The title of Artechouse’s current attraction, “Ase: Afro Frequencies”, is derived from the Yoruba word “ase” (pronounced “ah-shay”), which refers to the power to effect change. Change, of course, is fundamental to Artechouse, a showcase for immersive video projections that evolve, mutate and spin in ceaseless motion. Premiering last year on the Miami digital arts site, “Ase” ventures breathlessly into Afrofuturism, a movement defined by critic Mark Dery in 1993 but dating back at least as far as jazz and funk of the 1970s.
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Generated by the skilled technicians of Artechouse, “Ase” is derived from the visual work of Vince Fraser, a digital illustrator from London. The soundtrack is based on African percussion and incorporates spoken word poetry by Ursula Rucker of Philadelphia, known for her collaborations with The Roots. The results look like a psychedelic, non-narrative equivalent of “Black Panther,” the comic book movie that sought to combine African lore with global high-tech.
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Among the main motifs of the show is the African mask, once used for ritual purposes across much of the continent. These appear as streamlined 3D sculptures, illuminated with ever-changing lights, as well as in numerous virtual versions. These are arranged in kaleidoscopic patterns in the swirling, golden digital montage of the main hall, or blend with the faces of visitors in interactive exhibits in one of the smaller galleries. Mirrored walls and floors shimmering with projected images also blur the distinction between spectator and watched.
This is not new territory for Artechouse, whose wall-to-wall exhibitions are always designed to bathe people in light and sound. But this show appeals to cultures little known in the West, even to many descendants of those who created them. “Ase: Afro Frequencies” is far too flashy, edgy and glitzy to function as a history lesson. But it has historical resonance.
Ase: Afro Frequencies Until November 13 at Artechouse1238 Maryland Avenue SW.
One of Bernard Dellario’s gouaches on display at the Amy Kaslow Gallery is titled “Cutting Through,” which would be an appropriate alternate title for the local artists exhibit called simply “Washington Landscapes.” Dellario and pen and artist Brandon McDonald carve paths – for the eye, if not the foot – through the surprisingly serene wilderness near downtown DC
Many of Dellario’s mildly impressionistic images depict Rock Creek as it meanders through and around large, glistening boulders. The meandering channels carved out by the stream are complemented by the indirect paths taken by the sunlight that bends and diffuses through the foliage. More open compositions such as “Inlet” perfectly reflect the sky and water, but Dellario seems most at home under the canopy of trees, where light stains rather than reflections.
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McDonald’s detailed black and white drawings depict barren land, albeit sometimes buried in snow. While a hiking trail is often the centerpiece of its images, the walkway can be off-center, curved, or barely visible. A few drawings rhyme with Dellario’s paintings: “Vibrations” highlights a rocky stream, and “Up & Away” lines a path with shadows of trees. As in Dellario’s images, there’s a sense of movement, but not necessarily forward.
A sharper view of local geography distinguishes the solitary work of the show’s third contributor, Andrea Limauro. The Italian-born artist gazes into the future at a Lincoln Memorial whose surroundings have turned tropical. Rendered in a partly pointillist style, the painting shows the landmark framed by palm trees and overgrown with greenery. Where Dellario and McDonald view nature as a respite, Limauro foresees it as a potential threat to Washington’s neoclassical order.
Washington Landscapes Until September 11 at Amy Kaslow Gallery, 4300 Fordham Road. NO.
They are clearly landscapes, but the works of Sarah Hardesty do not represent a particular place. Viewers of her “Time Binding” won’t be surprised, however, to learn that she was born in Maine. Now artist-in-residence at the Arlington Arts Center, Hardesty offers crisp, abstract views of the type of rocky outcrops common in northern New England. The worked surfaces of the painting-drawings, mostly in black and white, demonstrate that the artist’s hand can be as abrasive as the water, wind and sand that have shaped stone over millennia.
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Hardesty recognizes the man-made world with color, including the orange used for spacesuits and warning signs. This garish hue appears in small touches throughout the artist’s work, notably in a construction made of found branches in which shorter, orange-painted lengths are tied to a longer, unpainted one. There’s also a ground-level arrangement of found rocks covered in chrome vinyl so they look like both miniature mountain peaks and car parts. The silver tones appear to be intrinsic, but have an unnatural quality, in a close-up video of gently rippling water. Like Hardesty’s paintings, the video depicts natural forms that are both absolutely primitive and artfully stylized.
Sarah Hardesty: Temporal Binding Until September 4 at Arlington Center for the Arts3550 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington.
Excited fuchsias and soothing blues are among the hues engaged in “Conversations in Color,” an exhibition of four women at Martha Spak Gallery. All participants draw inspiration from Cubism and Abstract Expressionism, but blend these precedents in a lively way. They sometimes incorporate representational elements and sometimes disrupt the extremely flat imagery with illusions of depth. Atypical, but somehow characteristic, is a still life by Octavia Frazier in which one-dimensional blocks of color adjoin renderings of fruit that are modeled to simulate roundness.
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The artworks are all paintings, but some have glued elements. Their titles often refer to nature, although these inspirations are not always literally visible. Sharpest are Kay Walsh’s abstractions, whose forms are mostly rounded but often hard-edged. Marthe McGrath and Jennifer Duncan arrange the pigments more loosely, evoking the natural world with rich greens (in one of McGrath’s images) or literal leaves or trees (in two of Duncan’s). Still, the four artists share a taste for hot oranges and pinks that make their visual chatter bold and sparkly.
Color conversations Until September 6 at Martha Spak Gallery40 Southwest District Square.