In the galleries: Finding the unknown within what is known
By Mark Jenkins March 31,2017
Shot mostly at European spas, the photos in Linda Troeller’s book “Healing Waters” observe patrons enjoying a certain kind of liquid refreshment. That might sound less stimulating to peruse than to experience, but Watergate Gallery’s “Healing Waters and Beyond” does indeed go beyond images of the rich at ease. It also features photos from two edgier series.
Troeller’s picturesque views of mud baths, waterfalls and baroque pools include one that evokes hot water with what appear to be burns in the film negative. The photographer further departs from straightforward documentation in a series of photo-collages that compare the treatment — societal as well as medical — of TB and AIDS patients in the 1930s and 1980s, respectively.
The largest pictures are from another book, “Living in the Chelsea Hotel.” Glimpses of everyday life at that Manhattan boho refuge include participants in a cross-dressing class, while the nighttime vista from the building’s roof becomes a near-abstract swoop. Wherever Troeller takes her camera, it seems, she’s eyeing a sort of rapture.
In the galleries: Remapping the boundaries of drawing
By Mark Jenkins March 3,2017
Kurtis Ceppetelli and Matthew Malone, who collaborate as Duly Noted Painters, are offering an art-history lesson to patrons of the Watergate Gallery. The local duo’s “Modern Affinities” presents loose interpretations of works by Caravaggio, El Greco and other pre-modern masters. Small reproductions of the originals are on display for comparison, as are drawings that preceded the painting.
The artists, whose spontaneous brushwork dovetails and overlaps in each picture, retain the originals’ compositions while departing from their style. They prefer flat blocks of color and cartoon-style outlines to graduated modeling and shading, and they splash and drip pigment with the abandon of abstract expressionists.
Lurid biblical tales such as “Susanna and the Elders” are upstaged by the dramatic action of brush on canvas. Minor details, notably a green corsage in Joshua Reynolds’s “Portrait of Mrs. Collyear,” become central in the remakes. Ceppetelli and Malone are unbeholden to priests or patrons, so they’re free to explore the forms, rather than the themes, of these familiar vignettes.
In the galleries: Many ways to express ‘Light & Movement’
By Mark Jenkins December 29, 2016
Doug Dupin’s “Looming Pieces,” on view at the Watergate Gallery. (Doug Dupin/Watergate Gallery & Frame Design)
A contemporary art exhibition titled “Light & Movement” could require as many electrical outlets as it has pieces. But just a few of the 44 contributors to this show at the Watergate Gallery offer art that must be plugged in. Most conjure the show’s themes with techniques that considerably predate Thomas Edison.
Craig Kraft’s wall sculpture consists of three slashes of blue neon and two complementary aluminum strands. A motor causes the thin, upright metal rods of Mike Shaffer’s “Ocean Motion” to jiggle and sway. The symmetry of Doug Dupin’s assemblage of found objects, mostly wood, includes twin headlights. Sam Noto combines his trademark curled steel rods with curving cables that end in small lamps; the sculpture also is a fixture to illuminate other sculptures.
Craig Kraft’s “Light’s mark,” part of “Light & Movement” at the Watergate Gallery. (Craig Kraft/Watergate Gallery & Frame Design)
Other contributors evoke the motifs less directly. Lauri Menditto, working as usual with shards of license plates, collages triangles of pure color into something like a stained-glass window. Nancy Frankel’s relief sculpture is a layered series of wooden waves, painted various shades of blue. Charlotte Lallement-Klaus’s vivid painting disassembles a star into pieces that aren’t especially stellar but glow with smeary metallic pigments.
Among the standouts is a Susan Goldman monotype in which a flowerlike circular form is overlaid with nine squares of bright hues. It contrasts line and color, as well as organic and geometric. Or, if you prefer, light and movement.
Light & Movement On view through Jan. 28 at Watergate Gallery, 2552 Virginia Ave. NW. 202-338-4488. watergategalleryframedesign.com.
Sunday October 2nd, 2016
By Mark Jenkins
Antonia Ramis Miguel
In Antonia Ramis Miguel’s previous show at the Watergate Gallery, her paintings of streetscapes were more persuasive than those of living things. But some of the strongest pictures in her “Constructivism: The Structure” are of horses, partly disassembled into planes of white, tan and brown. Perhaps Miguel would reject the division between animate and inanimate. One of her large horse paintings is neatly flanked by two small ones of chess pieces, including knights. In these parallel equine portraits, form trumps function.
The selection includes some near-abstracts, rendered in the Soviet constructivist-derived style Miguel adapted from Uruguay’s Joaquín Torres Garcia. The Spanish artist, who lives part time in Washington, also offers views of Madrid and Barcelona, most of them rendered more conventionally. Of the city scenes, the most compelling is “Cathedral Interior,” whose stained glass window complements Miguel’s penchant for fragmenting the image. It’s an apt subject for an artist who often depicts the world as panes of color.
