Putting a fine point on col­ored pen­cil art Sa­mar Hus­saini

The Washington Post Sunday - - MUSEUMS - BY MARK JENK­INS style@wash­post.com

In Mar­garet Hop­kins’s “Fo­cus,” a woman wields a large cam­era while three other women be­hind her gaze at a smart­phone, prob­a­bly eye­ing the prod­uct of a built-in cam­era. If that seems an odd vi­gnette to ren­der in col­ored pen­cil, nearly all of the en­tries in the Col­ored Pen­cil So­ci­ety of Amer­ica’s 25th-an­nual ex­hi­bi­tion are pho­to­re­al­ist.

The 118 tech­ni­cally pro­fi­cient artists in this show at Strath­more ex­alt ex­ac­ti­tude. Some even fo­cus on pho­to­re­al­is­tic eye candy such as wa­ter droplets (Jesse Lane’s “Adren­a­line”), the facets of trans­par­ent plas­tic bags (Carolyn Chua’s “I See Bread”), sun­light glint­ing on a cap’s vi­sor (Con­stance Grace’s “Re­flec­tion”) or shiny red Leatherette stool tops (Donna Gra­ham’s “Diner”).

The mem­bers of the so­ci­ety (or the ju­ror of this show) are not in­clined to­ward free­hand ges­tures. There is a looser feel to a hand­ful of the draw­ings, no­tably Deane Ack­er­man’s “Ganges Morning,” and a few in­clude fan­ci­ful touches. A cut­away shows the mouse in a cat’s belly in Mary Fancher’s “Tyler,” and a shadow dou­bles as a snake in Christi Tomp­kins’s “The Devil Is in the De­tails” — a ti­tle that suits most of these metic­u­lous draw­ings.

This might be an Amer­i­can taste, al­though a half-dozen of the show’s con­trib­u­tors are from over­seas. What links col­ored pen­cil artists in the Wash­ing­ton area with ones in Malaysia? Per­haps it’s their re­ac­tion to the ubiq­ui­tous smart­phone cam­era and the low-def pic­tures it so of­ten yields. In the age of the blurry selfie, col­ored-pen­cil drafts­men and -women are bring­ing ac­cu­racy back. 25th An­nual Col­ored Pen­cil So­ci­ety of Amer­ica In­ter­na­tional Ex­hi­bi­tion On view through Aug. 6 at the Man­sion at Strath­more, 10701 Rockville Pike, North Bethesda, 301-581-5109. strath­more.org /vis­ual-arts/ex­hi­bi­tions.

One Year Later

Vis­i­tors to Pyra­mid At­lantic Art Cen­ter will walk past many presses on their way to the sec­ond­floor gallery. But prints and other works on paper aren’t the only things in “One Year Later,” a show com­mem­o­rat­ing the cen­ter’s first year in its Hy­attsville digs. There are paint­ings, ce­ram­ics and sculp­tures among the pieces by 52 artists — one for each week of the year — cho­sen by cu­ra­tor Molly Rup­pert.

Among the most el­e­gant of the tra­di­tional prints are Al­lan Ak­man’s “Lol­lipops,” a study of three bud­ding tulips on black back­grounds, and Su­san Gold­man’s “Green Blos­som,” which mounts a mul­ti­col­ored swirl atop an or­nate green-and­gold pedestal. The pho­to­graphs in­clude Cyn­thia Con­nolly’s set of post­cards, in sil­very blackand-white, of cryp­tic yet every­day marks painted on as­phalt.

Some of the three-di­men­sional pieces in­volve paper or print­ing, or tweak standard no­tions of printed mat­ter. Brece Hon­ey­cutt’s yel­low square is made of formed paper, while David Mor­dini’s small pa­pier-mâché bust is made of Cialis in­struc­tions. Bill Dun­lap’s gold fish flut­ters with flakes of loosely ap­plied metal­lic leaf, and Sean Hen­nessey’s “Li­brary” places vol­umes of green glass in a shelflike wooden box.

In this con­text, fa­mil­iar mo­tifs re­veal pre­vi­ously un­ob­served affini­ties. Linn My­ers draws un­du­lat­ing strokes, and Lau­rel Lukaszewski makes stoneware sculp­tures, but each has con­trib­uted works in which curv­ing lines loosely de­fine a cir­cle. Al­though only one piece is 3-D, both are sin­u­ously or­ganic. One Year Later On view through Aug. 5 at Pyra­mid At­lantic Art Cen­ter, 4318 Gal­latin St., Hy­attsville. 301-6089101. pyra­mi­dat­lanti­cart­cen­ter.org.

