Bailey begins in two ways: she borrows poses of women from mythological and historical canvases by ancient painters, then draws the sketched figures into a computer program. Next, the designs are painted in solid colors on canvas, surrounded by arboreal backdrops rendered in a blurrier, waterier mode. On top are landscape details added in pigment thickened with gel, so that the coarseness contrasts with the flush figures. Each element is simple, but together the effect is complex.
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That the women are solitary – except for one whose foot spans a diptych to protrude slightly into another’s territory – reflects the isolation of the pandemic era. “The Secret Garden is an imagination of anxiety as a self-contained physical space,” says the artist’s statement. Bailey Gardens may be cloistered and muted, but they’re not hideaways.
Only one of Bailey’s paintings alludes to environmental issues; he scatters forms of consumer waste, painted thick pink, on the ground. Michael Thron’s “In the Ways” in the same location is less direct, but clearly inspired by ecological peril. The local artist’s exhibit consists primarily of two large pontoon-like forms, made of lead, tin, steel, and aluminum cobbled together, and mounted staggered on metal brackets. On the nearby wall is a large four-part charcoal drawing of a target-like shape.
“Some of us may need to be transported from our homes, states or continents, while others find ourselves with nothing and nowhere to go,” the local artist’s statement notes. If Thorn’s metallic contraption doesn’t look particularly airworthy, that only adds to the sense of alarm.
The title of Hillary L. Steel’s show, also at IA&A, is more hopeful. “Tikkun Olam – Fix the world” (the same phrase in Hebrew and English) is Judaism’s injunction to make things better. How exactly is up for debate, but Steel’s method involves making elaborate wall hangings from hand-woven and hand-dyed textiles. The Maryland artist finds the process – employing traditional Indonesian and Japanese techniques – meditative. Traditional textures and colors are arranged in contemporary layouts, often topped with upward protruding triangles. Steel’s handwoven fabrics are earthy, yet point to the sky.
MK Bailey: Secret Garden; Michael Thron: in the lanes; and Hillary L. Steel: Tikkun Olam — Fixing the World Until May 1 at AI&A at Hillyer, 9 Hillyer Court. NO.
They don’t feature the usual postcard scenes of Washington, but Michael Crossett’s screen-printed photo collages are instantly recognizable as DC The brightly colored works of the local artist’s Long View Gallery match and juxtapose buildings and signs , monumental and vernacular, new and old . Crossett has altered the format of the visual urban symphonies he has been composing for years, but the material is familiar.
This selection introduces a few variations, including montages in the artist’s usual style that offer mini-tours of London and New York. More exaggerated are the circular vinyl-derived pieces that slyly incorporate the show’s title, “Flip Side.” Each has in its center a mock label emblazoned with this phrase, but transliterated in Japanese. (The son of an Air Force member, Crossett spent part of his childhood in Okinawa.) These homages to 12-inch singles are two to four times larger than the originals.
The artist sometimes finishes his prints with resin or spray paint, and the “Flip Side” pieces are his loosest and most painterly works. Beyond the labels, complete with song titles such as “Vogue”, the roundels morph into target paintings or are divided into contrasting quadrants that balance abstract and photo-derived imagery. Flamboyant in Day-Glo reds and oranges, these printed paintings translate Crossett’s real-world inspirations into a language all his own.
Michael Crossett: the other side of the coin Until May 22 at Telescope Gallery1234 Ninth St. NW.
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Environmental concerns tie the two series of works by Noel Kassewitz to the Arts Club of Washington. The earliest pieces are realistically rendered paintings that depict human-caused animal suffering, such as the orangutan in “When the Last Tree Fell,” which sits surrounded by stumps. More recent are 3D assemblages that include fins and flotation devices, as well as photos of aquatic facilities in Florida, Kassewitz’s home state, and DC, where she is curator of sculpture at the National Gallery of Art.
The paintings, mostly made between 2008 and 2013, use a neoclassical technique to address contemporary ecological issues. Scenarios can be quite blunt for political cartoons: a two-tiered image depicts a gorilla in gunsight, and the ship threatening a whale has the name “Insanity” emblazoned on its bow. Sometimes adorned with talismanic shapes in gold leaf, the images acknowledge how time-honored craftsmanship and traditions are based on the exploitation of nature.
Noel Kassewitz Until April 30 at Washington Arts Club2017 I St. NW.
Tinam Valk’s “Making Waves” paintings are all of the sea, but there’s something earthy about them. The Dutch-raised Maryland artist works with playdough, string and even leaves in the multimedia images in her exhibition at the Portico Gallery. And while Valk renders the ocean primarily in white, gray, and various blues, she begins by coating her canvases in red. It shows here and there, punctuating the naturalistic hues with tiny but eye-catching crimson contrasts.
One such image, “September Visit,” depicts silhouettes in the distance on a beach, but that’s not typical. More characteristic are the views in which the ocean is not framed by the land, and sometimes not even the sky. Such perspectives plunge the eye into storm-tossed waves, where the viewer is dwarfed by mountainous waves. Valk lists as his inspirations mainly 19th century realist painters such as Caspar David Friedrich and Albert Pinkham Ryder, but there is a hint of abstraction in his work. These lumpy surfaces and red glows suggest that Valk’s subject matter is as much paint as water.
Tinam Valk: Making waves Until May 7 at Portico Gallery3807 Rhode Island Ave, Brentwood.