Northern Virginia Art Beat

February 24, 2010 11:08 PM0 comments

New Phase/ArtSpace

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Dave Barr’s “I Really Love Your Hate.”

“Phases,” at Falls Church Arts in ArtSpace (410 S. Maple Ave., Falls Church). The exhibit runs through March 21. The gallery is open from noon – 4 p.m. this Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 26 – 27, noon – 4 p.m.; and then from 3:30 – 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through March 21. Note: On FIRSTfriday, March 5, the gallery will be open between 7 – 9 p.m. For complete details, visit www.fallschurcharts.org.

“Phases” is a rather appropriate title for this show. Falls Church Arts itself has been going through successive phases for several years now. This latest, and we assume it’s the last build-out phase for the facility, included wall structures and fixed hard wired lighting (and nowadays no flashlights! Progress reveals itself.). Reportedly, the final wiring was wrapped up only a few hours before the proverbial curtain went up on the opening reception.

The show features the work of some 70 area artists. With few exceptions, each artist contributed two works to the total of roughly 140 works.

Pittsburgh native and current Falls Church resident David Barr is one of several standout artists here. Barr’s two paintings, titled “I Really Love Your Hate” and “Safe For the Time Being,” both employ popular iconography culled from the incessant multimedia stream we’ve been swimming through the past half century or so. Culling and recombining these fractured bits of historical culture, Barr leaves the job of interpreting it up to the viewer.

We have to say there is nothing particularly new about this tactic, process, intent or even execution, per se. After all Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist and even Andy Warhol (to name but a few) made A-list art careers out of just this sort of thing many years ago. One of the things that made them so great, was their fairly early recognition and celebration of what we now all experience as modern life.

Now the data stream is not only non-stop, but actually layered, with people consuming and even contributing to multiple sources of input simultaneously. You have to wonder about the current state of affairs, but be that as it may, you can’t argue with the fractured, highly personalized way we often experience modern life. Therefore, this style of pictorial representation seems more appropriate than ever.

Barr’s current images seem more dense than the ones seen at Artomatic, with the coloration brighter, and the conclusive interpretations requiring deeper thought by the viewer. In short, they seem more intense, more alluring and in many ways more satisfying. The danger with this type of work is that it can become so obtuse and inscrutable that it becomes virtual, if not actual nonsense.

As with all artistic disciplines, it requires a deceptively complex degree of modulation, and control. Barr seems to be doing a good job of it all. For a more expansive look at Barr’s work, visit www.barrart.com.

Virginia Tech graduate Dave Curtis has been toiling away out in the exurbs around Leesburg for the past 15 years or so. His painting titled “Darwinian Daydream II” deals with the permanence of insect life across eons. His other canvas titled “Argus Rising” deals with Greek Mythology. Argus, the “100-eyed monster” from Greek Mythology, is represented as a snake with eyes for scales. The image portrayed shows Argus after death, during his resurrection by the goddess Hera into her peacock. The painting has a creepy all-seeing vibe to it.

Deborah Conn has an interesting watercolor portrait of “Julia.” Here we see a strong vibrant young lady tugging at her long hair as she looks off to the right. We imagine her in the midst of tying her hair off into a pony tail, so that she won’t be impeded in whatever activity she’s preparing for.

Other than the fact that it’s well done, what makes Conn’s portrait sing is her capturing of character, action and even stage of life. Legions of portrait artists would mindlessly imitate the superficial photographic appearance of the subject (which in that case is actually the reference photograph, not the person). Conn’s quiet, simple portrait is actually quite informative, and most certainly the depiction of a living, breathing person.

 

Some Like It Rouge

Redheads” by Kathy Beynette and Melissa Hackmann, at the Lee Arts Center (5722 Lee Highway, Arlington). The exhibit runs through Feb. 27. The gallery opens at 9:30 a.m. Monday – Saturday. Closing times vary as follows: Monday, 6 p.m.; Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 9 p.m.; Friday, 6 p.m.; and Saturday, 5 p.m. For more information, call 703-228-0560.

We got this a bit garbled a few weeks ago ahead of the last heavy snow. (It wasn’t our best week.) To clear things up, the Redheads show is at Lee Center, and it’s a wonderfully playful two-person show that alternates work between Beynette and Hackmann. You can tell the works apart, but they blend together so well you may loose track of whose work is whose. Over and over, the lighthearted depictions of redheads seem to uplift the viewer’s spirit. These images could easily make up the body of an excellent children’s book. This is one of those shows that can have you running in circles trying to decide which one to buy.

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The Northern Virginia Art Beat is compiled by Kevin Mellema. To e-mail submissions, e-mail them to kevinmellema@gmail.com

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