Arts & Entertainment

Northern Virginia Art Beat

 Jane Seymour and self portrait at P+C Art in Alexandria, VA through Monday May 14.

Jane Seymour

Through Monday, May 14 at P+C Art, 212 King St. Alexandria, VA Gallery hours: Monday-Thursday 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Friday-Saturday 10 a.m.-9 p.m., and Sunday Noon-5 p.m. (703) 549-2525.

Jane Seymour joins the likes of Elke Sommer, Jonathan Winters, Tony Bennett, and Paul McCartney, to name but a few. Star art is a weird genre where the name comes before the talent. In any event, Seymour’s show benefits Women’s Heart Programs, so you can’t fault her too much. She even made a personal appearance at the opening last Friday night, which isn’t universally true of star art shows. I can recall seeing Seymour in the Scarlet Pimpernel (1982) and thinking she was the most beautiful woman on earth, the femme fatale crown I’d now give to Catherine Zeta Jones. Does this have anything to do with art? Did you expect it to?

 

'Marlin' (P83) by Gene Davis, 1978, acrylic on canvas, 45 1/2 x 67 1/4 inches ColorField Remix

This weeks edition of the ColorField Remix show reviews takes us to Dupont Circle, where we find three shows of deceased notable Washington Color School artists, as well as some new abstract work. Most of these galleries will not be open for First Friday night in Dupont circle. Note: Virtually all of these works have intimate details that simply can not survive the process of reducing them to usable size here. Some of these works are 6 to 10 feet in size, filled with highly nuanced and subtle details. It’s absurd to expect a 4 inch version there of to be a true representation. You have to see these things in person.

 

Selected Works from the Estate of Gene Davis  

through May 19, at Marsha Mateyka Gallery, 2012 R St. NW., Washington, DC. Gallery Hours: Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (202) 328-0088, or see www.marshamateykagallery.com.

You’ll find a few of the usual fair you’d expect to see from Davis, generally done in the lavender and purple zone of the color spectrum. In the back room you’ll find pre-stripes somewhat isomorphic drawings from the 1950’s. My personal favorite here was an aqua monotone striped canvas titled “Marlin” (P83) from 1983. Painted in overlapping washes of color that doubles the intensity and renders the overlap opaque. No longer mixed with the ground beneath, it becomes a second color due to it’s purer singularity. It’s a captivating effect that yields playful variations in line weight due to it’s hand painted technique, as opposed to hard edged stripes done with tape. It’s an interesting Davis stripe canvas you can take a long hard look at without going cross eyed over.

 

Howard Mehring: All Over Paintings

Through May 12, at Conner Contemporary Art, 1730 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC Gallery Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (202) 588-8750, or see www.connercontemporary.com

'Untitled' by Howard Mehring at Conner Contemporary Art through May 12 (copyright the artist, courtesy Conner Contemporary Art) While a lesser known member of the Washington Color School, Mehring had his fair share of success before quitting painting in 1968. These large ‘all over’ paintings have no focal point, no beginning, nor ending. The entire canvases are blotched washes of color. Dismissively simple from even a few feet away. Close inspection reveals a world of complexity and subtle coloration. One canvas looks like the inside of a anti-aircraft flack cloud, another seems like a galaxy rendered in green, yet another seems like a sheet of felt insulation. This is Mehring at the height of his power. Later canvases revealed a lack of compositional sophistication in their dead-center symmetry.

Hanging in the back room is an intriguing contemporary abstract by Ryan Carr Johnson. The ground covered in thick layers of bright paint, then sanded down through various layers of paint to a fine flat surface and revealing a psychedelic abstract that looks like a cross between an x-ray and an a heat sensing spectrographic photo. It’s wild work. 

 

Don McCarten: The Washington Color School Paintings

Through May 19, at Studio Gallery, 2108 R St NW, Washington, DC. Gallery Hours: Wednesday- Thursday 1 to 7 p.m., Friday 1-8 p.m., Saturday 1-6 p.m. (202) 232-8734, or see www.studiogallerydc.com

 McCarten, and his wife Joyce, lived in the Sleepy Hollow and Lake Barcroft areas of Northern VA from 1960 until his death in 2003. This retrospective of McCarten’s work shows an eye popping range of work. His 1959 painting on board in the back room is firmly planted in the New York School (Pollock, Kline, de Kooning, etc.), and gives stark testament to the gritty and vigorous New York school vs. the cool, aloof, even at times sterile Washington school. It’s loose and free, yet linear and controlled with geometric forms under the network of drips. While in need of some restoration, it remains an extremely satisfying piece of work. Considering the fact that you’d have to sell your house (and some of your neighbor’s houses as well) to buy a Pollock, this vintage gem at the price of a good used car seems tempting to take home. I know I could live with it for many years to come.

“Halifax(UK)” from 1962 is yet another no excuses piece of abstraction. Resembling an interlocking wooden Chinese jigsaw puzzle, rendered in reds and grays. It’s yet another work that could easily hang in any major museum. A third work, “Centre of Halifax (UK)” from 1968 clearly shows McCarten’s graphic design skills honed over 30 years at U.S. News and World Report. This minimalist geometric painting shows a refreshing degree of sophistication in it’s off-center composition. So much vintage minimalist work is dead-center dull, it’s good to see not everybody skipped design 101. Also of note, shaped canvas works, and an all-over painting similar to Mehring’s work. It’s far less obsessive than Mehring’s. Unfortunately the all-over style generates it’s power from the sort of obsessive detailing Mehring excelled at.

 McCraten turned out some top drawer work, yet remains essentially unknown. What happened is hard to say. May have been a lack of singular focus, or a lack of quantity production. Whatever it was, it seems he had the artistic chops. When playing the fame/name game, it helps to be lucky and good. 

 

Bill Hill & Judith Seligson Shows 

Through May 20 at Jane Haslem, 2025 Hillyer Place NW, Washington, DC. Gallery Hours: Wednesday – Saturday, Noon to 5 p.m. (202) 232-4644, or see www.janehaslemgallery.com

Bill Hill’s show at Haslam’s last year was held over for an extra month due to it’s popularity. A fairly unheard of thing in the tightly packed world of gallery scheduling. Hill’s abstractions are atmospheric and highly contemplative.

Judith Seligson does work at the exact opposite of the esthetic spectrum. Hard edged tight, wonderfully playful geometric compositions of overlapping forms with enhancing color variations and combinations. Very high quality work. I could live with this work to be sure.

 

 The Art Beat is compiled by Kevin Mellema. See www.fcnp.com for photos and more. To e-mail submissions, send them to [email protected]