DC Gallery Shows: ‘Exposure’, ‘Beach China’, ‘Winter Recap’, ‘Pop Art Prints’

Catalyst Projects, in the new Monroe Street market in Brookland, is not very big. But her current exhibition, “Exposure: Experiments in Photography” covers a lot of territory. It includes six artists, four of them local, whose work ranges from elaborately staged tableaux to pure abstractions.

While most of her peers have gone digital, Natalie Cheung works with pinhole cameras and light-sensitive color paper. She uses multiple bites, producing complex and different images, from the most sober to the psychedelic.

Christina Kerns stages nocturnal scenes that juxtapose the ordinary and the surreal, the peaceful and the disturbing. Stephanie Booth and Steve Skowron pose naked men in seemingly tortuous positions, reflecting the look of Renaissance paintings, as well as religious rites which, they write, “no longer work”. Mandy Greer, photographer and textile artist, places fancifully dressed women in natural settings, showcasing human artifice.

Catherine Day’s studies of “absence” seem at first to be purely formal exercises. Day prints on translucent silk and suspends four copies of an image on top of each other, so that the layers become slightly hazy as the air ripples across them. It turns out that the sense of the ephemeral is as central to the theme of the images as their form. The wispy vignettes are close-ups of her father’s deathbed, taken just after the body was removed, and therefore rightly ghostly.

Exhibition: experiments in photography

On view through Dec. 7 at Catalyst Projects, 716 Monroe St. NE, Studio 13; 336-253-6224; www.catalystartprojects.com.

Leslie Parke

Cross MacKenzie is known for his ceramics, but that’s not all of the gallery’s exhibits. Sometimes, the upstate New York artist’s “Beach China” depicts elegant china floating in the ocean, shimmering with water and light.

The plates, cups and saucers have personal meaning for Parke – they belonged to his grandparents – but not much visual context. She focuses tightly on her subject, so the image is emphatic and enveloping. There is no beach in “Beach China”, just dishes and water, meticulously rendered. A virtuoso in the painting of reflections, Parke uses the shiny surfaces of his subjects to study the qualities of light, much as the Photorealists did with glass and polished steel.

The exhibit also includes two of Parke’s paintings depicting empty, crushed cans, often with their labels still attached. These resemble the images of floating crockery in composition and technique, as well as in theme: they cycle through things that have lost their usefulness. The “Beach China” series, however, is more poignant. There is both more beauty and significance in heirlooms than in a discarded can of diced tomatoes.

Leslie Parke: China Beach

On view through Dec. 11 at Cross MacKenzie Gallery, 2026 R St. NW; 202-333-7970; www.crossmackenzie.com

Winter summary

On the eve of its seventh anniversary, the Honfleur gallery welcomes the nine artists it has already exhibited, most of them European. The pieces in “Winter Recap” are all two-dimensional, or at least flat enough to hang on the wall, but otherwise diverse.

The most direct images are the two photographic abstractions à la Rothko by Jean Noel L’Hameroult, with bright colors and strong horizon lines. They may appear to document sunrises or sunsets, but in fact what they show is the first frame of a roll of film, exposed to light as it is loaded into a camera. The digitally composited streetscapes of Cyril Anguelidis, one of Shanghai, are also derived from photos, but much busier. They are teeming with signs, colors and surreal touches, such as oversized frogs and flying fish.

Equally whimsical is Ben Skinner’s “The Blind Leading the Blinds”, a blind whose slats change from red to blue as the adjectives printed on it become more and more optimistic. These hues, and many more, appear in John K. Lawson’s mosaic-like, text-heavy collage; it looks cheerful, though it represents the British-born artist’s attempt to create something from the remains of a Louisiana studio flooded by Hurricane Katrina.

The charcoal and resin drawings of Gustavo Diaz Sosa have a darker palette and mood, depicting nearly deserted structures in a moody neo-expressionist style. Stylistically, they have nothing to do with the montages of Anguelidis, yet the two artists give a living presence to semi-imaginary cities.

Winter summary

On view until December 20 at Honfleur Gallery, 1241 Good Hope Rd. SE, 202-365-8392, www.honfleurgallery.com

Pop Art Posters

The 1960s boom in fine art printmaking can be attributed in part to new technologies. But it didn’t hurt that it was also the period of artists such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, who were not only sympathetic to mass-produced images, but actually celebrated them. These two artists are, unsurprisingly, among the nine represented in “Pop Art Prints”, at the Spagnuolo Art Gallery at Georgetown University.

The oldest of the artworks, which comes from the collection of Christopher and Margaret Condron, is Jasper Johns’ 1964 ‘Ale Cans’, a lithograph of a non-monumental sculpture. Other pieces from this decade include a Jackie and a Marilyn, both by Warhol and heavy with metallic hues, and Lichtenstein’s “Shipboard Girl”, a romantic-comical blonde in one of several ocean or water scenes. The selection includes “The Letter Q as a Beach House, with Sailboat” by Claes Oldenberg and David Hockney’s visual ode to LA pool culture.

Although the engravings are made of dots and solid lines, some simulate the gestures of drawing or painting; Hockney’s “Celia with Green Hat” retains the spontaneity of its pastel-drawn original. The rarest of the lot are two etchings by Jim Dine, both hand-coloured. Their images are elemental and mechanical – two bathrobes and a heart – but their pinks and blues are bold and free.

Pop Art Posters

On view through December 8 at Spagnuolo Art Gallery, Georgetown University,
1221 36th St NW; 202-687-9206; art.georgetown.edu/galleries

Jenkins is a freelance writer.

Elaine F. Brim