December 6, 2023

Both artists’ pictures are mostly, but not entirely, monochromatic. Smith’s are white-on-black drawings of simple shapes on stained linen whose undercoats occasionally reveal brighter colors. Brugnoli’s are drawn and painted atop black-and-white screen prints on Mylar, and all are in shades of gray and black, save for one streaked with gold pigment.

The central images in Brugnoli’s works appear to be derived from photographs and are thus more detailed, even when partially submerged beneath sumi ink, white charcoal or other materials. The motifs include power lines, tree groves and train tracks, all spindly but conveying a sense of motion or connection. Smith offers flatly abstracted renditions of what look to be such commonplace objects as cups and boxes, although her statement likens each form to an “internalized landscape.” Smith pulls closest to Brugnoli’s territory with “Track,” a rendering of a few rough lines that parallel or overlap.

Where Smith’s pieces resulted from family trips to Syracuse and back, Brugnoli’s have a more somber impetus: the 2021 death of her father. Of the artworks’ recurring shapes, the artist’s statement explains, “I repeat to remember. I destroy to reimagine. I bury to unearth.” The cables, tracks and trunks in Brugnoli’s pictures symbolically link past and present, warm memory and cold reality.

Nikki Brugnoli and Anne C. Smith: Forces Fleeting Through April 17 at the Athenaeum, 201 Prince St., Alexandria.

Small Scale Site Specific Sculpture Show (SSSSSS)

Most gallery proprietors offer artists a white room in which to display their work. Artist-entrepreneurs Nancy Daly] and Rex Delafkaran went further at the new location of their pop-up, But, Also. They outfitted the space with white secondhand furniture and other fixtures, including a partial shower enclosure. Then they invited nine artists to add their own touches to complete the “Small Scale Site Specific Sculpture Show (SSSSSS).”

Some of the artworks are conspicuous. Brian Michael Dunn littered the table with screen-printed facsimiles of dollar bills, their images too degraded to prompt charges of counterfeiting. Kevin Kao covered the walls around the shower with mini-shelves whose bulbous shapes suggest the body but whose reflective surfaces serve as mirrors. J. Alex Schechter suspended from one wall a ramshackle array of terrariums whose components include artificial plants, metal vises and fuchsia LEDs.

Other pieces are at least somewhat hidden. Hannah Spector placed an etching and a video-playing electronic tablet inside a drawer. Yan Jin tore six pages from a Jorge Luis Borges book and stuffed them inside balloons, which hang beneath the nailed-down tome. Emily Francisco outfitted a medicine cabinet with small metal boxes filled with healing animal sounds. In this idiosyncratic home goods store, some of the most attractive merchandise is ephemeral.

Small Scale Site Specific Sculpture Show (SSSSSS) Through April 9 at But, Also, 1418 N. Capitol St. NW.

In their influential 1972 book about postmodern architecture, “Learning From Las Vegas,” Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour distinguish between two building types: “ducks,” which assume distinctive shapes, and “decorated sheds.” D.C. photographer Philip Taplinis a duck hunter. The pictures in “AmerIcons,” his Photoworks show, memorialize structures such as Lucy, the six-story wood-and-tin elephant in Margate, N.J. Also pictured are El Gran Toro, a cow-shaped carryout with glowing red eyes and, yes, a building — the Big Duck — in the form of a big white duck.

Yet some of the buildings Taplin photographs are just elaborately decorated sheds. The entrance to Orlando’s Gatorland is a set of monumental green jaws, but they lead into an everyday rectangular structure. That the pictures of such places don’t look ordinary owes much to Taplin’s careful timing. The photographer often shoots at twilight, when pink and purple skies add a fantastical element to the compositions. “AmerIcons” documents a vanishing era in American highway architecture, but its images appear to exist eerily out of time.

The pictures in Jennifer Sakai’s “Hillover Road,” also at Photoworks, are a different variety of vacation snapshots. Inspired by a Long Island house that has served four generations of a family, the project includes sunny photos of the beach, the sky and small commercial structures. Some of the images are interior close-ups, emphasizing the dramatic play of light on household objects. Two series shot between 2008 and 2021 — one of the facade of a local motel and the other of driftwood pylons erected temporarily in the sand — mark passing time. That things change just underscores “Hillover Road’s” sense of continuity.

Philip Taplin: AmerIcons and Jennifer Sakai: Hillover Road Through April 10 at Photoworks, Glen Echo Park, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo.

Wooden walkways traverse miniature sand dunes heaped on the floor of Cody Gallery, beneath a flower-festooned archway and a sculpture of a palm tree. The apparent goal of Dave Eassa’s “People and Places You Don’t Know How to Know” is to take visitors on some kind of journey.

The path meanders into the Baltimore artist’s family history. Descended from immigrants from Syria, Palestinian territories and Lebanon, Eassa has reimagined his past, inspired in part by a five-week residency in Jordan in 2021. He led art workshops for young skateboarders while acquainting himself with local culture.

The show centers on four large paintings that depict Eassa’s grandparents and other relatives. Each has a band of flowers — jasmine, poppies, tulips and red roses — across the bottom to represent the Arab world. The pictures combine sketchy outlines and bold colors to suggest a mix of traditional crafts with American graffiti and Pop art. As recounted here, Eassa’s life story includes more than a bit of urban Baltimore.

Dave Eassa: People and Places You Don’t Know How to Know Through April 14 at Cody Gallery, Marymount University Ballston Center, 1000 N. Glebe Rd., Arlington.


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