmar’s recent work is not blatant, but he’s clearly pondering the climate in his adopted hometown. The names that punctuate these maplike pictures are not those of distant worlds: They identify cities and towns in the region that runs from Pennsylvania to Virginia.
Affixed directly to the walls, the many small globes of “Cambalache: Twenty States” orbit a larger semicircle. This is the most flamboyant piece in a show notable for its subtlety. Using little color and only occasionally venturing into 3-D, Belmar relies on a strong graphic sense to craft some of the strongest work he’s shown in Washington.
Joan Belmar: Cambalache On view through May 27 at Addison/Ripley Fine Art, 1670 Wisconsin Ave. NW. 202-338-5180. addisonripleyfineart.com.
Marco Bagnoli, “Aleph (Keplero inciso),” 1978-1999, mecca and mixed media on wood with plexiglass case, on view through May 28 at Hillyer Art Space.