Arts & Entertainment

Northern Virginia Art Beat

 '2007 Winter Solos' with 'Hope and Fear'

Through January 19 at Arlington Arts Center (3550 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Va.). Gallery Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Call 703-248-6800, or see www.arlingtonartscenter.org.

Arlington Arts Center features three artists in this round of solo exhibitions. Joseph Mannino has a series of works dealing with body language, both literal and figuratively speaking. Large scale diptych photographic portraits show various peoples' faces and their hands, upon which words have been written. Accompanied by sculptures of hands with words. It all seems to speak to the intended, and possibly unintended, messages we give off through body language. How words can clarify, as well as confuse people's impression of us.

Young Kim offers a set of 10 photographic portraits in what seems a totally unique way. The images are “printed” on top of a thick bed of table salt, which in this subdued lighting looks more like thick slabs of marble. The portraits themselves are dusted on, using a screen, which gives them a silkscreen appearance without the use of paint. Beneath each image is a bowl with one of 10 “elements” essential for human life. The people are all random strangers pulled in off the street and photographed with their eyes closed. Kim is trying, in his own egalitarian way, to show the commonality of all people, and how at the end of the day, despite possible appearances to the contrary, we all need the same stuff to survive in the world.

Rounding out the trio of soloists is a couple of short films by my favorite, Jennifer Levonian. Both are comprised entirely of stop motion animation done with water color paintings and cut outs there of. “You Starbucks” is a tad obtuse, but has great moments, such as the brochure titled “You Starbucks and Depression.” The real gem is “Smells Like English Boxwood.” Here we find a group of female William and Mary college students and their weighty women's studies tomes. Followed by … an invasion of tropical birds, macaws to be exact, into historic Williamsburg. The historic preservationists are aghast, and unable to craft a solution to their Macaw problem, so they choose to rewrite history and incorporate the macaws into the whole Historic Williamsburg tourist tableau. They even go so far as to plant a macaw skull at an archeological dig site to show the presence of macaws at Williamsburg from the very start. Everything goes along swimmingly until the macaws start dropping like flies in the dead of winter. Oops!

Take that Sylvia Plath and company!

“Hope and Fear” features the works of eight artists, and runs through most of the main floor. Persian-American artist Shahla Arbabi offers a series of images dealing with war and oil. The most interesting of the lot seems to be a grid of drawings depicting war planes dropping some sort of ordinance on birds and people. The planes depicted look to be SR-71 Blackbirds, which are spy planes, not ordinance dropping devices, so there may be a bit of artistic license at work here. In any event, from the angle depicted, the silhouette of the “Blackbirds” seem to be black birds at rest. It's a bit of quirky, Escher-like sleight of hand. The bombing of the birds and people below has the typical results, though shown here on a case by case basis, it all seems so much sadder and unnecessary. The tryptic piece showing a golden oil barrel and George Bush at the bottom of explosions speaks to her fears for her home country of Iran.

Michael Platt provides us with a series of large scale, multiple-exposure photos depicting people in a transparent way. It seems to speak of the way our surroundings are the stable framework we all move through.

In the downstairs community gallery, “Art Enables: Outsider Art Inside the Beltway” is showing the work of 18 of their artists. The Art Enables studio helps adults with developmental, and/or mental disabilities through artistic expression. If you've been around the art world long enough you know untrained doesn't necessarily mean bad. Howard Finster was all the rage for many years.

One of my favorite images in the whole Art Center complex is hanging in this show — “The Dance Lesson” by Qin Xi Lin, a deaf Chinese immigrant, now here for some 11 years. “Dance Lesson” recalls the work of Eric Fischel and Robert Longo to my eye. As with all art in this genre, it's difficult to say what is intentional and what's pure accident until you've seen a number of images by the same artist. We can't say just how bawdy “Dance Lesson” is intended to be, but it certainly has a wonderful spirit and sense of joy in being alive. Works for me. See www.art-enables.org for more information on Art Enables and the work they do to help these folks out.

 

Other Exhibitions & Events

 

Art Whino (717 N. Saint Asaph St., Alexandria, Va.) opening this Friday night, December 14, from 6 p.m. – midnight. Two disc jockeys spin tunes within this 9,000 square-foot art gallery. It's like hanging out in the hippest club in town for free.

This month's featured artist is Justin Lovato, and of course another 20 artists added to the Art Whino stable this month. The show runs through January 6. Call 703-462-4135, or see www.artwhino.com for more information.

Art Whino is also one of the sponsors of “Kickballers,” an art on toys auction to support the Capital Area Food Bank. Check it out December 13-16 at Kickballers (3285 1/2 M St. NW, Washington, D.C.) See www.myspace.com/saywhaaatdc.

Santa Jam, the annual Christmas show at the State Theatre (220 N. Washington St., Falls Church) will be held this Thursday, December 13 at 8 p.m. There is a minimum donation of $10 at the door that goes to support Northern VA Shelters, Doorways (a temporary shelter) and the Fairfax County Women's Shelter.

See www.thestatetheatre.com for complete information.

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