Where to see art gallery shows in the Washington region


An unreadable map of a hyper-complex reality, Amy Chessel’s “Hyper Atlas” is an attempt to depict the internet in ink, charcoal, pencil, and paint. Fittingly, the room-spanning centerpiece of the artist’s “Auto-Bio-Geographies” combines hand-drawn and machine-generated lines. The huge image on display at VisArts’ Gibbs Street Gallery is rendered primarily in steely shades of black and gray, but punctuated by dots and dashes of colored pencil. The drawing is “full of information friction,” says the Miami-based Canadian artist’s statement.

The imaginative layout contains both symbolic and actual depths. It includes digital prints that are assembled into a whole and then partially painted, as well as drawn and painted details that appear to float above or sink beneath the densely worked surface. White ribbons wrap across the composition, its free shapes in contrast to the tightly overlapping circles produced by a mechanical plotter. Rays are emanating from a black hole near the center of the piece, marking a single point of origin that sprawlingly collides with many other details.

If this isn’t literally what the web looks like, it evokes what hyper-electronic communication is Feel Such as. The picture is charming yet intimate, disconcertingly implied but shimmering with bursts of light. Schisel’s metaverse is too flat to enter, but it nonetheless entices the viewer.

While Schisel gives impersonal architecture a personal feel, two other artists exhibiting at VisArts anchor their multimedia work on their resumes. Based in Baltimore, Sughra Hosseini tells her own story using traditional artistic techniques she learned in her native Afghanistan. Rex Delafkaran, a Washington native, uses video and sculpture to express what her statement calls “my queer Iranian-American identity.”

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Most of the works appearing in al-Husayni’s Common Ground exhibition, Are We in the Story or Is the Story in Us, drawn from a manuscript about her life, illustrated in the style of classic Persian miniatures. Quiet moments alternate with scenes of war, represented by symbols such as an airborne military drone and an explosive lion strapped to its torso.

Some of the pieces are collaborations with al-Husayni’s brother or other relatives. The artist’s image of a cheerful graduate from art school has been transformed into an embroidered rug completed by three women after they fled to Pakistan. In one of the two videos, Hussein’s black-clad niece, an aspiring artist, is shown sitting on an old sewing machine symbolizing the Taliban’s decision to return women to traditional roles. By extending her diary to her extended family, Hosseini made it richer and darker.

Components of “Hot Crop,” a concourse gallery in Delavkaran, include videos, ceramics, and the poetry of Rumi, the 13th-century Persian-speaking mystic poet. There’s also an unexpected component: heat. Three of the sets include electric heaters of various types, including one that dangles menacingly on four beeswax tongues that, according to the piece’s title, “Too Little to Say.”

Video screens show the artist in performance, using such props as a cinder block (representing the construction of identity) and a Persian carpet. Many of the references are private, and indeed Dilavkaran seems unsure of the possibility of a broader discourse. “Mistranslation and Beauty” consisted of words translated by computer programs from Persian to English and back again, rendered in faded text and edged in orange. The lyrics are central yet almost incomprehensible, a visual metaphor for ambiguity and miscommunication.

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Amy Schisel: Auto-Bio-Geographies; Sughra Al-Husseini: Are we in the story, or is the story in us?; And the Rex Dilavkaran: Hot Crops During January 8 at VisArts155 Gibbs Street, Rockville.

First-time visitors to the Strip Center gallery in a suburb outside the Beltway might reasonably expect to encounter unassuming landscapes and still lifes painted by local artists. The Nepenthe Gallery has these things, but also much more. This eclectic and ambitious venue, which opened this spring just a few miles north of Mount Vernon, displays diverse work by more than 50 painters, sculptors, and photographers.

The featured artist in December is Anne Sklar, who creates beautiful, semi-abstract landscapes, with masses of bright color and strong horizon lines. But the distilled vistas of a Maine artist fill only a small section of a wall dominated by a huge triptych by Monique Rollins, an American painter based in Italy. Abstract yet also suggestive of landscapes, her exuberant imagery is forged mostly of shades of brown and brown, punctuated by blotches of blue that evoke sky or water.

Nearby are haunting collage paintings by Ukrainian-American artist Ola Rondiak, whose patchwork elements reference the turbulent history and present of her ancestral homeland. Cooler in tone are Nathan Myhrvold’s blue close-up portrait of cabbage, shimmering and veined, and Maremi Andreozzi’s small paintings in which white lines curve and meander through brightly colored patterns. The Northern Virginia artist often featured her images of faceless women whose stories are told through their clothing and surroundings, and these elegant portraits offer a variation on the same strategy: hollowing out the foreground to accentuate the background.

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group appear continue indefinitely on Nepenthe Gallery7918 Fort Hunt Road, Alexandria, Fairfax County.

Perhaps the most important pairing in the “Dualities” Qais Al-Sindi show at Gwan Hisaoka’s Art Curative Gallery is War and Peace. Among the powerful pantomime paintings by the Baghdad-born and educated Californian are scenes of derelict tanks, resting in ruins as accidental traces of combat. Equally blunt is the depiction of bones, piled together as another kind of informal memorial.

The artist’s expressive portraits always combine softly mottled colors with roughly drawn figures, but some are more realistic than others. The symbolic scene of a man with his horse on his shoulders is relatively clear, although the areas surrounding the central image are rarely delineated. Other plates are more fluid, verging on cubism or featuring a meaty meat rendered in the manner of Francis Bacon. Somewhat nicer are the semi-abstract “harmonious duets”, splattered in white paint, and “Last Look at Home”, in which the girl looks over her shoulder. The subject matter is sad, but the image’s red background is bold and immediate. Such dynamic convergences are essential to the binary Sindhi approach.

Qais al-Sindi: duets During January 6 at Gwan Hisaoka’s Curative Arts Gallery1632 U St. NW. Open by appointment.


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