Antonia Ramis Miguel: Constructivism: The Structure On view through Oct. 15 at Watergate Gallery, 2552 Virginia Ave. NW.
by Mark Jenkins - August 26, 2016
Multimedia & Sculpture
Unable to contain the work of nearly 30 artists, Watergate Gallery’s multimedia and sculpture show spills into the complex’s public areas. Three large pieces are even on the roof of the sunken shopping arcade’s central pavilion, a location that seems unlikely but turns out to be easily accessible.
The featured artists are ones who have contributed previously or this year to Foggy Bottom’s outdoor sculpture biennial, which continues through Oct. 22. Among the more kinetic pieces are Becky Borlan’s “Subsume,” a stalactite of dangling copper coils; Garrett Strang’s “Throng,” a curved bundle of branches that rips through black paper; and Philippe Mougne’s all-white yet mixed-media “The Song of the Wind,” which tops each of its six prongs with a different form.
It might seem odd for a sculptor who works with steel on a towering scale to title a piece “Whimsy,” but Nancy Frankel’s waltz in metal playfully contrasts bars and arcs painted different shades of blue. Sam Noto also paints his sculptures, which are tangles of steel rods — one’s titled “Medusa’s Dream” — that often alternate through three hues from tip to base.
Not all of the selections are forged from metal. Ceramic artist Lindsay Pichaske’s life-size “Doe” is realistic, although its eyes seem poignantly human. Paul Steinkoenig’s “Pure of Heart” is soap on a rope — a pile of bars inside a cage, atop a clump of heavy cords. It’s rugged, but it, too, has a portion of whimsy.
Summer Multimedia & Sculpture Exhibition On view through Sept. 6 at Watergate Gallery, 2552 Virginia Ave. NW. 202-338-4488. watergategalleryframedesign.com.
review by Mark Jenkins - February 19, 2016.
The Magic Within
Nearly three dozen artists contributed to the current show at Watergate Gallery, and they offer almost that many interpretations of its theme, “The Magic Within.” Some pieces are mystical, but most simply reflect the participant’s usual artistic media and concerns. These range from eerie blue light (neon artist Craig Kraft) to ornately patterned oculi that represent both physical and psychological apertures (printmaker Susan Goldman).
Nature’s alchemy inspired much of the work. Photographer Jose Varela’s ethereal male bodies, overlapped in a crosslike arrangement, appear to be turning into figures of light. Painter Heidi Rastin depicts four roses in Warholian closeups, their green stems as prominent as their tomato-red blossoms. The irregular black circles in Doug Dupin’s picture are actually patterns made by mushroom spores on lustrous green fabric; the composition is outlined by an elaborate frame that presses pieces of a wasp’s nest between two layers of wood.
Imagination can lend magic to ordinary things, such as the white house Kevin Adams painted at an angle to give it an odd outlook. It’s “a house I never entered,” Adams writes, and that unseen interior becomes a metaphor for everything the viewer will never know for sure.
The Magic Within On view through March 5 at Watergate Gallery, 2552 Virginia Ave. NW. 202-338-4488. watergategalleryframedesign.com.
review by Mark Jenkins in Saturday, January 9th, 2016
Color Texture Shape
“Color Texture Shape,” a five-artist show at the Watergate Gallery, encompasses painting, sculpture and photography. But some of its most intriguing entries are somewhere in between.
Haitian American artist Wainwright Dawson’s wall sculptures are lively street-scene miniatures, partly painted and constructed entirely of found objects. Restaurants, hotel and bars beckon, as do the figures of women; some are photographs cut from magazines, while others are 3-D figurines.
The tropical openness Dawson depicts is a contrast to Helen Zughaib’s gouache of a woman behind an actual wooden screen of the sort used in the Middle East to protect homes from sun, and women from men’s eyes.
Zughaib is in the contrast business, juxtaposing Arab tradition and American modernity. She’s also showing an Islamic prayer rug that incorporates a border of U.S. flags.
A star-spangled banner punctuates one of Eduardo Gyles’s photographs, a snow scene. But mostly he uses macro lenses for elegant close-ups of flowers, leaves and the occasional set of butterfly wings. There’s a hint of landscape in Wendy Plotkin-Mates’s abstract paintings, which are often thickly textured and in extreme vertical or horizontal formats. Jeff Chyatte, who, like Zughaib, is a gallery regular, fabricates puzzle-like geometric pieces of textured-surface aluminum. While the other artists observe humanity or nature, Chyatte’s work is glistening math.
Color Texture Shape On view through Jan. 16 at the Watergate Gallery, 2552 Virginia Ave NW. 202-338-4488. watergategalleryframedesign.com.
review by Mark Jenkins in Sunday October 25th
Longtime Foggy Bottom resident Bill D'Italia passed away unexpectedly in his home at age 64 in August. Watergate Gallery has enjoyed a long relationship with Bill exhibiting his paintings of urban landscapes from around the D.C. area in which he captured the spirit and energy of familiar scenes depicted with his skill and enthusiasm.
When he was not painting Bill had a long career working at the National Gallery of Art as Publications Sales Supervisor and then Visitor Services Coordinator for ten years. After that Bill worked at the Smithsonian Institution as Information Specialist/Volunteer Coordinator for the next ten years. For the last five years Bill worked at the Koshland Science Museum as Visitor Services Manager. Bill always managed to be deeply engaged with the responsibilities of his job, where he formed warm relationships with friends and colleagues, while continuing to pursue his greatest passion - that of painting.
