Arts & Entertainment

Northern Virginia Art Beat


May 9 through June 15. Gallery located at 1200 First St. NE, D.C., on the corner of First and M Streets NE. The nearest Metro is the New York Ave. stop on the Red Line. The Metro is strongly recommended for opening night. Hours: Wed. – Thurs.: 5 – 10 p.m.; Fri. – Sat.: noon – 2 a.m.; Sun.: noon – 10 p.m.; closed Mon. – Tues.

It's crunch time for artists showing in Art-omatic. This year's edition is housed in a brand new 12-story office building, with all but two floors dedicated to Art-omatic exhibition space. To put this in perspective for you: Stretched out in a straight line, this year's Art-omatic would form a wall eight feet high that starts at George Mason High School, and almost reaches Koon's Ford at Seven Corners. For those outside the area, that's approximately two miles, or the entire length of Falls Church City. Imagine that “wall” covered in art created by artists from all over the greater D.C. metro area. It's big. Seriously big.

In fact, the typical art reviews for this show consistently include lines like, “Wow, it sure is a lot of stuff.” That observation was a valid commentary the first couple of times, but with Art-omatic now attempting to make this an annual event, it seems to me that 1,000 folks putting themselves on the line deserve better than that. So, I'm going to try and make some constructive comments about it over the next few weeks.

It would be nice to be able to review the show, but taking all the space I'm given four weeks running would still only be 700 words per half mile of art. Hitting the highest of high spots is all we can hope to do here. This is the heavy part of the art calendar, and Art-omatic throws everything into overload.

Willem de Looper

Through May 18 at the Katzen Center American University Museum (4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW, D.C.). Museum hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. For further information, call 202-885-1300, or see
Williem de Looper immigrated here from Holland in 1950. He graduated from American University Art Department in 1957 and worked as a guard at the Phillips collection, eventually becoming a curator there.

Known as a second generation Washington Color School artist, de Looper had a distinctive style that continued to evolve over the years. Working with large scale abstractions, de Looper did stain paintings that evolved into his trademark use of paint rollers.

Reproductions of his work can't possibly do them justice. The canvases tend to be full of intricate and wonderfully subtle nuances that must be seen at full scale and close range to be fully appreciated.

I'm not a big fan of the Washington Color School work in general. It's largely formulaic work that suffers horribly when judged on design and compositional merits. Some — but not all — of the artists operating under that umbrella were getting away with high-school-level design sensibilities. That certainly did not apply to de Looper however.

De Looper cut his teeth walking the galleries at the Phillips collection and clearly he absorbed a great deal in the process. Here we see work that scores very well on design, composition and technique. I haven't had a chance to dig far enough into this story to figure out why de Looper isn't a household name, but for my money he's one of the best in this genre. I'm curious to find out what influence Augustus Vincent Tack — one of the main holdings of the Phillips Collection — had on de Looper. Those are two Washington artists whose work I could definitely live with.

Anyone who takes their abstraction seriously needs to catch this show before it closes. This is one of those rare opportunities you really don't want to miss.

I also have to say a few words about the Katzen Center Museum in general. This is one of the best venues in town. It's a new 30,000 square-foot museum that spans three floors and many folks around town don't even have it on their radar screen. It's free. You don't have to hunt for parking, or fight mid-town traffic. It's right across the river. Cross at Chain Bridge, go to the top of the hill, make a right on Nebraska Ave, go half a dozen blocks and you're there. Underground parking is always available, and free on weekends. I'll say it again, there is no admission fee … And they hang great shows. It's a first-rate venue that for an urban area is easy to deal with.

The Divas and Iron Chefs of Encaustic; Four Months: Paintings by Deena Feigelsom Margolis;Donald Depuydt: Recent Prints

Through June 7 at McLean Project for the Arts, on the second floor of the McLean Community Center (1234 Ingleside Ave., McLean). Gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., and Saturdays, 1 – 5 p.m. For more information, call 703-790-1953, or see
MPA currently hosts two shows featuring encaustic (loosely defined as a wax medium for paintings — as opposed to oil, acrylic, watercolors, etc.) art works. “Divas and Iron Chefs” offers us a medley of ways that encaustic art works can go. While “Four Months” shows us one artist's development and learning process with encaustic, having made one “painting” a day for four months.

This show is a rare treat, as we don't see much encaustic work, though there is an increasing amount being done these days. The works shown range from fairly traditional paintings, to highly sculptural effects that explore the medium in a more direct fashion. Another must-see show.

Donald Depuydt, an art printing professor at the Loudoun Campus of Northern Virginia Community College, shows his masterful prints in the Ramp gallery. They are fairly dark images that require close inspection to fully appreciate the layers and layers of printing techniques and imagery he uses.

NOTE: There will be an Encaustic Slide Lecture and Demonstration held Saturday, May 31, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m., $10 per person. Call number above, or email for reservations.

Willem de Looper and Sondra N. Arkin

Through May 31 at Pass Gallery (At the rear alley way of 1617 S St. NW, D.C.). Call 202-745-0796, or see for more information.

The de Looper show is upstairs, while the Arkin works are downstairs. A small but supporting de Looper show made up of later works. Sondra Arkin shows her encaustic abstractions. Both artists work the edges of forms, and revel in textural layers.