Where to see art gallery shows in the Washington, D.C., region

Janice K. Johnson


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Personal identity is a mask, but for Ju Yun it is one she stitches herself, using materials she makes and finds. Her “East Meets West,” one of six shows in Arlington Arts Center’s “Solos 2022,” collages items and images to symbolically (and playfully) represent the South Korea-raised Virginia artist. Some of her paintings and wall sculptures invoke masks used in traditional Korean dance, while hanging ribbons and strands of costume jewels yield swaying shadows.

Work that Ju has shown elsewhere is wildly colorful, and there are bright reds and oranges in these works. But the emphasis is on shades of blue, which gleam against the white walls like the cobalt-pigmented ornaments of East Asian ceramics. Other traditional elements include Korean and Chinese text and a realistic rendering of a tile roof contained in a culture-hopping larger piece. What distinguishes Ju’s style, however, is less Korean mementos than freewheeling energy.

Another of the solos, Sharon Shapiro’s “Then the Dream Changed,” offers a harder-edged sort of montage. The large-scale collages are based on aspirational photos of affluent, mid-20th-century American suburbia, into which the artist inserts incongruous elements. This reflects “the complexities of growing up female in the American South,” notes Shapiro’s statement. The resulting pictures also highlight contrasts between rich and poor, chaos and stability, settled and itinerant. In the vivid “Crossing,” three migrants struggle across not the Rio Grande, but a backyard swimming pool. Various American dreams, urgent as well as complacent, splash together in the spliced image.

Upstairs in the resident artist’s gallery, Stephanie Lane demonstrates multiple styles of gestural abstraction. Her large “Thresholds” paintings include one in which a multicolored, torso-like shape emerges from darkness and three drawing-like pictures rendered mostly in black asphaltum (a carbon-heavy natural substance) on whiteboard. Although only some of Lane’s spiraling, spontaneous pictures include hints of human forms, they all suggest bodies in motion.

Ju Yun: East Meets West; Sharon Shapiro: Then the Dream Changed; and Stephanie Lane: Thresholds Through June 18 at Arlington Arts Center, 3550 Wilson Blvd., Arlington.

Today’s near ubiquity of digital imagery has inspired a few artists to retreat into photography’s past. One of these technological escapees is Elena Volkova, a Ukrainian-born Baltimorean with an expertise in tintype, a mid-19th-century process. It captures direct positives on thin sheets of metal, yielding small but shimmering black-on-silver pictures. Volkova used the archaic technique to make the contemporary “Anacostia Portraits” on exhibit at Honfleur Gallery.

The purpose isn’t exactly documentary. The subjects of these formal yet empathetic head shots are identified only by first names, although a few photos include visual clues. Several of the people are artists, one of whom was photographed with paintbrushes in hand. Most of the sitters are African Americans whose skin tones are rendered rich and luminous by the high-contrast method.

The metal miniatures require close inspection, but Volkova is not such an antiquarian as to insist on that. She also provides digital enlargements on white paper that are easier to discern, and demonstrate that tintypes blow up quite well. With their narrow depth-of-field, the photos do resemble historic artifacts. Yet the poses and expressions appear entirely up to date.

Elena Volkova: Anacostia Portraits Through June 18 at Honfleur Gallery, 1241 Good Hope Rd. SE.

The paintings in MasPaz’s “Peace Is Every Step” are so closely linked by design and color scheme that the distinctions among them aren’t immediately obvious. Some of the pieces in the Fred Schnider Gallery of Art show are on paper, others on canvas and a third group — the most distinctive — on shaped wooden panels. All are linked by the same pictorial format: bold black outlines of streamlined natural forms, filled with blocks of tan and metallic gold.

Born in Colombia and raised in Arlington, where he’s based, MasPaz is a graffiti veteran whose nom de aerosol means “more peace” in Spanish. Inspired by sojourns in New York City and South America, the painter developed a style that’s as indebted to street tagging as to pre-Columbian sculpture and ceramics. Among these artworks’ motifs are flowers and the sun, while patches of gold spray-paint repres
ent the precious mineral that drew Europeans to what they came to call the Americas.

The wood-panel pieces are the most dynamic, in part because their cut outlines follow the shapes painted on them. Also, MasPaz leaves some areas bare, calling attention to the wood grain and adding a slightly different hue to the narrow range of beiges and golds. In pictures that distill natural objects to graphic archetypes, the unadorned wooden surfaces are a remnant of the real thing.

MasPaz: Peace Is Every Step Through June 19 at Fred Schnider Gallery of Art, 888 N. Quincy St., Arlington.

Technically, Robert C. Jackson’s hyper-realist paintings are still lifes, since they rarely depict animate life-forms. Yet the Pennsylvania artist’s humorous scenarios are well-populated with stand-ins for living creatures. Balloon animals, corporate-mascot figurines and a windup chick are among the inhabitants of the pictures in “Back to the Future,” Jackson’s Zenith Gallery show.

The most common elements in the artist’s compositions are toys, foods and vintage crates, often emblazoned with soft-drink logos. Sometimes a single sort of edible is juxtaposed with an apt plaything, such as bananas piled under a toy gorilla or doughnut holes heaped beneath a miniature police officer. Jackson occasionally dabbles in art criticism, as when he portrays a balloon animal taped to an abstract painting — both rendered with precise realism, of course.

The artist has been called an heir to Pop Art, and he does meticulously copy commercial imagery much as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein did. But where those precursors reproduced labels, photos and comics, Jackson prefers three-dimensional items. Rather than a box of Cap’n Crunch, for example, he repeatedly portrays a figurine of the cereal-shilling mariner. Focusing on 3D items allows the artist to demonstrate his impressive traditional painting skills, but also to yank them out of context. Where Pop Art commented on mid-20th-century society, Jackson’s paintings conjure his own little universe, rooted in consumer culture but also detached from it.

Robert C. Jackson: Back to the Future Through June 25 at Zenith Gallery, 1429 Iris St. NW.



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