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Review | In the galleries: Restored work evokes a sculptural experience


Earlier this fall, artist Robert Stackhouse and partner Carol Mickett renovated “Ghost Dance,” a 1974 sculpture whose ownership passed from the Corcoran Gallery of Art to George Washington University after the Corcoran dissolved. That restoration was one of the inspirations for “Renewal,” a show at GWU’s Luther W. Brady Art Gallery that places Stackhouse’s creation among works by 23 members of the Washington Sculptors Group.

Perhaps the Stackhouse sculpture also guided judges Olivia Kohler-Maga and Babette Pendleton’s choice of other pieces for the exhibit. Many reflect the shape or material of “Ghost Dance”, a partial arc about 10 feet wide at the base and 5 feet highmade from slats of recycled wood. The statue’s title refers to an Indian ritual intended to evoke the spirits of the dead, but also to the curved contour, which alludes to a whirling motion.

Where “Ghost Dance” is oriented horizontally, several contributors send wood into the air. Mike Shaffer’s Tapered Tower is a triangular scaffolding of reclaimed wood strips, imposing in height but painted a playful red. George Lorio recreates nature by neatly splitting a simulated tree trunk in two, made from found bark, attached to a plywood fixture. Less vertical, but also mainly made from second-hand wood, is a colorful Keith Krueger assemblage incorporating parts of metal signs. CL Bigelow’s intricate “Quiet Orb” resembles a nest, but on closer inspection turns out not to be made of twigs, but of tubes, filaments, and other bits of stray metal.

Many of the pieces are attached to the wall, although they are rarely content to simply run parallel to the adjacent surface. Barbara Januszkiewicz contributes an abstract painted canvas, part cut and draped in the manner of Sam Gilliam. Chee Keong Kung also ventures beyond painting, rendering his trademark hard dynamic gestures in 3D. Jennifer Noda’s ominous bell-like metal device features two jagged wooden pieces for hands, while Lisa Rosenstein reclaims a more treacherous material, hand-tying a shroud of clear plastic shreds for a luminous effect.

Although most works of art control the space they occupy, they do not respond directly to it. A compelling exception is Caroline MacKinnon’s ‘Pebbles Lost in Time’, an installation of glazed ceramic buttons on the floor in a corner of a gallery. Another, smaller batch of buttons calls to the main arrangement from across the room. The two sets aren’t exactly involved in a dance, but the way the two groups are separated emphasizes space and movement.

Also in the GWU Corcoran’s Flagg Building is a separate show that combines two art forms based on movement, modern dance and video. “Legacy” pays homage to DC choreographer Maida Withers, who teaches at the university, and her company, the Dance Construction Company. Local projection and video artist Robin Bell transformed Gallery 1, which is adjacent to the Brady Gallery, into a Withers showcase that is immersive and literally uplifting: the performance clips flash across the ceiling and higher parts of the walls, so that the dancing bodies above the viewer.

The emphasis is on sensation, not documentation. Some video clips are projected directly, but others are distorted or overlapped. This approach may not appeal to dance purists, but seems to fit the spirit of Withers’ experimental work. “Legacy” is less of a retrospective than a remix.

Renewal Until December 3 at the Luther W. Brady Art GalleryCorcoran Flagg Building, 500 17th St. NW.

legacy Through December 10 at Gallery 1, Corcoran Flagg Building, 500 17th St. NW.

Lithium may be the most sought-after metal today, but the title of Stephanie Garon’s Hamiltonian Artists show refers to the most famous example of mining madness: “Gold Rush.” In the local artist’s multimedia exhibit, drawings, photographs, sculptures and videos reflect the effects of mineral extraction on the lands of the Passamaquoddy tribe of Maine. Many of the artworks involve rock core samples, whether real ones or representations such as the traced outlines of stone fragments in “Void,” a puzzle-like drawing.

The show’s title piece is a heap of rock spikes supported by metal crossbars and piled beneath an electronic stock ticker display. Other mineral chunks are clumped together in a corner or mounted in a steel frame. Visitors are invited to use a metal detection phone app to distinguish traces of gold, silver and copper in the core samples.

Two abstract paintings are made of Maine earth and crushed stone mixed with DC tap water. They are accompanied by a chant (audible through headphones) by eclectic musician and composer Mali Obomsawin, who grew up on ancestral lands in Maine and Quebec. A video links audio commentary about the effects of mining on Maine with footage of a basket floating in the water; a small basket can be seen nearby. “Gold Rush” weaves connections between places, people and the products that sustain them, some more disruptive than others.

Stephanie Garon: Gold Rush Until November 26 at Hamiltonian artists1353 U St.NW.

The images in Susan Wooddell Campbell’s “All Over the Map” are connected not by technique, but by shape, color and theme. Nature is the main source of inspiration for the DC artist’s Washington Printmakers Gallery show, which includes collages, prints created using a variety of techniques, and two drawings created on a tablet computer. Often the pieces are made up of separate parts, such as the mesh sewn into ‘Netted’, the colour-infused rectangular shapes cut into the mostly black and white ‘Beyond the Gate’, or the vignettes – two line drawings and one painting – flowing into the unified river view of “Kenilworth Trio.”

“I currently consider myself primarily a painter,” the artist noted in her statement. That explains her affinity for monotypes, which are often created by applying pigment to a matrix that is then printed to give a single, painterly impression. Her monotypes feature soft, flowing colors and organic shapes, such as the leaf-like overlapping forms of the yellow-dominated ‘Asp’. Image and medium combine to evoke a vision of natural objects galore, arranged randomly yet harmoniously.

Susan Wooddell Campbell: All over the map Until November 27 at Washington Printmakers Gallery1641 Wisconsin Ave. NW.

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