Arts & Entertainment

Northern Virginia Art Beat

‘PhotoGenesis’ through January 13 at McLean Project for the Arts. McLean Project for the Arts, on the second floor of the McLean Community Center, 1234 Ingleside Ave., McLean, VA. Gallery Hours are Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturdays 1 to 5 p.m. For more information call (703) 790-1953, or see www.mpaart.org.

PhotoGenesis, a juried open call show, had as it’s thematic entry form teaser the idea of showing art that began with photography and went from there. It was by implication looking for envelope pushing art that expanded the notion of what photography is in the modern art context. What it found in the end was a lot of arty black and white work that often looks old, but feels new.

Even if it falls somewhat short of it’s rather lofty initial goal, it’s a first rate photo show to be sure. The comment has been made that ‘it’s a juried show that looks like a curated show.’ Quite a complement for an open call show, and one I’d have to rubber stamp.

Michael Mendez has two large scale photograms ostensibly of pharmacy cough syrup bottles. The 200ml bottle titled ‘Ten Year Chip’ seems to have the cosmos more or less bottled up. It’s a wonderfully dreamy image, that conjures thoughts of fireflies in a bottle.

Catherine Day has a pigment print (current art speak for archival digital printing methods) on silk titled ‘Father’. Comprised of several sections of fabric stitched together and set off from the wall. The image intentionally wafts in the breeze as people walk by.

It’s an interesting contrast this breezy almost diaphanous image of a solid static tombstone. The whimsical vicissitudes of life giving air currents contrasted with the stale, static, weighty finality of death.

For me, the high point of the show is Fraz Jantzen’s large scale inkjet on plastic print tilted ‘Loop (Meditation on a thing Vernon Johns said)’. I’m going to go slightly out on a limb here and call this one of my all time favorite art objects. It’s not cool work, it’s blow torch hot. Simply stated, ‘Loop’ is a photo of an Escher stair case. That is to say a stair case that goes up (or down if you wish) but in effect goes absolutely nowhere. It’s one thing to draw such a device, but a whole other matter to actually photograph something that can not exist in three dimensional space as we know it.

Metaphorically speaking, ‘Loop’ is the equivalent of a blank stare. How you interpret it will tell everything about you and your attitudes, and absolutely nothing about the visage before you. I’m a hard core egalitarian, so I naturally draw references along the lines of the inexorable equality of all people. Strive as you might, you will never rise above your fellow man. "The more things change, the more they stay the same", etc. The ‘God’s eye view’ style of perspective adds to that as well. But like I said, that’s me, you’ll no doubt draw your own associations. It’s not easy to come up with material that invites such wide open metaphorical interpretations.

Jantzen shot hundreds of digital black and white photos. Piecing them together in the computer in a near seamless fashion to craft the final image. The work retains immense detail, despite it’s near six foot girth. As close as you want to get, it works as a textural record of the stair case. From thirty or forty feet away it works as a purely abstract image of block forms. That sort of flip flop is rarely seen in any medium, but more akin to painting than photography..

"Is photography art?" they ask. ‘Loop’ is about as close to a total, and multifaceted art object as you will ever find. You slave away perfecting your craft for decades, then one day at the height of your powers you turn out something like this. You do it on a consistent basis and you become famous. You do so while changing the way art is made, and people remember your name for hundreds of years. Simple as that. Sigh…..

Also showing at MPA in the Atrium Gallery, ‘Beyond the Box: Drawings by Hsin-Hsi Chen’. Is a series of shadow boxes that seem a cross between origami and Escher-esque drawings. Segmented three dimensional constructions and renderings of box forms. At times the drawn images seem to match the constructed forms, and yet at other times they seem to work against each other. I have a feeling these are works best seen in natural light that moves with the passing of time, and not static staged gallery lighting.

’Tis the season to give art, ‘Art for Giving, Holiday Exhibition (small works)’ through December 6 through 28 at Greater Reston Arts Center, 12001 Market St, Suite 103, Reston, VA . Gallery hours are Tuesday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday Noon to 4 p.m. For further information call (703) 471-9242 or see www.restonarts.org.  Note: Thursday Dec. 14, the American Youth Philharmonic Orchestra Quartet plays from 7 to 9 p.m.

The 24th annual ‘Christmas Revels’ at Lisner Auditorium, GW University, 21st & H Streets NW, Washington, DC. "Christmas Revels features early American music, dance, and drama drawn from Appalachian, Shaker, African-American, Pennsylvania Dutch, Morovian, and Native American traditions." Tickets are $12 to $22 for ages 18 and under, $18 to $40 for adults. Group discounts for 10 or more. Weekend performances run from Friday December 8 through Sunday, Dec 17. Friday and Saturday evening shows are at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday afternoon shows are at 2 p.m. Call (202) 723-7528, or see www.revelsdc.org.

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