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Review | In the Galleries: A Celebration of Latin American Sculpture


On the floor of the front room of the University of Maryland Art Gallery are dozens of slippers in shades of green, arranged in a fan shape. But Tony Cappelán’s “Mar Caribe” isn’t just a collection of artifacts found along a river in the Dominican Republic: Each sandal has a loop of barbed wire, instead of the strap that would normally secure the big toe, as a symbol of hostile barriers and boundaries. The artist has turned cheap, discarded shoes into something hard and menacing. In this installation, the piece also has another function: the feet of the gallery visitor point to the main part of ‘Re-Cast: Sculptural Works From the Art Museum of the Americas’.

The exhibition of rarely seen sculptural works from the downtown museum spans chronologically from 1942 to 2018 and stylistically from formalistic to funky. The show was curated by Maryland graduate students Marco Polo Juárez Cruz, Cléa Massiani and Gabrielle Tillenburg, under the direction of Professor Abigail McEwen.

Some pieces especially appeal to the eye. The Japanese-Brazilian Yutaka Toyota intertwines arcs of shiny metal whose curved surfaces serve as a kind of playroom mirror. Ecuadorian Estuardo Maldonado aligns shimmering, stainless steel relief shapes that shift from darker to lighter colors and from thicker to thinner widths. Slovak Argentine Gyula Kosice dots an illuminated plastic hemisphere with tiny nodes of glowing white, blue or red, suggesting a machined asteroid or moon.

There are no realistic works, but a few are representative. Born in Brazil to Jewish Austrian parents, Nair Kremer plants a grove of seven abstracted wooden trees, or perhaps large flowers, freestanding on steel bars. Chilean Raúl Valdivieso Rodriguez depicts the feathered serpent of Mesoamerican myth in greenish cast bronze, streamlining the creature into claw, beak and maw. Haitian Georges Liautaud chopped and hammered pieces of iron into the crude body and stark cross of his ‘Crucifixion’. The anguished statue stands in the center of the gallery’s back room, right on the rough path marked by ‘Mar Caribe’.

Re-Cast: Sculptural Works from the Art Museum of the Americas Through December 2 at the Art Gallery, Parren J. Mitchell Art-Sociology Building, University of Maryland, College Park.

Most of the works in “ARTgineering v2.0,” the sequel to the 2017 Otis Street Art Project show, have mechanical or electronic elements. That doesn’t make them inhuman. Several respond to the presence or contact of a visitor: touching the bow to one of the strings of Emily Francisco’s wired violin evokes the sound of a radio station; approaching Michelle L. Herman’s slumped stuffed bear makes him appear to be breathing; and pressing a red button activates Kelly Heaton’s complex mixed-media assemblage, which is topped by a high-tech duck on a simulated funeral pyre.

Movement is autonomous in Billy Friebele’s piece, whose flashing red lights mimic the action of a school of fish, as well as in Frank McCauley’s mesmerizing video of a figure in seemingly fluid motion beneath a shiny metal plate. The video, reportedly shot without any special effects, seems to herald the existence of a new superhero: Mercury Man. A stack of lights in different colors animates Melissa Burley’s wall sculpture, made largely from found furniture.

The pieces that don’t blink, glow or move belong to Jason Bulluck (whose life-size “action figure” has been on local display before) and Jason Gubbiotti. Gubbiotti’s three paintings may seem like the least constructed works in the show, but the artist’s approach is to emphasize the architecture of his creations. Although Gubbiotti’s painting style is abstract, he contrasts the flat colors with indentations and edges that emphasize the physicality of the picture.

ARTgineering v2.0 Through December 3 at Otis Street Art Project, 3706 Otis St., Mount Rainier.

Wax is the common element in “Playing With Fire,” a six-artist show at Martha Spak Gallery, but several of the most notable pieces also rely on metal. Kevin Milstead’s sculptural paintings luxuriously combine wax and pigments with soft metals such as pewter, lead and gold. The artist’s circular motifs suggest half-seen planets or a sun whose seemingly molten outline is liquefied by its own heat.

Milstead also places ginkgo leaves in neat arrangements under wax, a strategy similar to that of Marty Ittner’s wax-covered bird collages. Tightly rendered circles and lines dance under wax in David Evans’ abstractions, whose jazzy spirit is reminiscent of Mondrian. Katie Dell Kaufman’s work is also geometric, sometimes incorporating architectural 3D shapes that give the pieces literal depth.

The other two contributors draw more from the landscape, albeit not literally. Kathleen Anderson’s “View of the River” meanders a thin ray of blue through a thickly patterned orange stripe. Nancy Hacskaylo evokes sky and earth by combining blue pigment with an expanse of heavily applied copper-colored powder. In this selection of wax-oriented art, metal has a solid supporting role.

Playing with fire Through December 4 at Martha Spak Gallery, 40 District Sq. SW.

The manual typewriter in the Addison/Ripley Fine Art window hints at Julia Bloom’s latest work. Originally conceived during a period of isolation during the pandemic, the DC artist’s new series uses densely overlapping typescripts as a backdrop for simple, curving geometric shapes drawn in charcoal. The text and shapes are mostly black and usually arranged on colored handmade Asian paper. Bloom calls the photos “Permission Slips” because they gave her permission to do something unprecedented in her career.

The pieces are modest in size and means, so it seems appropriate that they are also intimate in a sense: the words are said to be from Bloom’s diary, though mostly illegible. (Almost all are named after a 2021-22 entry date.) With a few legible exceptions, the typed letters serve a purely visual purpose; the crush of lower case letters fills and defines the space as it contrasts with the bold solid black partial circles. This is minimalism, built on a lot of personal, albeit most hidden, details.

Julia Bloom: Permission slips Through December 3 at Addison/Ripley Fine Art, 1670 Wisconsin Ave. NW.

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