The Washington Post Sunday

Renee Stout’s fiery visions at Hemphill draw inspiratio­n from Jimi Hendrix

- BY MARK JENKINS

The most incendiary picture in Renee Stout’s show at Hemphill Fine Arts depicts a human heart within a house afire, with a slightly darker shade of red. The image’s power and mystery are not unexpected, but its directness is. Stout often exhibits intricate found-object sculptures that combine primeval spirituali­ty with obsolete technology. They seem designed to receive the past from the ether — or the ethereal from the past. But “When 6 Is 9: Visions of a Parallel Universe” is made up of mostly paintings, their subjects rarefied or abstracted.

The blazing heart picture, “Red House in Black Rain,” is one of two sparked by the Jimi Hendrix song “Red House,” and it’s dedicated to him. Another of his songs, “If 6 Was 9,” is the source of the show’s title. Among the show’s other inspiratio­ns are the artist’s reaction to the current political climate and the counsel of artist Sean Scully, who encouraged Stout to explore nonreprese­ntational painting for a 2017 show at his New York studio.

“The show is pretty bloody,” Stout acknowledg­ed at a recent gallery talk. Gory red smears the bottom of “Bellona (Roman Goddess of War),” and three small paintings resemble crimson droplets on slides under a microscope. Flame and blood can represent violence, but also essence and purity. “No Lie in Her Fire” is the title Stout gives to a rendering of a fireball partly cloaked in thick black smoke.

The selection offers only a few assemblage­s, and one is paired with a painting. “The Guardian,” a 1996 piece that incorporat­es a bird skull, stands next to a 2018 picture in which the skull-based creature becomes one of four “Guardians of the Parallel Universe.” The others include a snake and an antique racist doll, entities that might be seen as sinister or offensive, but here are transforme­d into magical protectors. The potent can be either good or evil, or perhaps both simultaneo­usly.

Instead of the outmoded radios and television­s that Stout often uses, this array features a set of archaic mobile phones. Their now-useless cases have been remade into frames for small portraits the artist labels “passports.” What sort of journey do these curious documents authorize? One that is, whatever the destinatio­n, powerful and mysterious.

Renee Stout: When 6 Is 9: Visions of a Parallel Universe Through Dec. 15 at Hemphill Fine Arts, 1515 14th St. NW.

Fall Solos

The seven single-artist showcases of Arlington Arts Center’s “Fall Solos 2018” (plus a separate one upstairs) aren’t linked thematical­ly. Yet most of them involve some sort of history, often personal. Nekisha Durrett multiplies a family keepsake into a field of four-leaf clovers, white and ceramic rather than green and vegetal. Aimee Gilmore fills a gallery with motherhood-related things, including a baby bottle remade in fuchsia chrome, a huge print of breast milk spattered on Mylar and a mirror printed with the word “wow” (which inverts to “mom”).

Julia Staples investigat­es religious heritage with a video interview of a spirituali­st and a hanging six-pointed star made of PVC pipe. Tristan Roland mixes plastic objects and high-end wood in pieces that contrast cheaply manufactur­ed goods with skilled craftsmans­hip. Zoe Friedman’s cut-paper animation sets nature sounds and imagery to gamelan music. Cindy Stockton Moore observes current trends with photos of a gentrifyin­g Philadelph­ia block, here tinted in homage to the stained-glass windows of the arts center’s Tiffany Gallery.

Artemis Herber deals in ancient and even tectonic history in her paintings on shaped, tattered cardboard. The corrugated material once seemed integral to the artist’s rocky landscapes, but these four elegant pieces transcend their packing-box origins.

Dawn Whitmore ponders recent events, as well as larger concerns, in an installati­on inspired by a true story about an Aleppo man who stayed inside for more than four years. “A House Is Like a Mind That Holds Everything,” in the second-floor Wyatt Resident Artists Gallery, simulates the war-zone hermit’s home, and also his thoughts. The man read Shakespear­e and Molière as he waited for the warfare to end, so Whitmore filled the space with books and recorded voices. The readings of literary texts overlap into an audio Babel. The room and the brain, however overwhelme­d, are the only available refuges from utter chaos.

Fall Solos 2018 Through Dec. 15 at the Arlington Arts Center, 3550 Wilson Blvd., Arlington.

Negar Ahkami

From a distance, Negar Ahkami’s paintings are notable for their aquatic hues and swirling energy. A closer look at “The Taking,” the Arlington artist’s show at the Cody Gallery, reveals both her technique and intent.

Ahkami paints with acrylic glazes infused with glitter and built up with gesso. The raised areas and shiny surfaces suggest ceramics and mosaics, while the designs invoke the artistic heritage of Iran, the Baltimoreb­orn artist’s ancestral homeland. The pictures’ dynamism reflects “enthrallme­nt with exotic stimuli,” explains a gallery note.

This theme is made explicit in the show’s title piece, a museumlike display of 29 simulated archaeolog­ical fragments. Ahkami manufactur­ed the small artifacts to illustrate how motifs and objects from ancient Persia have been incorporat­ed into Western life and art. It’s a worthy lesson, but less enthrallin­g than the oceanic force of the larger paintings.

Negar Ahkami: The Taking Through Dec. 15 at Cody Gallery, Marymount University Ballston Center, 1000 N. Glebe Rd., Arlington.

Meet Your Neighbors

The latest exhibition space in the Brentwood/Hyattsvill­e corridor, Portico Gallery is a hallway outside five artist studios in a new apartment building. To inaugurate the space, curator John Paradiso invited 22 artists from the area to show their work. “Meet the Neighbors” includes many participan­ts whose studios are within walking distance, as well as several from farther up the road and one who works in the District’s Brookland neighborho­od.

Glass and ceramics masters are well represente­d in Portico’s neighborho­od. Among those showing here are Alan Binstock, who encases a yellow bloom inside four slabs of blue glass, and Laurel Lukaszewsk­i, whose three porcelain clusters flower in gradations of gray-green. A similar balance of brawn and delicacy characteri­zes Leslie Berns’s wood-slat assemblage, whose hues also subtly shift, and Dave Mordini’s self-portrait in slices of cast aluminum. The warehouses abutting the nearby CSX tracks increasing­ly house artists, but their new inhabitant­s retain something of the area’s industrial legacy.

Meet Your Neighbors Through Dec. 22 at Portico Gallery and Studios, 3807 Rhode Island Ave., Brentwood.

 ?? RENEE STOUT/HEMPHILL FINE ARTS ?? Renee Stout, “No Lie in Her Fire” (from a Charles Bukowski quote), 2017, acrylic, latex, spray paint and colored pencil on wood panel. The title of her exhibition, “When 6 Is 9: Visions of a Parallel Universe,” is based on Jimi Hendrix’s song “If 6 Was 9.”
RENEE STOUT/HEMPHILL FINE ARTS Renee Stout, “No Lie in Her Fire” (from a Charles Bukowski quote), 2017, acrylic, latex, spray paint and colored pencil on wood panel. The title of her exhibition, “When 6 Is 9: Visions of a Parallel Universe,” is based on Jimi Hendrix’s song “If 6 Was 9.”

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