Where to See Art Gallery Exhibits in the Washington Area

In some cultural traditions, notably those of East Asia and the Middle East, writing and drawing are closely linked; calligraphy encompasses both text and image. Two local artists, Wesley Clark and Kate Fitzpatrick, are attempting something similar in their current exhibitions. Ultimately, however, both do mostly visual work.

Pieces from Fitzpatrick’s exhibit at IA&A at Hillyer, “There is no anagram for the anagram of words”, use several formats, but consist mostly of letter-like scribbles on several wooden panels . “Signs of Myriorama” comprises 100 equally sized vertical tiles on which tiny black glyphs meander and twirl horizontally, sometimes overlaid with red or white. The beautiful landscape-like images in the “Transposition” series feature mostly white figures against inky gray-black backgrounds. “Out of Words” features blue-black panels of varying sizes around a large central panel, with orbiting squares progressively smaller and further apart. In this cosmos of text, the white squiggles become rarer at the periphery, like stars at the edge of a galaxy.

There are also two interactive pieces, one of which is a Scrabble-like board on which participants can position acrylic tiles adorned with a single blue squiggle. The pseudo-game is literally a myriorama, which is an image made up of interchangeable pieces that can be arranged in multiple ways.

A few of the non-symbolic symbols on the acrylic tiles resemble Japanese hiragana. It’s probably a coincidence, but the doodles of what Fitzpatrick’s statement calls “my own sign system” evoke the experience of encountering an unfamiliar language. Watching his show is like walking through a foreign city whose banners, signs and logos both attract and confuse.

The texts of “Are We There Yet” by Wesley Clark are in English, but so dense that they are rarely readable. The artist’s exuberant exhibition at the Pyramid Atlantic Art Center consists of pencil drawings and a few lithograph prints, all of which are abstract, black and white, intentionally disordered and overloaded.

Clark, who recently entered into a residency at Pyramid Atlantic, is known for sculpture that combines and reworks found objects, most often in wood. One of his main creations is “My Big Black America”, which assembled hundreds of salvaged boards and branches inside an outline of the contiguous United States. The same national form appears in this show, constructed not with pieces of wood but with overlapping gestures of graphite. More common, however, are the rough-edged rectangles made of muscular pencil strokes and dynamic cross-hatching and sometimes bleached by erasures and abrasions. Subtraction can be as central as addition in Clark’s drawings.

A single word, such as “resolved” or “control”, sometimes emerges from the multitude of accumulated and worn graphite marks. Tellingly, however, the print titled “A Life of Effort” is a black block whose individual strokes can only be seen where they cross the rectangular boundary. In Clark’s symbolic writing system, specific words and phrases nod to the overwhelming whole.

Kate Fitzpatrick: There is no anagram for the anagram of words Until July 31 at AI&A at Hillyer, 9 Hillyer Court. NO.

Wesley Clark: Are We There Yet Until July 31 at Pyramid Atlantic Art Center4318 Gallatin Street, Hyattsville.

The photographic portraits of African-American school children in Blu Murphy’s Target Gallery exhibit have two notable visual characteristics: they often obscure the faces of the subjects, and their crisp black-and-white images are splashed with colorful painted accents that splash across the beyond the recycled frames and onto the walls. This strategy is both graphically arresting and thematically focused, as revealed by the show’s title, “The Drip: The Uncontrollable Sauce of Black Gasoline.”

Brandy “Blu” Murphy is a DC artist who teaches at a school in the southeast quadrant of the city. She had her students make these celebratory images, most of which depict young people whose attire includes a tag or button that reads “I Am Art.” Overpainting, bright and direct and in a single color or color family, amplifies the sense of youthful exuberance.

Yet youthful vitality is only the contemporary part of the story. The main subjects are often joined by others, sometimes other children but just as often characters from black history. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and pioneering 6-year-old school integrator Ruby Bridges are among the champions of racial justice who appear in the backgrounds and margins of pasted photo-paintings. Murphy’s living tributes to the dark essence are rooted in painful history and extraordinary courage.

Blu Murphy: The Drip: The uncontrollable sauce of black gasoline Until July 17 at Target GalleryTorpedo Factory, 105 N. Union St., Alexandria.

The title of Tom Sliter’s Multiple Exposures Gallery exhibition, ‘Cold Warriors’, acknowledges the theme of his elegant black and white photographs: mid-20th century American military aircraft. The images themselves, however, are often less self-explanatory. These high-contrast close-ups, all but one taken from an open sky, can be elegantly aerodynamic or laconic geometric. A few of them convey little more than curves of shimmering white against deep black backdrops.

Taken at the Castle Air Museum in California, the Pima Air and Space Museum in Arizona, and other locations, the photographs look more futuristic than at least some of their subjects. Propellers are visible in several of the images, dating to older aircraft from before the jet era. The photos were taken at ground level and in some cases depict craft that are no longer airworthy.

In an email, Sliter noted that he would have liked to see the planes in the air. But his photos present the objects less as flying machines than as works of art, ready-made sculptures characterized by rounded outlines and reflective surfaces. The photographer highlights these pictorial elements with dramatic skies, mostly dark but punctuated by backlit clouds and, in one case, what appears to be a low moon. Where pilots must execute split-second maneuvers without wasting time, Sliter patiently waited for the right moment to make an exhibition that ideally juxtaposes metal and sky.

Tom Sliter: Warriors of the Cold Until July 24 at Multiple Exhibition GalleryTorpedo Factory, 105 N. Union St., Alexandria.

William E. Bennett