Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery
The exhibition “Apparitions,” at the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery, takes its title from Craig Cahoon’s wispy abstraction in watery silver paint on Mylar. His “Apparition” is barely there, yet gains power from the effort needed to apprehend it. The piece, hushed and beguiling, is typical of this elegant show.
Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery
Craig Cahoon’s “Apparition,” acrylic on mounted Mylar.
“Apparitions” is 80-year-old curator Elise Wiarda’s farewell, after 17 years, to the healing center associated with the Hisaoka gallery. Before that, she worked at the now-defunct Fendrick Gallery. Wiarda enlisted 15 friends, including such eminent local artists as Joe White, Sam Gilliam and Kitty Klaidman.
Not all of the art is ghostly, but most of it features spare gestures and subdued palettes. The most colorful piece is White’s “Gulf island (Canada),” a large landscape painted entirely in white and shades of light and grayish blue. Gilliam, known as a grand-scale colorist, offers a minimalist miniature that’s all white resin and blond wood. It’s as quiet as Klaidman’s topographic abstraction, whose worn hues suggest earth and erosion.
There’s an Asian feel to works on paper such as Margot Neuhaus’s “Line #2” and Daniel Brush’s “Komachi.” The former uses light gray watercolor to trace part of a swoop made by ripping the sheet. The latter (whose title is a Japanese term for a beautiful woman) appears to be a single brushstroke but is actually hundreds of contiguous black lines. Each one is painstakingly drawn and utterly solid, but their overall effect is ephemeral.
Apparitions On view through Oct. 27 at Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery, 1632 U St. NW. 202-483-8600. smithcenter.org/arts-healing/joan-hisaoka-art-gallery.
Langley Spurlock & John Martin Tarrat
For 15 years, artist Langley Spurlock and poet John Martin Tarrat have labored on an artistic accounting of the chemical elements. In a break from the periodic table, they have turned to what they term “Unmapped Cartography.” The Studio Gallery show is less of a collaboration than the duo’s elemental work; the art on the walls is by Spurlock only, but it relates to Tarrat’s limited-edition book of the same title.
Spurlock’s drawings and computer-assisted collages look like maps, and some employ cartographic techniques such as the butterfly projection. But there’s just one real-world location in the array: Kowloon, shown in a Japanese map that Spurlock overlays with an abstract image. Other seemingly terrestrial forms are derived from photos of ice crystals.
Spurlock was inspired by ancient, fanciful charts of unexplored regions, which is why his maps include text (also fictional) in almost-obsolete languages such as Latin and Sanskrit.
But he also made “Stitch River Transit,” which depicts what appears to be a bending river but is actually an enlarged swath of embroidery. Any line or shape can pass as a geographic feature, so long as it’s presented in the vocabulary of maps.
Although Tarrat’s “Unmapped Cartography: Postcards From the Past and Other Foreign Countries” includes a few of Spurlock’s imaginary maps, most of it is based on actual places. The British-bred Washingtonian recounts travels through Europe and Asia in words and found pictures.
The typography bends and slants, adding another visual element. Ranging from autobiographical to impressionistic, Tarrat’s verse maps one man’s life.
Unmapped Cartography: Langley Spurlock and John Martin Tarrat On view through Oct. 21 at Studio Gallery, 2108 R St. NW. 202-232-8734. studiogallerydc.com.
The Gallery at Lost Origin Productions
Kosmo Vinyl’s “CK#38,” on view at the Gallery at Lost Origin Productions.
Kosmo Vinyl & Brilliant Dilettantes
When then-candidate Donald Trump first condemned Mexicans as criminals, Kosmo Vinyl decided that the defamed people needed a spokesman. He settled on a fictional hero, the Cisco Kid, and began ghostwriting the caballero’s rejoinders, circulating them via Instagram. Some highlights of Vinyl’s “Cisco Kid vs. Donald Trump” campaign are at the Gallery at Lost Origin Productions.
Although the single-panel artwork is direct, the show has a complicated backstory. Vinyl, now a New Yorker, was a mainstay of Britain’s 1970s and ’80s punk scene, notably as part of the management team for the Clash. The Cisco Kid was created as a villain in 1907 by author O. Henry but was later repurposed as a sort of Tex-Mex Robin Hood. He became the star of movies, a TV series and a 1951-1967 comic strip drawn by Argentina’s Jose Luis Salinas.
Vinyl appropriates panels from the comics and replaces the dialogue with brief commentaries on Trump, some of them taken from the Clash’s lyrics. It’s a strategy borrowed from situationism, a French movement that influenced British punk’s artier factions. The results are simple enough for Instagram but look sharp mounted on walls that Vinyl has painted pink. It’s as though the Clash reunited to challenge Trump, not with songs but with record covers.
The Goethe-Institut also is revisiting punk, but in a wordier way. “Brilliant Dilettantes” features photos of, and videos by, German bands of the same era as the Clash. Yet the show is mostly text, and thus unlikely to engage visitors who aren’t already into such groups as DAF and Einsturzende Neubauten. Their music was linked to Germany’s “young wild” painters, and some of the bands’ antics were indebted to earlier art movements. Still, “Dilettantes” is more for record collectors than art historians.
Kosmo Vinyl: Cisco Kid vs. Donald Trump On view through Oct. 29 at the Gallery at Lost Origin Productions, 3110 Mt. Pleasant St. NW. 202-409-6211. lostorigins.gallery.
Brilliant Dilettantes On view through Nov. 9 at Goethe-Institut Washington, 1990 K St. NW (entrance on 20th Street). 202-847-4700. goethe.de/washington.
Roxana Alger Geffen
Brentwood Arts Exchange
Roxana Alger Geffen’s “Choose Your Own Adventure,” on view at Brentwood Arts Exchange.
The show at Brentwood Arts Exchange is titled “Methods,” but it could have been dubbed “Materials.” Found objects and rough-edged assemblage are central to the four artists’ styles.
Roxana Alger Geffen makes vivid combine-paintings that sometimes defy the shape of the rectangular canvases. Chanel Compton assembles bits of white paper that are both affixed and colored with wine. Rodrigo Carazas juxtaposes building materials with such found objects as a policeman’s cap.
The most minimalist of the troupe is Wayson R. Jones, whose mostly black pieces emphasize texture over color. Mixing feathers with pigment and powdered graphite, the artist makes dark voids varied by their thickly thatched surfaces. Like the other “Methods” actors, Jones makes art that’s raw and unexpected.
Methods On view through Oct. 21 at Brentwood Arts Exchange, 3901 Rhode Island Ave., Brentwood. 301-277-2863. mncppcapps.org/pgparks/art_events/exhibitions.aspx?q=brentwood.