“Holding the Center” is the title of Christopher Baer’s exhibition at Addison/Ripley Fine Art, but it could also be called “Finding the Bottom.” The Washington native’s abstractions feature large blocks of chunky mottled color, highlighted by circles, X-shapes and what appear to be rips in the pigment. These sketchy intrusions reveal lower levels of contrasting paint that suggest inaccessible and unknowable depths. Baer also playfully challenges the dominant hues of each painting by painting the edges of the canvases in opposite ways.
Where to See Art Gallery Exhibits in the Washington Area
Most of the images, all labeled “Holding the Center” plus a number, are split between two color fields. The sense of order in this format is emphasized by the smaller figures, which are usually – but not always – placed in rough symmetry. Details include dots and Xs made by painting on stickers or lengths of criss-cross tape. When these are removed, their absence opens windows to the colors below the visible surface, which may or may not be the lowest level of the paintings.
For Baer, these deliberate imperfections are not simply a technique for introducing dynamism into otherwise static color fields. They are, according to his statement, “an acknowledgment of the tension, discomfort, and patience that comes with growing and healing.” Thus, the irregular layers of these paintings can be considered as skin. In this case, colors that flash seductively below the surface are less important than those that repair themselves.
Christopher Baer: Hold the center Until July 16 at Addison/Ripley Fine Art1670 Wisconsin Ave NW.
The affinity between Don Voisine and Ruri Yi is there in black and white – and their sparing use of color. The two artists, paired in “The Spaces in Between” by Pazo Fine Art, come from different backgrounds and generations. But both paint hard-edge geometric abstractions whose occasional irregularities are carefully calculated.
Voisine is a Maine-born New Yorker whose designs were originally derived from floor plans of apartments where he worked on renovation teams. The works in this selection, all made between 2011 and 2020, are mainly centered on large black shapes framed at the top and bottom by brightly colored bands. The compositions appear formal and stationary, yet have a plunging energy and are enlivened by color contrasts that range from subtle to accent.
All of Yi’s paintings in this exhibition, except one, feature diamond shapes on white fields. The Seoul-born Baltimorean varies the 2019-2022 images by rendering a few of the identical shapes in different colors other than black, and occasionally allowing one to misalign. In one of his images, for example, a line of black shapes is gently interrupted by a purple line that pushes the straight line to its left. The effect is quietly comical, and also a statement of artistic control. Yi can arrange her paintings with precise predictability, but she doesn’t have to.
Don Voisine and Ruri Yi: Intermediate Spaces Until July 7 at Pazo Fine Arts, 4228 Howard Ave, Kensington. Open by appointment.
Fingerprints represent individuality, and Zimbabwe-born artist Joseph Muzondo turns them into symbolic portraits in his beautiful linocut prints, each incorporating a face in monochrome swirls framed by white-on-white 3D patterns. The artist’s faces, which are partly inspired by African masks, are among the most evocative representations of what the Amy Kaslow gallery calls “HumanKind”. The collective exhibition of the same name presents seven artists or collectives of artists, three of which have already been examined in this column.
Among the others, the only one who does not represent faces is Esperanza Alzona, a local artist whose cast aluminum pieces are inspired by her training as a dancer and choreographer. Intended to show strength and independence, Alzona’s sculptures reduce women’s bodies to working parts such as a torso or a pair of ankles and feet. The latter, entitled “Nevertheless She Persisted”, shows a woman who almost crossed a wall, signifying transcendence.
Faces are essential for Sandra Dooley and Nestor Madalengoitia, who both construct human likenesses out of pieces. Dooley, who is Cuban, makes mixed media prints and paintings of women, often featuring cats. The serene expressions of his subjects suggest a triumph, perhaps temporary, over the tattered existence represented by their roughly glued forms. Madalengoitia from Peru creates prints and pastels in which abstract doodle-like patterns harmonize with human subjects. Like Dooley’s photos, Madalengoitia’s are both choppy and gentle.
Humanity Until July 10 at Amy Kaslow Gallery, 4300 Fordham Road. NO.
The large oil paintings in Kim Abraham’s exhibition at the Athenaeum can be considered micro or macro. The intricate, layered patterns of these all-over paintings suggest teeming bacteria or starry skies, seen through some sort of telescope. But one of the artist’s skyward images of Maryland features a skyline and a title that evokes a place visible to the naked eye: “Inishkea” refers to a collection of small islands off the coast of the west coast of Ireland.
This painting foreshadows the landscapes of Ireland in the back room of the room. Executed in gouache and watercolor as well as oil, these small paintings are as immersive as Abraham’s quasi-abstractions, but very different in their composition. They offer familiar arrangements of earth and sky, though the renderings are far from photographic. Where the painter’s cosmic expanses teem with sharp gestures, in these paintings the clouds gently melt into each other.
Now tuned into Abraham’s realistic underpinnings, viewers can notice detail in the larger paintings. There’s a house in “Peat”, a tree painted on copper in “Evergreen”, and tiny bees nestling in the greenery of “Colony”. Also on display is an image of another sort of Celtic inspiration: an abstraction based on the fanciful embellishments of the Book of Kells, a 9th-century Christian manuscript probably made in Scotland or Ireland. It’s a different kind of cosmic excursion for Abraham, but just as lively and colorful.
Kim Abraham Until July 10 at Athenaeum201 Prince Street, Alexandria.