Northern Virginia Art Beat

April 15, 2009 9:03 PM0 comments



O, Say Can You…

Paul Levy, Prints and Graphic Design, at Art and Frame of Falls Church (111 Park Ave., Falls Church).

This exhibit runs through April 29, and is on view during normal business hours, Monday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. For more details, call 703-534-4202.

Humorous art works should be expected from a guy who passes out business cards that read “Paul LEVitY.” True to form, almost all of the 50 some odd works on view here have a light-hearted facade. However one is quickly reminded of the old saying, never take a light-hearted man lightly. Indeed, almost all of the images harbor a ponderously serious message just beneath the playful veneer.

Levy’s 18 silkscreen print series on the Bill of Rights uses modified versions of the 50-star American flag to express the essence of our inalienable rights. The right of a free press is illustrated with a front page mock-up of The Washington Post for Dec. 21, 1972. Other than The Post header bar, the entire front page is an American flag, implying that any news the paper prints is, in fact, an act of Americanism. Worth noting is that this art work came on the heels of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 during the Vietnam War, and a quick web search reveals that the film “Deep Throat” was being argued in court that week. It was a time when freedom of the press and free speech issues were in a state of flux. With our historical hindsight, we also see this piece acting as a sagacious bit of foreshadowing of Watergate and the key role of The Post in the eventual downfall of a U.S. President.

On a controversial note, the right of dissent is illustrated with an American flag to the right side of the page and a reversed flag, with flopped colors, to the left, illustrating that un-Americanism is an integral part of what makes America. The image adroitly points out that it’s typically the left wing providing the dissenting balance that keeps us from marching off into some form of mindless flag-waving fascism.

Another series of silk screen prints circa 1975 deals with the then new-fangled bar codes. Levy took a rather all encompassing tack with this, injecting a bit of big brother paranoia into the images. As we look back on these works, you almost have to chuckle over how innocent it all seems in today’s code-laden society. The image of a brick wall, each brick imprinted with bar codes, forewarns of a world where you can’t even build a brick wall without a computer. Fairly insightful stuff considering it’s a 34-year-old message.

And Then There Was Art

‘Reclaimed,’ at the Target Gallery in the Torpedo Factory (105 N. Union St., Alexandria). This exhibit runs through April 26. For more details, call 703-838-4565 ext. 4 or visit torpedofactory.org/galleries/target.htm.

Of all the galleries around town, the Target Gallery consistently does the best job of bringing in work from outside the Metro area. Target Gallery’s open call shows are truly open to all comers, where other galleries around town offer open call shows to Metro area or, at most, to Mid-Atlantic artists. The Target Gallery typically brings in work from across the nation, with a few international pieces as well.

The D.C. area art scene operates in a bit of a bubble without any real connection to the outside world. We don’t even have a decent connection to Baltimore, and we’re practically joined at the hip. It seems to be a problem in general, but the Target Gallery is doing what it can to fight that insular structure.

“Reclaimed” is a recycled materials show juried by Steven and Linda Krensky, Linda being the art dealer and Steve being the biggest art hound in town, seeming to magically appear at every art opening. The 33 works on view were culled from over 450 entries.

Recycled shows can run the gamut from interesting to literally rubbish by a different name. Good recycled art runs off the act of raw creativity in its playful and innovative use of appropriated materials. In a sense, the work has the same underlying ethos of high-end design work. While high-end design operates in that rare environment where money is no object, recycled art hits at the other end of the spectrum, where money is not required. One could debate who’s got the creative upper hand here, but you’ve got to admire the folks making something from nothing.

Of the 14 area artists in the mix, Erwin Timmers of the Washington Glass School gang shows his archaeologically-inspired take on 1980s era personal technology, titled “What We Leave Behind.” Adam Bradley assembled one of those ever-so-cool “Jet Pack” sculptures that takes us back to an innocent age of space travel and boyhood dreams. Honestly now, who doesn’t want to have a jet pack of their very own?

“Podulator” by John Stephenson of Boone, N.C. riffs on the same vibe with a Deco-era teardrop auto headlight assembly brought into the hyper-cool space age 1950s with assorted metal bits attached. With auto parts running amok, Mexican artist Alfonso Arambula Robles crafted “Chat Noir,” a cat with its back up and hair standing on end, using half of a car tire and screws to depict the respective cat parts.

The most dedicated recycler in the bunch might well be David Edgar of Charlotte, N.C. and his “Bluetail Reef Cruiser.” A metal sculptor with a MFA from Cranbrook, Edgar turned to detergent bottle fish a few years ago. He now runs his own “Plastiquarium” (www.plastiquarium.com) stocked with fish from the “Plastizoic” Period. The shtick he’s cooked up to go with his sculptures is as playful as the work itself. He’s certainly one artists who knows how to have fun with it.

Facebook Iconfacebook like buttonTwitter Icontwitter follow buttonGoogle+Google+