Arts & Entertainment

Northern Virginia Art Beat




Glass works, at the Maurine Littleton Gallery (1667 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.). Runs through Oct. 18.832artbeat.jpg

Michael Janis, and Tim Tate are two of the three principals running the Washington Glass School (www.washingtonglassschool.com). Allegra Marquart has taught printmaking at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) for over 30 years, and also does her glass work at Washington Glass School.

The Washington Glass School is now one of the best known art groups in D.C. Having consistently produced high quality art objects for a number of years, this show is no exception.

Michael Janis shows a series of 37 by 19-inches fused glass panels reinterpreting tarot cards with new imagery and meanings. Janis uses high temperature black paint to form images between various layers within the work that gives them an added degree of depth.

Allegra Marquart depicts fables, and childhood tales in her glass panels. Thin colored layers are fused to the front and back, then sandblasted into relief. Not too surprisingly, the final results resemble inked up linocut plates ready to print.

Tim Tate’s work of late has taken a high tech turn, and now features tiny video screens running short film loops in his trademark glass bell jar reliquaries. The pair of containers entitled “Dreams of Flying” show vintage flying footage skimming cloud tops, juxtaposed with Tate’s film of a caped child play flying by running around in a circle on the front lawn. Cute is the best way to describe it. Normally, cute flirts with sappy like a suicidal moth to a flame. Fascinatingly, Tate manages to avoid that cavernous banal trap, while retaining the work’s endearing qualities.

Tate’s black and white footage has a vintage feel to it that matches the genuinely vintage cloud sequence, and as such provides a direct link between the two films. The films play off each other, one depicting the childhood dream, while the other depicts the reality of flight. More than anything, Dreams of Flying depicts the hope, freedom, and fantasy of childhood. The diminutive screen size reinforces the diminutive nature of childhood, ironically a time when we aren’t afraid to dream big. This piece, like children in general, is wonderfully adept at making us feel young and free again.

Tate also has an entertaining piece called “Virtual Carnival.” Here we see two video screens playing footage of a swing carousel in action. The left panel shows the amusement ride’s mechanical twisting and rising as it turns around and around. The right panel shows an arc of people flying through the air in their swings. Somewhat similar in feel is a spinning portrait piece entitled the “Parkman Legacy,” of Dr. Paul Parkman (inventor of the Rubella vaccine), and his wife.

The most incisive piece here has to be Tate’s piece called “My Love Life Thus Far.” Appropriately depicted on a single screen, we see a vintage black and white film loop of a collapsing building. The building here is constantly going up and down in a cloud of dust and debris. It’s a good metaphor for the way love can create devastating turmoil in our lives until we get it right.

What makes this loop fascinating is the way the building seems to rise faster than it falls. The film is running at a constant speed throughout, so it’s strictly a function of our view point and psychology. We can see the building falling in the distance, and then finally the façade facing us collapses into an engulfing white cloud of dust and debris. That same façade magically pops up from the white cloud as the original footage runs in reverse until the building is whole again, before it all falls apart again.

Aside from the all consuming turmoil alluded to here, after repeated viewings you realize the building facade facing us is the perfect metaphor for the way we maintain our public facade of normalcy in our personal lives despite the occasional all consuming disaster behind it. The abused woman who wears big sunglasses to hide her facial bruises would be the most graphic example of this notion. Similarly once things have completely fallen apart, we restore that facade of normality first, and rebuild the rest of our psyche as we go along, until we are well enough to trust and try our luck at love again. Repeating the process over and over again, until we get it right, or in some fashion just give up on the whole notion all together.

Janis and Marquart’s works are all about glass. While Tate’s work now is clearly focused on video, with the glass elements playing no more than supporting roles. Makes you wonder where future efforts will take Tate’s work. Regardless of what comes next, the current offerings are certainly engaging, insightful, and quite entertaining.

For more information, call 202-333-9307, or see www.littletongallery.com.

“Nocturnal,” at Addison Ripley Fine Art (1670 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.). Runs through this Saturday, Oct. 11. Gallery Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Half a block up the street from the glass show, Washington photographer Frank Day shows a large scale series of nocturnal images taken during preparations the night before last year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Also on view are a few nocturnal shots of Florida jungles, hit from below with colored lights. The Florida foliage has a surrealistic quality about it that begs for a couple of wandering dinosaurs to complete the effect.

The strongest image here is from the Macy’s Parade. “Blown Up 27” has a balloon Royal Canadian Mounted Police character laying face down on the ground, with a white tractor trailer truck behind it. The matching scale of the balloon and truck give the image a toy box quality. Children’s toys having a certain degree of uniformity in size regardless of subject, with planes, cars, trucks, dolls. etc all of vaguely similar size. Knowing this, our minds want to read the background truck in Day’s photo as a toy, despite the fact that we can clearly see it’s a huge, and very real truck. This mental flip-flop makes the image something of a visual joke, that gives it an endearing, and highly entertaining quality.

For more information, call 202-338-5180, or visit www.addisonripleyfineart.com.

Voices de la Tierra, at Artery 717 Gallery (717 N. Asaph St., Alexandria). The event runs from 7 – 11 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 11. Sales from this showing of Latino Artists benefit the Hispanic Heritage Foundation.

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