Where to see art gallery shows in the Washington region


At one side of Jessica Valoris’s “Passage/way/s” at VisArts is a sculptural installation titled “It’s About Flight,” which suspends white headscarves and farm implements simulated in molded paper over a wood-slatted walkway. The floating objects pungently evoke enslaved agricultural laborers, but the wooden path is the most important part, since it represents the road to freedom for 14 people in the Poolesville, Md., area. According to the artist, the exhibition ponders “enslaved Black people and the various ways they imagined liberation through escape, refusal, collective care and resistance.”

Videos and text pieces are among the other elements in this mixed-media show, whose catalogue says it is inspired by the “earth-based traditions” of the D.C. artist’s “Black American and Jewish ancestry.” One performance video was made at the Virginia site of the first camp for “contraband,” a Civil War-era term for enslaved people who fled to Union Army lines. The catalogue lists 40 people who escaped enslavement in Montgomery County, Md., followed by the phrase “may their memory be a blessing,” a traditional Jewish benediction.

All the pieces are rooted in the stories of enslaved African Americans, as is detailed in the catalogue. But some can be appreciated purely for their visual charm. The eclectic artist decorates doors, screens and windows with densely patterned, richly hued designs that evoke traditional crafts as well as the specific historical events to which they allude. One of Valoris’s stated interests is “world-building,” and she’s constructed an abundant one here.

Jessica Valoris: Passage/way/s Through March 5 at VisArts, 155 Gibbs St., Rockville.

Various styles of patterning link the artists in “Holy Inventions,” an impressive show overseen by Isabel Manalo for Addison/Ripley Fine Art. The curator, a local painter represented by the gallery, selected the work of five longtime friends, most of them abstractionists.

The exception is Cheryl Edwards, whose expressionist oils are inspired by “paddle dolls,” female figurines excavated from ancient Egyptian tombs. The thickly painted pictures are representational but employ robust decorative motifs on both the figures and their backdrops.

The only contributor who is not a painter is Caitlin Teal Price, who makes abstract photographs into whose surfaces she carves clusters of tiny, tightly spaced lines. The photos often feature flares of light that are as bold as the individual cuts are delicate.

Ian Jehle takes his cues from the random fibrous shapes pressed into plywood, which he highlights by painting individual portions in different colors. Tom Bunnell’s pictures seem fundamentally organic, whether they suggest cells and nuclei or a field of multicolored eggs in black nests.

Leo Bersamina demonstrates the widest array of strategies, all contrasting hard and soft. He superimposes precise, colorful chevrons on fields of inky drips, and renders geometric patterns on lumps of green-painted found wood mounted on a white backdrop. Sometimes Bersamina’s tactics can’t be fulfilled on a single canvas. So he pairs two pictures, one featuring pulpy dots and the other straight-edged triangles and trapezoids. The dialogue between soft and hard murmurs both within and across the individual works.

Holy Inventions Through March 4 at Addison/Ripley Fine Art, 1670 Wisconsin Ave. NW.

The works in “New Year/New Artists” are hung on the walls of Long View Gallery, but few of them seem entirely content there. The show’s four contributors, all currently or formerly local, make immaculately crafted pieces that verge on sculpture, whether they push away from the wall gently or forcefully.

Stephen Benedicto’s sleek and symmetrical constructions are the closest to flat, but they are made of unexpected and often weighty materials. “Phantasm” is a concrete field whose checkerboard design is punctuated by white or black stones, taken from a Go game set, placed at every intersection; the black dots of “Scintillating Grid” are arrayed on a white surface made of glass microspheres. These pieces appear delicate and industrial at the same time.

Ruth Becker cuts spiraling patterns deep into multiple layers of paper, sometimes incorporating inkjet prints into the designs. The results suggest nautilus shells, orderly yet beguilingly sinuous. Marité Vidales makes small acrylic paintings on bits of tree bark, which are arranged in boxes as if they were geological specimens. Like Becker’s work, Vidales’s appears organic but methodical.

The most aggressively three-dimensional entries are by Graham Caldwell, who mounts multiple glass objects, such as transparent orbs or convex mirrors, on black metal armatures that jut from the wall. The results are both literally and optically multilevel, as the reflected or distorted images add to the complexity. Many of these artworks encourage the viewer to peer into them, but Caldwell’s are the only ones that peer back.

New Year/New Artists Through March 5 at Long View Gallery, 1234 Ninth St. NW.

Pursuing grief along parallel tracks, Stephen Greenberg photographed sites within 75 miles of Photoworks at Glen Echo Park, where his “Listening to the Silence” is on exhibit. One set of pictures observes war memorials and military cemeteries; the other documents medical sites related to his wife’s treatment for cancer (she died in December 2021). The photographer employed monochrome digital cameras, which provide sharper images than standard digital cameras in black-and-white mode.

Greenberg calls the two series “History” and “Memory,” and pairs images from each alongside verse. The pictures in the first set, shot outside under cloud-streaked skies, tend to be more expansive. The others are mostly intimate interiors, although they include a wistful glance out a window and a hospital facade emblazoned with a large illuminated cross that melds sacred symbol and commercial brand.

The most solemn observances ultimately yield to everyday concerns, as Greenberg demonstrates with a study of a religious statue marooned in a parking lot. That wry image aside, the artist is most concerned with conjuring silence, which may explain why there are no people in these photos. Greenberg depicts a world in which there’s much to remember but no one within the picture frame to do so.

Stephen Greenberg: Listening to the Silence Through March 5 at Photoworks, Glen Echo Park, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo.

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