Where to see art gallery shows in the D.C. region

The installation filling the main gallery at IA&A at Hillyer isn’t hazardous to visitors, but its implications are toxic. Kelley O’Brien’s “Residence Time” is an array of multimedia features in shades of black and white, scored to droning, thudding music. All the elements, centered on a flickering video projection, evoke some sort of pollution; some explicitly refer to water.

A small perfume bottle is labeled with the exact subject of the North Carolina artist’s concern: 1,4-dioxane, a textile-industry solvent, probably carcinogenic, that has contaminated drinking water in the Cape Fear River Basin. The little container is an ironic reference to the chemical’s faintly sweet odor and the fact that the substance is sometimes found in perfumes, cosmetics and other personal care products.

Aside from the text on that bottle, O’Brien’s work is allusive and indirect. Booms of the sort used to contain hazmat spills on lakes and rivers are coiled on the floor, and two small pools of water lap within frames that shift slightly to elicit small waves. Three sets of clear plastic sheets, each nine layers deep, contain black smudges that combine to yield inky patterns that appear to float in space as if on water.

In the dimly lighted gallery, the sound and imagery are shadowy and seem appropriately liquid and immersive. The individual components are simple but combine effectively in the installation, which was made with the assistance of Marcus Braithwaite, Kevin Vanek, Nick Rutz and Kathleen Block. Its inspiration may be specific to coastal North Carolina, but “Residence Time” speaks to impurity anywhere, and of all sorts.

A different sort of corruption is represented by “Cryptid Currency,” one of the offerings in Chris Combs’s “Supercycle,” also at IA&A. The piece is a series of 11 increasingly disfigured cast-aluminum discs that are emblazoned with an image of Bigfoot and represent the decaying promise of digital cash.

Combs is a local artist who specializes in work that’s savvy to, but also skeptical of, technology. He does gallery shows often, but always with new inventions and often previously unexplored subjects. “Supercycle” includes some fresh but familiar-looking interactive gadgets, notably “Targeting.” Its nearly 2,000 LEDs respond to a nearby person’s movements in a manner inspired by military radar, but the device also refers to the targeting of internet users with advertisements keyed to their online profiles.

Such use of neural networks (or artificial intelligence) is further critiqued by several pieces. The largest is “Pollination,” a flowerlike metal contraption that spreads audiovisual cues as if fertilizing digital foliage. “Snap Judgment” compares a visitor’s face to a photo database to propose his or her likely profession. “Naked Mueller” is an eccentric text generated by combining special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia and William S. Burroughs’s “Naked Lunch” in a 70-to-30 ratio. When AI can hit on an idea as prankish as that, it might well be credited as being human.

Kelley O’Brien: Residence Time and Chris Combs: Supercycle Through July 30 at IA&A at Hillyer, 9 Hillyer Ct. NW. athillyer.org. 202-338-0680.

The theme of Multiple Exposures Gallery’s current show is stated by its title, “Monochrome.” But there are also sub-themes of a sort, developed in related images among those chosen by juror Sandy Sugawara, a local photographer and former Washington Post journalist. She chose pictures that “had a sense of mystery about them,” says her statement.

That’s certainly true of Clara Young Kim’s study of a waterfall whose rocky facets are softened by mist and Matt Leedham’s shot of a dark jungle punctuated by an illuminated slice of foliage. That shot is a visual near-rhyme with Sarah Hood Salomon’s picture of a gray forest with a foregrounded tangle of vines so white they almost appear electrified.

One pair of photos can be seen as expressing either the authority or the presumption of modern architecture: Van Pulley captures an off-kilter woman silhouetted inside a spaceship-like structure, while Alan Sislen observes a man walking by a facade of looping abstract forms. Both figures are dwarfed by their surroundings, as is true of nearly all the people in the show’s pictures. The exception is Fred Zafran’s close-up portrait of a young girl whose face emerges dramatically from blackness, presumably during the Japanese children’s celebration that provides the photo’s title, “Shichi-Go-San” (“seven-five-three,” which are thought to be lucky ages).

Tom Sliter contributes the most kinetic picture, which depicts a diving game played by charismatically monochromatic penguins. Much quieter, but no less striking, is Maureen Minehan’s photo of a white shed with a black door in a nearly all-white landscape. Starkly arresting, the picture exemplifies the power of a monochromatic image.

Monochrome Through July 31 at Multiple Exposures Gallery, Torpedo Factory, 105 N. Union St., Alexandria. multipleexposuresgallery.com. 703-683-2205.

For sculptor Chris Malone, mosaic is as much a philosophy as a technique. He builds bodies from clay, glass, stone and found objects, suggesting complex identities he doesn’t profess to understand fully. The six statues in “Gathering,” on display 24/7 in the windows of the VisArts-programmed 355 Pod Space, employ motifs that evoke what Malone calls his “unsettled African self, stemming from a history I never learned properly.”

Many of Malone’s fanciful creations, which have often been exhibited at Zenith Gallery, have a cartoonish quality. The D.C. artist often makes full-body sculptures whose limbs are spindly and seemingly elastic. But the “Gathering” pieces are all busts of heads and shoulders that stand on, and are integrated with, built-in ceramic pedestals. With their realistic eyes, probably made of glass, the statues feel somber and ceremonial, even if playful in their use of material.

The figures have faces painted with elaborate patterns and abundant hair in the forms of such things as shells, rusted nails and pencils whose tips point outward. One head is topped with flowerlike forms that cascade down the statue’s base, which is perforated with cavities, as are the subject’s cheeks and chin. Another has a chest that resembles a birdcage. Such touches make Malone’s mixed-media entities appear as airy as they are earthy.

Chris Malone: Gathering Through July 30 at 355 Pod Space, 355 Rockville Pike, Rockville. visartscenter.org. 301-315-8200.

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