‘Poor art’: Min­i­mal­ist, but rich in its im­pact

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

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.

Joan Bel­mar

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.

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