In the galleries: Lines are clearly drawn in ‘Art as Politics’

The numbers look good for Donald Trump in Touchstone Gallery's powerful show "Art as Politics." The Republican presidential candidate is portrayed in roughly twice as many pieces as his Democratic rival. But while some of the renderings of Hillary Clinton are flattering — or at least not patently contemptuous — there's not one positive depiction of Trump.

Does that mean the system's rigged? More likely, it means visual artists are not a receptive audience for Trump's worldview. In addition to the upcoming election, the show's topics include gun control, abortion rights, Black Lives Matter, immigrants and refugees. None of the analysis aligns with the Republican Party's platform.

Several hundred artists, a plurality of them local, submitted pieces; juror Jayme McLellan selected works by nearly 100 of them. The range of media and styles is wide, but the default mode is neoclassical realism. That's the style of Byron Taylor's graphic portrayal of a bloody victim of a back-alley abortion and Kevin Grass's portrait of Glenn Beck as a sort of latter-day alchemist, advised by a chimpanzee. Also realist, if looser, are Augustine Chavez's "The Wall," showing construction along the Mexican border, and a dystopian vision of "Trumplandia" by 14-year-old Hallie Krost.

Playful depictions of the electoral process include Cathy Wilkin's photograph of a partly clothed woman with an "I Voted" sticker over one nipple, and Michael Richison's mash-up of a voting machine used in Florida in 2000 with a Roland TR 808 drum synthesizer. The stars and stripes appear often, usually in disarray — stuffed into a large test tube by Federico Ruiz or with its stars in free fall on Ron Beckham's distressed banner.

Another flag is among the works that address violence against black Americans, the show's rawest theme. Kelly Burke arrays the names of African Americans, some known for their accomplishments and others for their violent deaths. The only white person is another murder victim: Abraham Lincoln.

Other vivid pieces on the subject include Marla McLean's four prayer wheels, each with the image of one of the girls killed in the 1963 Birmingham, Ala., church bombing; Janathel Shaw's ceramic bust of a man whose brow is defaced with a racial slur; and Ann Stoddard's mixed-media figure whose arms — all 10 of them — indicate surrender. Instead of hands, this piece has miniature video monitors that show the person standing in front of them. Everyone is implicated, which is the sort of message you're more likely to hear from artists than from political candidates.

Art as Politics On view through Aug. 25 at Touchstone Gallery, 901 New York Ave. NW. 202-347-2787. touchstonegallery.com.

Pathways

There are only four pieces in Carroll Square Gallery's "Pathways," but each suggests a passage that stretches beyond the room. The three artists also use outlines and gestures in ways that suggest built (or buildable) forms.

Anne Smith's "Something to Nothing" is a 27-foot-long swoop of handmade Japanese paper that's partly suspended in air and then dips to the floor. Along the wave is a strip of color, printed by wood block, whose color and width change. The effect is both monumental and ephemeral.

Sarah Zuckerman Dolan's "Lengsel" is a length of copper wire that also begins (or ends) on the floor. A thin metallic circle twists into a tangle and then climbs the wall, in a dance of order and chaos.

A different sort of tumult informs Sarah Irvin's pieces, made by using a squeegee to smear wet ink on nonabsorbent paper. The artist writes a word, and then obliterates it, leaving jagged smears that resemble sketches of architectural massing. What they actually represent is intellectual loss; each word is one that's slipping from Irvin's grandfather's memory.

Pathways On view through Aug. 26 at Carroll Square Gallery, 975 F St. NW. 202-234-5601. hemphillfinearts.com/exhibitions/carroll-square-gallery/current-exhibitions.

Silverthorne & Stovall

There are many things to look at, but only one direction to look from, in the photographs at BlackRock Center for the Arts. Alexandra Silverthorne offers black-and-white views of vacation homes on a New Hampshire lake where motorized water vehicles are banned. D.B. Stovall observes, in rich color, the old-fashioned facades of commercial structures in burgs such as McKeesport, Pa. The two artists' affection for places off the main roads may correspond to their dedication to film.

Silverthorne and Stovall look directly at their subjects, albeit from slightly different angles. The former shot from a kayak, for the low-in-the-water vantage of someone arriving by boat. The compositions are horizontal, but they're not sweeping. They reveal secluded docks, cabins and boathouses, nestled into little slivers of wilderness. Each picture divulges a small secret.

Stovall's photos are of structures hidden in open view, under slices of intensely blue sky. Shot from tripod height, the large-format pictures have exceptional detail and saturated color. The glossy-faced buildings are ordinary, or once were, before so many singular local businesses were supplanted by ones with identical corporate countenances. Stovall calls the places he memorializes "American vernacular," which is a half-forgotten dialect.

Alexandra Silverthorne: All the Ways In and D.B. Stovall: A Love Affair with Light On view through Aug. 27 at BlackRock Center for the Arts, 12901 Town Commons Dr., Germantown. 301-528-2260. blackrockcenter.org/gallery.

Alison Lee Schroeder & Gerardo Camargo

Alison Lee Schroeder and Gerardo Camargo both imagine elaborate systems, but that's the extent of their similarity. The local artists, showing together in Hermitage Design + Gallery's "The Illusion of Control," make intricate pictures with distinct characters.

Schroeder's oil or watercolor paintings vary from literal landscapes to near-abstractions that hint at storm clouds, ocean currents or volcanic flows. Some pictures ask to be evaluated from different perspectives and distances. "Night and Day," a diptych, considers the same scene under sun or stars. That's a more direct way of showing how perception shifts, and understanding with it.

Camargo's abstractions include some hard-edged geometric ones, but most are spiraling, pointillistic and seemingly inspired by nature. There's nothing organic about the materials, however. Camargo arrays gold- or silver-enamel dots and dashes on sheets of vinyl, most often black. The contrast, like the media, is firm and sharp. Yet one of the most intriguing pieces, "Mother," is silver on white. The distinction between pigment and ground becomes elusive, much like the line between air and vapor in Schroeder's cloud close-ups.

The Illusion of Control: Alison Lee Schroeder & Gerardo Camargo On view through Aug. 22 at Hermitage Design + Gallery, 6831 Tennyson Dr., McLean. 703-827-0066. thehermitagegallery.com.


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