The exhibition that was planned to open in October titled "Old is New: DCscapes" will be combined with paintings from his seven exhibitions at Watergate Gallery beginning in 1999 to create a retrospective as a tribute to honor Bill D'Italia - a talented, insightful man we will all miss so much.
By Mark Jenkins Sunday, August 2, 2015
2015 Summer Sculpture
The Watergate Gallery’s annual sculpture show fits metalwork, wood assemblages, neon and dioramas into one medium-size space. Well, almost. Five larger pieces stand in the retail courtyard just beyond the gallery’s doors, where they look right at home.
“2015 Summer Sculpture” includes works by 12 artists, some of which are probably familiar to regular, local gallerygoers. There are elegant metal root-structure sculptures by Dalya Luttwak and one of Craig Kraft’s funky neon pieces based on graffiti from a Mississippi juke joint. Veronica Szalus stacks wire rectangles and renders the resulting tower white-on-white with paint and interior lighting. Sam Noto curves steel stalks into bouquets of sorts, sometimes painted and in one case with stones standing in for blossoms. Jeff Chyatte’s brushed-aluminum puzzle pieces seem to spiral in place, and sometimes to pivot on a single corner.
The largest and most complex of Chyatte’s pieces is outside the gallery. So is a graceful Noto sculpture whose arcing purple tendrils turn silver at their tips. The heaviest of the outdoor works is Richard Vosseller’s “Monument,” which is imposing enough for that title. But the steel monolith has a rust-brown patina and is crumpled to resemble a large cardboard box that fell off a truck. The juxtaposition of heft and vulnerability makes the sculpture a monument to visual wit.
2015 Summer Sculpture On view through Aug. 15 at Watergate Gallery, 2552 Virginia Ave. NW. 202-338-4488.www.watergategalleryframedesign.com
by Mark Jenkins, December 31, 2014
Wood / Paper / Metal
Shaping wood as it rotates on a lathe, Joe Dickey transforms craggy chunks into sleek forms with flawless surfaces. But the Davidsonville, Md., woodturner sometimes leaves a rough patch to demonstrate the material’s origins. Among his pieces in “Wood / Paper / Metal,” at the Watergate Gallery, is one made from a remnant of the Wye Oak, Maryland’s state tree, which was felled in a 2002 storm. The hanging sculpture is an almost perfect circle, with one unfinished arc.
Dickey often stains the exteriors of his hollowed-out constructions with vivid dyes, highlighted by layers of varnish. The gleaming, uniform hues contrast with the natural tones of the interiors, which may have black veins caused by fungal decay. The artist dries the wood fully, so that no further deterioration is possible, and what was once harmful becomes decorative. One way Dickey pays tribute to the former trees is that he takes care not to transfigure them entirely.
A retired physicist, Dickey invokes the interstellar with “Cephei,” named for a star system. Hanging nearby is “Orbit,” a sympatico print by EJ Montgomery, the show’s paper artist. Her abstractions array simple forms, mostly circles and squares, in complex juxtapositions. Neon-bright red and pink encounter and sometimes overlap metallic-ink silver and copper, all heightened by the patterns of the textured paper. Although the basic elements of Montgomery’s compositions can be read in an instant, the details invite prolonged inspection.
The metal worker of the trio is Scot McKenzie, who also is partial to circles. His work was reviewed in this column in July.
Wood/Paper/Metal On view through Jan. 17 at Watergate Gallery, 2552 Virginia Ave. N.W. 202-338-4488. www.watergategalleryframedesign.com.
Sunday Arts section - Galleries
By Mark Jenkins, Published: February 9, 2014
Every winter, Watergate Gallery mounts a show of sunny paintings from Port-au-Prince’s Rainbow Gallery. As in previous years, many of this year’s works portray markets, weddings and other sociable places and events. Emmanuel Joseph and Pierre Maxo’s Henri Rousseau-like depictions of jungles show peaceable kingdoms, where such non-indigenous beasts as zebras, giraffes and panthers strike poses amid lush foliage and fruit.
None of this is challenging, either stylistically or thematically. There are no images of poverty or earthquake devastation; the paintings that include folk-art surrealism or voodoo symbols are less ominous than the typical Hollywood creature feature. (There is, in fact, a supernatural scene titled “Loup Garou,” French for werewolf.) The more distinctive paintings include Stivenson Magloire’s African-style “Ayibobo,” Abbott Bonhomme’s richly detailed “Jungle” and Reynald Joseph’s “Famile a l’Eglise,” a street scene whose angularity verges on Cubism. Each of these three pictures displays an individual sensibility amid work that sometimes takes an assembly-line approach to subtropical whimsy.
Haitian Paintings Gallery, 2552 Virginia Ave. NW; 202-338-4488; watergategalleryframedesign.com
On view through Feb. 22 at Watergate
Jenkins is a freelance writer.