“Presence,” Edward J. Reed’s portrait paintings, at The Art League Gallery, also in the Torpedo Factory Art Center. Runs through Oct. 6.
Gallery hours are: Monday – Saturday, 10 a.m.- 6 p.m.; Sunday, noon – 6 p.m. Open late Thursday evenings until 9 p.m.
Reed, a current Art League painting instructor, shows nine of his large-scale portraits in the Art League gallery space. Originally a Harvard Law graduate who was a practicing litigator, Reed was forced to retire due to debilitating permanent nerve damage in his wrists and hands. After his wife informed him that he was not going to be a professional couch potato, he signed up for a painting class at the Art League. His painting skills having lain dormant since college, Reed was unsure if he still retained the physical capacity to paint. Fortunately, he did, and now some six years later he is an accomplished and award-winning portrait painter.
Many portrait painters work from photos these days, and frankly, the finished products tend to show it. They lack the life and presence of the subject, reducing them to a two-dimensional pastiche of the person they intend to portray.
Reed, however, paints subjects not only in the flesh, but actively engaged in relaxed conversation. The result is an amazingly life like visage that seems to live somewhere between the two and three-dimensional world. He’s not quite up to Rembrant standards, but he’s getting close to it. The finest examples here are a pair of canvases entitled “Pipi Takes a Ride” and “Present Stranger.”
Pipi is a Harley-riding woman who’s at once strong, capable, confident, and we dare say not lacking in Tom-boyish allure. While we know the welding goggles around her neck are probably just for riding, we wouldn’t think twice if she picked up an acetylene torch and lit it.
As good as Pipi is, “Present Stranger” seems that much better still. Here we find an elderly man regally resting on a park bench under the glow of an overhead street light. Reed masterfully renders the diaphanous skin quality of advancing age. The low viewpoint and his outstretched arms resting on cane speak to his feeling of power and presence. Here, however, it’s a power that has gone the way of his youth, leaving only its memory and general aura. Now a portly enfeebled elderly man, alone in the world with no place to go, and nothing to do. His thousand yard stare off into the distance seems to look on the current state of the world with disdain, while simultaneously waiting and watching for his transportation from this mortal coil. The looming mass of ink black night sky above him gives us the feeling his wait will not be a long one.
If you can’t see the work in person, all of the images in the show can be seen at www.edwardjreed.com. Similarly, the images in the Aftermath show can be seen on the Target Gallery web site. For more information, call 703-683-1780 or visit www.theartleague.org.
Homeless Art Project, at MOCA DC Gallery (1054 31 St. NW, Washington, D.C.). Runs through Sept. 27. “Third Friday” Reception from 6 – 9 p.m. this Friday evening, Sept. 19.
Mostly art on loan from the National Coalition for the Homeless. Featuring 22 oil portraits of homeless men and women by Tammy deGruchy, and 11 large-scale Linocut prints by Pat Apt. The Linocut prints are excellent, and at 40 by 60 inches, they are rarely seen at this scale. Done on brown craft paper matted with corrugated cardboard, they exude the cardboard box lifestyle of those just barely managing to survive. The image of a woman with distended belly, who, naked, strides toward the viewer with out-stretched, pleading arms, seems like the homeless version of Munch’s “The Scream.” It is the very epitome of the phrase “cold and hungry.” For more information, call 202-342-6230.
“Aftermath – Disasters Happen, Artists React,” at the Target Gallery in the Torpedo Factory (105 N. Union St, Alexandria). Runs through Oct. 12. Gallery hours are: Wednesday – Sunday, noon – 6 p.m., and late on Thursdays until 9 p.m.
“Aftermath” is an open ended view of artist’s take on disasters, be they “acts of God” or acts of man. This is a tough genre to get right. When the subject matter itself is fairly overwrought to begin with, being “over the top” is but a short step away. In some cases, it’s best to just let events speak for themselves. The best of this show tends to do just that. Former Reston resident and recent BFA grad from Savanna College of Art and Design, Anna Fox Ryan gives us a hellish view of polluting smokestacks in her painting entitled “Apocalypse.”
For more information, call 703-838-4565 ext. 4, or visit www.torpedofactory.org/galleries/target_current.htm.