Bilateral Engagement: Celebrating 25 Years of Washington Sculptors Group, at the Art Museum of the Americas, Organization of American States (201 18th St. NW, Washington, D.C.). The exhibit runs through Jan. 15. The gallery is open Tuesday – Sunday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and is closed New Year’s. Admission is free. For more details, visit www.museum.oas.org or www.washingtonsculptors.org.
The work of 27 selected members of the Washington Sculptors Group forms the body of this all show.
Also included are half a dozen artist from the permanent collection of the Museum of American States.
While this is a diversified group show, it’s also a curated show with several minor sub-themes. Tony Capellan and Maria Barbosa deal with illegal immigration. The two works are completely different in feel despite the fact that both artists use references to foot traffic in illegal border crossings, and operate at roughly similar scales.
Capellan has the more visceral interpretation of the two. His collection of worn out blue and green flip flops use barbed wire for the V shaped foot strap that holds them on. The mass of flip flop shoes in vaguely aquatic colors connotes a wave coming ashore, much as one might see a relentless human wave of immigrants. It’s a piece imbued with both pain and perseverance.
Barbosa’s 15-foot-long printed scarf titled “Back and Forth” is based on aerial photos of the Rio Grande area, superimposed with glow in the dark foot prints that dot the landscape.
Gale Jamieson and Donna McCullough both work off the notion of women’s dresses. McCullough uses welded steel to make up the bust area, and leaf pattern for the skirt with only the idea of such loosely expressed in it’s open lower form.
Jamieson takes a decidedly less benign take on women’s wear. Utilizing layered cardboard, dress patterns, and a profusion of straight pins in “…my mom’s dressform,” which rather clearly expresses the beauty of fashion, and it’s less talked about dark side. Fashion rarely comes without a price of some sort. This dress in the making looks like it will be quite elegant with decorative embellishments. Upon closer inspection, it’s revealed that each tiny silver dot on the outside has a two inch spike inside the dress ominously pointed at anyone foolish enough to try it on.
Foon Sham provides us with a smart environmentally aware piece titled “Column.” The short, wooden column is made up of alternating layers of raw wood and printed phone books. An obvious reminder that all those phone books they dump on your door step are made from living trees.
One of the best works here comes from the AMA permanent collection by Jesus Rafael Soto, titled “Escritura Hurtado.” The 40x68x18-inch work features a painted background of closely spaced black and white vertical stripes. In front of which Soto has suspended both straight, and curved black wire forms. As you move side to side, your eyes can’t quite handle the visual mix. Causing the straight pieces to vibrate with diagonal stripes running up and down the wires. It’s firmly within the op-art realm, but doesn’t beat you over the head with the fact. Some, if not most, op-art is tough stuff to be around for very long, this rather subtle version you could actually live with.
Bilateral Engagements is a good solid show with few weak points and many rewards.
Black and White Photography by Daryl Oh, Alex Curtis, Kevin Nunez and Eric Smith, at MOCA DC (1054 31st St. NW, Washington, D.C The gallery is open Wednesday – Friday, 1 – 6 p.m.; Saturday, 1 – 5 p.m. or by appointment. For more details, call 202-342-6230 or visit www.mocadc.org.
Daryl Oh, Alex Curtis, Kevin Nunez and Eric Smith all attend Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda.
The work shown here, while understandably uneven, is quite good for high school students. The work shows an uncommon level of skill and artistic thinking at this stage. Typically, this is due to young students receiving actual art instruction rather than the controlled free-for-all that most high school art programs provide, or don’t have depending on how you look at it.
One of the four is doing Jerry Uelsmann-type melded multi-image printing. The image of a curbside sewer drain at top, blended with a swimming fish below is especially effective. Articulating the notion that the sewer inlet feeds into some sort of fish habitat down line, we’re immediately inclined to think of the whole system a bit differently, and good bit more responsibly.
Another of the four is showing several diptych images that derive their visual punch from contextual association with each other. One of the best is a zoo image of a strutting lion below. Above that we see a toddler looking down through a special glass panel for very small children, who otherwise couldn’t see at all on their own. From this angle the child looks like a toddler treat on the lion lunch menu. It’s a rather alarming image that makes you want to snatch up the child to protect it. There is a commonality of multi-image thinking here that makes us guess the two treatments above are by the same hand, but it’s just a guess.
Another of the four has the most entertaining set of the lot. Here we see several black and white photos of hands. Beside each is an actual handwritten note by the subjects commenting on the hand shown.
No question, the best of the bunch is a fairly bulbous, roughly bandaged finger. The note tells us the date of the initial injury, then goes on relaying a second date several weeks afterwards when “the doctor hurt it worse.” You can’t help but think the finger was broken, didn’t get treated and had to be re-broken and reset at a later date. It’s a wonderful piece of art that makes you wince, laugh, shake your head and shudder, all the while glad it wasn’t your finger coming back for seconds.
The Northern Virginia Art Beat is compiled by Kevin Mellema. To e-mail submissions, e-mail them to [email protected]