Where to See Art Gallery Exhibits in the Washington, DC Area

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The Otis Street Arts Project show is called “Fresh” because it features new works by nearly all of the 11 artists who maintain studios there. But there’s another potential meaning to the title: many works involve new ways of looking at existing objects.

A great example is “Avocado Dulcinea” by Gloria Vasquez, named after a character from “Don Quixote” and one of the main ingredients of the sculpture. The artist collected pieces of avocado skin and discovered that instead of rotting, they dried into a shell shape. She fashioned them into a female torso which she painted gold, wrapped in mosquito net cloth, and tied with a ribbon. Assemblage can be viewed as prized or imprisoned femininity.

Most of the found objects are made of wood. CeCi Cole McInturff constructed a delicate hanging piece from a twisted, white-tinted sycamore branch with palm blossom stem clusters at either end. Chris Combs, who works primarily with interactive electronics, concealed a traffic light activated by the movement of a truck behind a split log. Art Drauglis constructed an imposing chest of drawers whose facade began and retains the appearance of a large piece of wood with knotty edges.

Among the man-made materials are the black threads that Kirsty Little twists into dynamic shapes and spikes with colored wax, and the extruded plastic filament that Liz Lescault weaves into net-like suspensions. A self-portrait of Camilla Angel, a recent Howard University graduate who earned a three-month residency at Otis Street, is mostly painted but includes a cellphone represented by fragments of compact discs. The silver surfaces literally reflect the viewer of the image and symbolically reflect what the artist called his “self-construction” during a recent conversation with a gallery visitor. Among the things that “Fresh” contributors have discovered in the found objects are themselves.

Costs Until June 11 at Otis Street Arts Project3706 Otis Street, Mount Rainier.

Her main utensil is a knife, but in a sense, Melanie Kehoss also uses a trowel. A social historian as well as an artist, the artist from Arlington, Virginia, digs into the past with a particular focus on eating habits. “Work and Leisure,” his McLean Project for the Arts exhibit, consists of 14 lightboxes in which cut-out figures encapsulate the stories of edibles such as coffee, candy, and corn syrup.

Some of the vignettes consider “activities that started out as work and evolved into hobbies,” Kehoss’ statement explains. These include diving and fishing. Other pieces draw connections between consumption and its hidden costs: “A Refined Display” contrasts the spun sugar confections of the Elizabethan era with the brutal plantations of the Caribbean that produced the necessary ingredient; “A Brief History of Trash” travels back in time from a scrap metal picker on a horse-drawn carriage to a contemporary recycling bin.

The actors in these historical dramas are rendered in black or dark colors and silhouetted against illuminated backgrounds. The light activates the forms, as well as the drawings that frame the scenes, which are painted on thin Japanese-style paper. The luminous format suggests the distance of historical events, seen through not dark but luminous glass.

Melanie Kehoss: work and leisure Until June 11 at McLean Project for the Arts1234 Ingleside Ave, McLean.

Because of its durability, cypress is sometimes called “the eternal wood”. Living trees are also incredibly durable: in 2019, a North Carolina bald cypress was determined to be over 2,600 years old. Yet few ancient cypress trees survive, a development that partly inspired Northern Virginia photographer Van Pulley’s “Tree Eternal.” The Multiple Exposures Gallery exhibit includes 21 numbered views of trees in the bayou of Lake Caddo on the Louisiana-Texas border.

The soft color photos effectively evoke the semi-aquatic landscape and evoke a wet and misty mood. The cypress trees are the central focal point, providing strong vertical contrasts to horizontally oriented images. But equally striking are the mists that shroud the waterline, sometimes rising in wispy columns, and the diffused light that streaks the surface of the lake and highlights the trunks and leaves of the trees.

With the exception of the egret in one image, the vistas appear uninhabited, seemingly free of human intrusion. This, of course, is not true of cypresses in general. The trees are threatened by logging, habitat loss and saltwater intrusion caused by rising sea levels. While Pulley’s visual essay conveys an aura of endless serenity, the eternal survival of trees is very questionable.

Van Pulley: The Eternal Tree Until June 12 at Multiple Exhibition GalleryTorpedo Factory, 105 N. Union St., Alexandria.

In Mary Early’s recent site-specific sculptures, all titled “Linea” plus a number, thin, uniformly shaped bars of beeswax are tied together and suspended in tight, regular sequences in open spaces. In his preparatory drawings for minimalist installations, straight yellow lines, usually in wax crayon, are lined against marbled, ink-washed backgrounds. The DC artist’s Gallery 2112 exhibition, “Linea Studies”, consists primarily of these drawings, but includes two 3D waxworks.

“Linea XII” is a curtain of suspended strips placed in front of the gallery’s three bow-front windows. The piece is simpler than “Linea XI” (installed last November for a three-month run at Art Enables), but substantial in its intentionally insubstantial way. A smaller sculpture from 2012 is also featured, a wooden and beeswax ring that defies the linearity of the show’s other entrances by being circular. It’s restrained, but seems almost baroque in this context.

The most extravagant things in the show are the backgrounds of the designs. Entirely in black and gray tones, the washes achieve lush textures by swelling on the surface of the paper. Pitted against the roughly executed but evenly placed yellow lines that represent wax bars, the ink blots are richly random. The artist’s sculptures use wax forms to define space in rooms whose outlines tend to be as neat as the installations themselves. In his drawings, however, Early’s methodical patterns seem to face a universal chaos that defies art’s attempts to establish order.

Mary Early: Linear Studies Until June 11 at Gallery 21122112 R St. NW.

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