Sculp­tures of­fer mix of me­dia, mes­sages

Four ex­hibits cel­e­brate cre­ations by D.C. artists

The Washington Post - - NAMES & FACES - BY MARK JENK­INS

Not all sculp­ture is mon­u­men­tal, but in Wash­ing­ton the most con­spic­u­ous ex­am­ples are. Eques­trian stat­ues com­mand the cir­cles and squares, and mod­ernist ab­strac­tions (or such near-ab­strac­tions as Claes Olden­burg’s) dom­i­nate the Mall’s sculp­ture gar­dens. The work in four D.C. sculp­ture shows is more com­pact, eas­ily trans­portable (for a fee) to the small­est of pri­vate sculp­ture gar­dens. But the least weighty work can’t be moved at all.

If the art­works in Water­gate Gallery’s “2011 Sum­mer Sculp­ture” are of man­age­able size, the show it­self is a lit­tle over­whelm­ing. There’s so much stuff, and in so many styles, that fo­cus­ing on in­di­vid­ual items is a chal­lenge. The ex­hi­bi­tion in­cludes such di­verse of­fer­ings as an el­e­gant Craig Kraft neon doo­dle; Bar­bara Kobylin­ska’s fan­ci­ful birds, which range from life-size to much big­ger and in col­ors that evoke Rus­sian icons; and Seth Gold­stein and Paula Stone’s “Re­clin­ing Venus,” made mostly from curv­ing seg­ments of Ori­en­tal bit­ter­sweet, a vir­u­lent in­va­sive vine.

Many of these sculp­tures use well-es­tab­lished me­dia and forms. Robert Cole works in bronze, al­though his pieces vary in style and mood: “Beg­gar’s Bowl,” his most re­al­is­tic con­tri­bu­tion to the show, is sleek and somber; his small pig, gi­raffe and ele­phant are more styl­ized and whim­si­cal. There’s also a clas­sic (if mod­ernist) feel to such ab­strac­tions as Sam Noto’s “Athos,” a plant­like spi­ral of sub­tly hued steel; Don Her­man’s works in painted, seem­ingly lev­i­tat­ing steel; and Craig Schaf­fer’s “ Three-Fold In­fi­nite Form,” a nau­tilus-like shape in tex­tured bronze. Pamela Sold­wedel in­trigu­ingly com­bines un­du­lat­ing black mar­ble and finely pol­ished alu­minum, fused to­gether like a sculp­tural cy­borg.

Wood, whether sculpted or merely ar­ranged, is also well-rep­re­sented. Jeff Cooper’s “Gear Jam,” a cleanly carved if im­pos­si­ble mech­a­nism, riffs on metal. Alonzo Davis makes en­gag­ing bam­boo con­struc­tions, painted or wrapped in fab­ric and sug­gest­ing fetish ob­jects. These have an affin­ity with Mike Brin­ing’s “Cell­phone,” a col­umn partly wrapped in painted can­vas. Brin­ing also cre­ated “Wood Stack Bal­anced,” a grav­ity-de­fy­ing pileup of painted blocks, and “Sense of Place,” a sleek wood plinth adorned with a chunk of black con­crete and a twisted steel frame. It’s a mon­u­ment of sorts, to both cre­ation and de­struc­tion.

The Spirit of the Wood

“ The Spirit of the Wood,” in Zenith Gallery’s lobby, is some­what eas­ier to process. It fea­tures only two artists, Lynda SmithBugge and Katie Dell Kauf­man, both of whom make mixed-me­dia as­sem­blages that em­pha­size wood. Smith-Bugge’s pieces, many of them mounted on pedestals that are part of the work, rely on the con­trast be­tween found and worked ma­te­rial. Kauf­man’s, which in­clude some that are wall-mounted and al­most flat, in­cor­po­rate ev­ery­day made ob­jects, such as spoons and bowls.

At her most di­rect, Smith-Bugge nev­er­the­less high­lights the shape and tex­ture of gnarled wood; “Lim­i­nal Space” places a dried box­wood shrub atop a sleek wal­nut col­umn. But she usu­ally ma­nip­u­lates the ma­te­rial fur­ther, or adds such com­pet­ing tex­tures as metal and ce­ramic. The spirit of this wood seems an­cient and rit­u­al­is­tic. Con­structed of bowed wood and two wires, “Epiphany” sug­gests an ar­chaic mu­si­cal in­stru­ment. “Rain­catcher,” with a hol­low log poised to fun­nel wa­ter into a bowl, looks like some­thing from a Shinto shrine.

