Where to See Art Gallery Exhibits in the Washington Area
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O’Brien’s wall sculptures are based on diagrams found from sources as diverse as a plumbing manual or the guide to natural contraception that yielded “Homemade Barriers,” an atypical piece with two built-in LEDs. This work is blue and green, but the Baltimore-based artist is more fond of pink or a rosy tan that resembles the pink undertones of marble. Pink is also common in plastic consumer products, which O’Brien incorporates into assemblages such as “Hot Dog Mitosis,” derived from biological illustration but centered on a bowl of dog food. The bowl is one of many recessed shapes that give the sculptures both literal and symbolic depth.
The artist recently showed spindly and seemingly random freestanding sculptures at Pazo Fine Art, but the pieces in this show seem more focused and cohesive. Still, O’Brien often adds random items: a metal cleat is attached to the top of a piece, and another holds a cosmetics organizer filled with shards from a ceramic container. The container and shards are pink, as is the insulating foam that gives these hard-edged pieces a partial squishyness. The color and texture suggest the human body, an architectural work much more adaptable than a stucco wall or a plastic bowl.
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Where O’Brien mixes materials and ideas, Sohn produces simulated artifacts that are starker and purer. She crafts her roughly cast, seemingly fragmentary sculptures from plaster or gypsum cement, which cures to a stone-like hardness. But his statement refers to the coins as “fuzzy objects.” Blurring is a transition effect, whether in a shaded video that features a succession of simple shapes or in a wall alignment of 10 identical shapes whose colors slowly change from off-white to dark gray.
These neutral tones are typical of the work of the South Korean-born, New York-based artist, though the oxide pigments make some pieces pale pink, light green, or even multicolored. Whatever their color, the sculptures appear as much found as fabricated, the result of molding processes that Sohn guides but does not fully control. His objects may be blurred by a kind of conceptual movement, but they seem old and even archetypal.
Danni O’Brien: cross sections Until October 11 at Tephra ICA at Signature, 11850 Freedom Dr., Reston.
Hae Won Sohn: Unspoken Volumes Until October 8 at Stamp galleryAdele H. Stamp Student Union, University of Maryland at College Park.
Caroline Hatfield also works with Earth-derived materials, but she does so to highlight the violence of the extractive industry. The Tennessee native’s VisArts show, “Foresights & Futures,” is almost entirely in tones of metallic gray and mineral black. Among his most striking objects are wall sculptures made of splatters of once-molten aluminum from a foundry, mounted on black panels. These hang alongside digitally altered topographic photographs on which the artist has drawn in black ink and gray pencil. Hatfield’s statement calls these images “alien landscapes,” a term that may well apply to much of mined and barren Appalachia.
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The centerpiece of the exhibit is an installation of coal slag (a recurring element in the artist’s work) piled around an illuminated lighthouse at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Bull Run Fossil Plant, which is slated to close the next year. The red light from the lighthouse is the only splash of color in the gallery, but its glow amid the cinder mounds does not indicate life but danger. As alluded to here, the destroyed valleys and ridges of Hatfield’s home state can be seen as a dark prophecy.
Hatfield’s art is autobiographical in some way, but not as specifically as Maryam Khaleghiyazdi’s “Living in Between,” a digital animation that provides the title for her three-video show, also at VisArts. The black-and-white piece uses a QR code to provide visitors with an individual timeline through 26 individually labeled stages of life in the United States as an Iranian immigrant. (One is “New President-Elect,” which led to the 2017 immigration order that barred people from Iran and six other predominantly Muslim nations from the United States.)
The Duluth, Minnesota-based artist is also exhibiting “Morphing Shadow,” an animated collage of the daily life of a solitary exile, presided over by a weeping face. Divided into eight rectangles and rendered primarily in pink, brown, and black, the video is visually dispersed yet emotionally direct.
Caroline Hatfield: predictions and future and Maryam Khaleghiyazdi: Living in between Until October 16 at VisArts155 Gibbs Street, Rockville.
The title of Kesha Bruce’s show at Morton Fine Art, “Take Me to the Water”, is a tribute to Nina Simone’s performance of this gospel song. Bruce identifies with water, “a force that follows its own paths and forms its own forms,” according to the gallery’s note. Ironically, the collagist-painter lives in one of the driest states in the country, Arizona, where she is the director of artist programs for the state arts commission.
Bruce reports that her palette has become sunnier since moving from the Midwest to the Southwest, but the landscape is vestigial in her work. The artist instinctively assembles pieces of crumpled fabric that are painted – and sometimes overpainted – to create quilts that can suggest but never literally portray the natural world.
A leaf-like shape dominates the top of “La Sirene,” and the mostly green “Like Florida Water” has a cool rainforest vibe. But for each “Memory of Matala,” whose blue blocks above beige evoke the sky above the earth, there are several images whose intricate quilt-like compositions seem purely abstract. The real subject of this work is transformation: cutting, painting and gluing pieces of second-hand textiles into unexpected and distinctly Bruce-specific arrangements.
Kesha Bruce: Take Me To The Water Until October 11 at Morton’s Fine Arts52 O St. NW, #302.