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Review | In the halls: Pop-up installations with purpose and content


Of all the local high street shops that have fallen out of style, none have fallen further than Friendship Heights. Much of the retail space is vacant, and a few landlords have chosen to fill some of it with art, including “RightNOW,” a retail frontage on the Maryland side of the border, and Robin Bell’s “Studio,” a a few blocks south in DC Both exhibits use their ghost town neighborhoods to mix the personal and the political.

Hosted by local artists Kirsty Little and Becky McFall, “RightNOW” is a crowdsourced response to what the project’s website calls the dismantling of women’s rights in the United States.

In response, Little and McFall have organized an exhibition of photos of people – mostly but not just women – who have uploaded their photos to the website. The photos are segmented into five rectangles that represent the full height but only half the width of the participants’ bodies. Each subject divided in half is linked to five blocks of another person’s reverse side, so together they form a single, albeit dismembered, entity. The aim, according to the duo, is “to symbolize that women are not fully represented in society and have no control over their bodies.” New montages are being created all the time and will be added as soon as they are ready to represent the deep-rooted supporters of women’s rights.

In a sly reference to the usual purpose of window displays, each set of 10 photographs is hung on a wooden hanger, like a piece of clothing for sale.

At one end of the sequence, an electronic scroll shows alarming statistical nuggets about the status of women worldwide. (The same data streams on the website.) But the most appealing element of the exhibition is the steadily growing parade of hybrid photos. Little and McFall hope to get 1,000 people involved in the exhibit before it ends. That won’t match the size of the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, but in today’s Friendship Heights it’s quite a crowd.

DC multimedia artist Robin Bell is best known for his political actions, most notably projecting anti-Trump slogans onto the facade of what was then the Trump International Hotel. That and other ideological efforts are reflected in “Studio,” Bell’s installation in the largely desolate Chevy Chase pavilion. But the main thrust of the show is autobiographical.

The show simulates on a larger scale the Mount Pleasant studio that Bell was forced to flee in 2022 due to a chemical leak. On one side are two walls of artifacts, including posters — one advertising the artist’s long-ago stint on a club’s turntables under the tag “DJ Noskilz” — and artwork by Bell and friends. Among them are a photo of Bell as a teenager taken by his art teacher, noted DC artist Michael B. Platt, who died in 2019, and graffiti artist Borf’s version of Eddie Adams’ famous photo of an outright execution of a POW during the Vietnam War , in which the two figures are covered with happy faces.

The other side of the room is moving, but there are also plants growing in 3D-printed pots and projection equipment that on a recent Saturday dotted the room with dots of multicolored light. Bell is known for projecting words of accusation, but sometimes he’s content to paint the world with beautiful shimmers.

Straight away Through April 30 at 5510-5530 Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase.

Robin Bell: Studio Through March 31 at Chevy Chase Pavilion, 5335 Wisconsin Ave. NW.

No style or motif unites “Variety Show: A Photo Ensemble,” a Gallery B exhibit with Creative Platform, a local photography group. The work of the nine members is largely in color, but also includes some black and white photos. The show features street photography as well as Leslie Kiefer’s and Jo Levine’s elegant studio close-ups of vegetation arranged in front of striking backgrounds. Most of the highlights, however, are rustic scenes that freeze the fluid interplay of light and water.

Among these are Ann Benjes Steele’s captivating photos of what one title calls a “Sky Mirror.” These multi-layered scenes capture intricate, overlapping reflections on watery surfaces, while also partially revealing what lurks beneath. Similarly, Barbara Southworth’s “Green Bog” depicts a diverse landscape, but is tailored to areas of shimmering water. Leslie Landerkin’s “Spring Fog” has less depth, but that’s on purpose: it focuses on thin branches sharply defined in a forest largely softened by fog. Tana Ebbole’s landscapes include one inhabited by geese, a rare non-human fauna in this flora-filled show.

Washingtonians will easily recognize some of the locations. Kevin Duncan took a long exposure shot of “Wisconsin & M”, and both Landerkin and Barry Dunn photographed the National Gallery of Art, though the former chose the West Building and the latter chose the East. Less recognizable is the seemingly Old World setting of Jim Coates’ vignette of a small crowd in a partially flooded street. Like so many of these photos, the photo channels the mesmerizing power of water.

Variety show: a photo ensemble Until April 2 at Gallery B7700 Wisconsin Ave., #E, Bethesda.

Life is a kind of cabaret in “Hidden Light,” the show at Deb Furey’s Foundry Gallery. Furey’s paintings and drawings often depict people in masquerade, performing, or in the midst of transformation. The changeability of the subjects reflects the smooth style of the local artist, which incorporates collage and easily shifts from realism to expressionism.

Most of the photos are small oil paintings, sometimes with collage elements, in which two or three costumed people look at the viewer. Their faces are indistinct and can be little more than ovals of smudged paint. On one of these, a probably female figure has a photographic image of a flower for a head. Such flowers return, this time as a background, in two more realistic portraits. These striking works focus on modeled, black and white faces in front of flat blossoms, also monochromatic but sometimes overlaid with colour.

Collage can indicate movement in Furey’s work, as in two photographs of dancers whose bodies are covered in patterns, whether more floral or rendered with lines and clay. Also included are large charcoal drawings in rich grays, one of which is accentuated with splashes of red and blue paint. These photos also show people in costume, their identities hidden or in motion. They seem as ready to transform as Furey is to switch artistic modes.

Deb Furey: Hidden Light Until March 26 at Foundry Gallery2118 Eighth St. NW.

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