Clau­dia Sam­per

Birds sport many kinds of plumage in Clau­dia Sam­per’s pic­tures, which com­bine paint­ing, draw­ing and col­lage. Some of the ren­der­ings in her Touch­stone Gallery show are pre­cise enough for a modern-day Audubon, but she mixes re­al­is­tic crea­tures with car­toon­ish sketches and di­a­grams of origami avians. The jux­ta­po­si­tions are of­ten play­ful, as in a pic­ture where a crow holds in its mouth the strings to a bunch of bird-shaped bal­loons.

“They wake me ev­ery morning and we have cof­fee to­gether,” Sam­per writes of birds in her state­ment on the show. Yet the Ar­gentina-bred Vir­ginia artist isn’t in­ter­ested in the crea­tures purely for their own sake. For her, birds rep­re­sent com­plex­i­ties of hu­man com­mu­ni­ca­tion, which is why the show is ti­tled “Con­nect­ing the Dots.” Cir­cle and lines link the dis­parate styles and ob­jects in these pic­tures, in which birds com­mune with cup­cakes and build nests from play­ing cards. Al­though such sur­real con­trasts might elicit smiles, to Sam­per they also ex­press the dif­fi­culty of pro­cess­ing con­tra­dic­tory in­for­ma­tion. Con­nect­ing the Dots: Clau­dia Sam­per On view through July 30 at Touch­stone Gallery, 901 New York Ave. NW. 202-347-2787. touch­stone­gallery.com.

The abun­dant gold and turquoise of Sa­mar Hus­saini’s mixed-me­dia paint­ings sug­gest earth and min­er­als. But the New Jer­sey artist is pri­mar­ily in­spired by the thob (or thwawb), the tra­di­tional Arab tu­nic whose em­broi­dery de­notes its re­gional ori­gins. “Re­silient,” the ti­tle of Hus­saini’s Gallery Al Quds show, in­cludes two stand-alone ver­sions of a thob, as well as pic­tures that in­cor­po­rate its de­sign mo­tifs.

Hus­saini’s one-di­men­sional work, ren­dered in paint, pen­cil and char­coal, picks up the thob’s pat­terns and some­times de­picts its bil­low­ing shape. Al­though ab­stract, the pic­tures in­cor­po­rate text, ar­chi­tec­tural fea­tures and bits of found im­ages, which are printed on the can­vas. Some pieces in­clude stitch­ing, which evokes not only tra­di­tional needle­work, but also mend­ing in a metaphor­i­cal sense. All of these el­e­ments em­body the lay­ers that con­sti­tute an in­di­vid­ual’s char­ac­ter, Hus­saini has said. They might also rep­re­sent strata of his­tory, so­ci­ety and cul­ture. Re­silient: Sa­mar Hus­saini On view through July 28 at the Jerusalem Fund Gallery Al Quds, 2425 Vir­ginia Ave. NW. 202-338-1958. the­jerusalem­fund/gallery.

Sarah Jami­son

In­ter­ests and tastes change, yet many of the sub­jects of Old Mas­ter paint­ings still en­gage mu­se­um­go­ers. The same is un­likely to prove true of the pic­tures in “#so­cialaes­thet­ics,” Sarah Jami­son’s show at Latela Art Gallery. In­cluded are like­nesses of Pikachu (re­mem­ber him?), Kim Kar­dashian’s der­rière (for­mi­da­ble, but not age­less) and pizza. At least the ap­peal of the last is eter­nal.

The 22 small paint­ings on paper, the gallery notes, are each the size of an iPhone screen and were in­spired by Jami­son’s “re­vul­sion for and de­pen­dence on her phone.” The lo­cal artist uses no pho­to­graphic means to achieve her painstak­ingly re­al­is­tic pic­tures, which jux­ta­pose not only im­ages, but also such graph­ics as the ar­row-tipped cir­cle that in­di­cates a video is re­fresh­ing. Jami­son’s re­sis­tance to the tor­rent of dig­i­tal flot­sam is prob­a­bly fu­tile. But it should earn her some tweets. #so­cialaes­thet­ics: Sarah Jami­son On view through July 28 at Latela Art Gallery, 716 Mon­roe St. NE, Stu­dio #27. 202-340-3280. late­ladc.com.

CAROLYN CHUA

“I See Bread,” by Carolyn Chua, at the Col­ored Pen­cil So­ci­ety of Amer­ica’s 25th an­nual ex­hi­bi­tion.

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