There’s also a Ja­panese vibe to some of Kauf­man’s pieces, no­tably the el­e­gant yet play­ful “Ori­gin,” a se­ries of co­conut bowls that are lined in gold leaf. That’s a nat­u­ral func­tion for a bowl, but the artist of­ten re­pur­poses kitchen uten­sils. “ The Process of Il­lu­mi­na­tion” jaun­tily ar­rays five spoons atop a wheeled plat­form that’s half cart, half per­cus­sion in­stru­ment. Al­though Kauf­man doesn’t ex­plic­itly de­pict Asianstyle cer­e­mo­nial gates, her work is full of fences, doors and steps, beck­on­ing ob­servers into a world that’s sim­pler and, per­haps, more spir­i­tual.

Pierre-An­toine Goho

Pierre-An­toine Goho, who’s show­ing at Hil­lyer Art Space, may not con­sider him­self a sculp­tor. The ba­sis of his work is paint­ing, but he piles ob­jects atop his can­vases or stacks groups of small paint­ings to make a larger one. The re­sult­ing pieces of­ten re­call Robert Rauschen­berg’s 1960s “Com­bines,” but a few re­sem­ble Kauf­man’s style. Al­though Goho is an Ivory Coast na­tive, his art has Asian in­gre­di­ents: Bits of Chinese and Korean text join a thicket of painted metal tubes in “Body, Mind & Soul,” and “Zen­ergy” — in­ad­ver­tently echo­ing Kauf­man’s “Ori­gin” — fea­tures two cir­cles of gold-painted wood. Goho’s work isn’t aus­tere, though. It thrives on the con­trast be­tween re­straint and ex­u­ber­ance, sim­plic­ity and vis­ual ca­coph­ony.


Of­fer­ing fresh spins on mon­u­men­tal­ity, Flash­point is pre­sent­ing shows by Janell Olah and Ni­cole Her­bert. Olah’s work is large but ethe­real, con­structed mostly from Ikea shower cur­tains, LEDs and air. Ti­tled “you make me nos­tal­gic for a place i’ve never known” af­ter a line from Michael Chabon, Olah’s in­stal­la­tion evokes a house and fluffy clouds. It’s in­spired in part by child­hood mem­o­ries and con­trasts the mere out­line of a home with three-di­men­sional plas­tic car­toon-cloud forms. While the house is con­jured by an ex­ist­ing wall pat­tern, the gen­tly pul­sat­ing clouds are in­flated by the build­ing’s HVAC sys­tem, mak­ing them both dream­like and me­chan­i­cal. Olah’s work calls at­ten­tion to hid­den ar­chi­tec­tural fea­tures, spot­light­ing ev­ery­day sur­round­ings that usu­ally are taken for granted.

Con­structed of tape, pipes, lights and pen­cil lines, Her­bert’s “ Trace” is even more site-spe­cific. En­cour­ag­ing the viewer to ven­ture be­yond the clean white box of the gallery, the artist has in­stalled her work in Flash­point’s re­strooms, of­fices and con­fer­ence area. Vis­i­tors will need a guide to see the en­tire show, which is just as well; some­one wan­der­ing alone prob­a­bly would miss much of this low-key “in­ter­ven­tion.” Her­bert has added non­func­tional elec­tri­cal out­lets and PVC and cop­per pipes that mimic real fix­tures, and has drawn lines that em­pha­size shad­ows so strongly that the darker ar­eas of wall seem to be painted-on. ( They’re not.) She also “draws” tape pat­terns on win­dows to echo ar­chi­tec­tural forms that are out­side Flash­point’s build­ing. Like Olah, Her­bert calls at­ten­tion to or­di­nary bits of the built en­vi­ron­ment, propos­ing new ways to look at just about ev­ery­thing.


JA­PANESE VIBE: “Ori­gin” by Katie Dell Kauf­man fea­tures a se­ries of gold-leaf-lined co­conut bowls that hold wooden fish. SOMBER: “Beg­gar’s Bowl” is Robert Cole’s most re­al­is­tic con­tri­bu­tion to the show. IN THE CLOUDS: Janell Olah’s “you make me...

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