Generated by Artechouse’s skilled technicians, “Ase” is derived from the visual work of Vince Fraser, a London digital illustrator. The soundtrack is based on African drumming and incorporates spoken-word poetry by Philadelphia’s Ursula Rucker, who is known for collaborations with the band the Roots. The results resemble a psychedelic, non-narrative equivalent of “Black Panther,” the comic-book movie that sought to combine African tradition with global high-tech.
Among the show’s principal motifs is the African mask, once used for ritual purposes across much of the continent. These appear as contoured 3D sculptures, illuminated with ever-shifting lights, as well as in many virtual versions. The latter are arranged into kaleidoscopic patterns in the main room’s swirling, gold-heavy digital montage, or meld with visitors’ faces in interactive displays in one of the smaller galleries. Mirrored walls and floors glimmering with projected images also blur the distinction between viewer and viewed.
This is hardly new territory for Artechouse, whose wall-to-wall exhibitions are always designed to bathe people in light and sound. But this show invokes cultures that are little known in the West, even to many descendants of the people who created them. “Ase: Afro Frequencies” is far too flashy, jumpy and glitzy to function as a history lesson. But it does have historical resonance.
Ase: Afro Frequencies Through Nov. 13 at Artechouse, 1238 Maryland Ave. SW.
One of the Bernard Dellario gouaches on display at Amy Kaslow Gallery is titled “Cutting Through,” which would be an apt alternate title for the local-artist show called simply “Washington Landscapes.” Both Dellario and pen-and-artist Brandon McDonald blaze paths — for the eye, if not the foot — through the surprisingly serene wilderness near downtown D.C.
Many of Dellario’s gently impressionistic pictures depict Rock Creek as it dawdles through and around large, glistening rocks. The meandering channels carved by the stream are complemented by the indirect routes taken by sunlight that’s bent and diffused by foliage. More open compositions such as “Inlet” neatly mirror sky and water, but Dellario seems most at home under tree cover, where light dapples rather than glares.
McDonald’s detailed black-and-white drawings depict dry land, although sometimes buried in snow. While a hiking trail is often the centerpiece of his pictures, the walkway may be off-center, curving or barely visible. A few drawings rhyme with Dellario’s paintings: “Vibrations” foregrounds a rocky waterway, and “Up & Away” stripes a path with tree shadows. As in Dellario’s pictures, there’s a sense of motion, but not necessarily in a forward direction.
A more pointed view of local geography distinguishes the lone work by the show’s third contributor, Andrea Limauro. The Italian-bred artist gazes into the future at a Lincoln Memorial whose environs have become tropical. Rendered in a partly pointillist style, the painting shows the landmark framed by palm trees and messily overgrown with greenery. Where Dellario and McDonald view nature as a respite, Limauro foresees it as a potential threat to Washington’s neoclassical order.
Washington Landscapes Through Sept. 11 at Amy Kaslow Gallery, 4300 Fordham Rd. NW.
They’re clearly landscapes, but Sarah Hardesty’s artworks don’t depict a particular place. Viewers of her “Time Binding” won’t be surprised, though, to learn that she was born in Maine. Now a resident artist at Arlington Arts Center, Hardesty makes stark, abstracted views of the sort of rocky outcroppings common in northern New England. The hard-worked surfaces of the mostly black-and-white painting-drawings demonstrate that the artist’s hand can be as abrasive as the water, wind and grit that shape stone over millennia.
Hardesty acknowledges the man-made world with color, notably the orange used for space suits and warning signs. That garish hue appears in small touches throughout the artist’s work, notably in a construction made of found branches in which shorter, orange-painted lengths are tied to a longer, unpainted one. There’s also a floor-level arrangement of found rocks coated with chrome vinyl so they resemble both miniature mountain peaks and auto parts. Silvery tones appear to be intrinsic, yet have an unnatural quality, in a close-up video of gently rippling water. Like Hardesty’s paintings, the video depicts natural forms that are both utterly primal and artfully stylized.
Sarah Hardesty: Time Binding Through Sept. 4 at Arlington Arts Center, 3550 Wilson Blvd., Arlington.
Excited fuchsias and calming blues are among the hues engaged in “Conversations in Color,” a four-woman show at Martha Spak Gallery. All the participants draw from cubism and abstract expressionism, but jumble such precedents in lively ways. They sometimes incorporate representational elements, and occasionally disrupt the overwhelmingly flat imagery with illusions of depth. Atypical, yet somehow characteristic, is an Octavia Frazier still life in which one-dimensional blocks of colors abut renderings of fruit that are modeled to simulate roundness.
The artworks are all paintings, but some feature collaged bits. Their titles often refer to nature, although such inspirations are not always literally visible. Tidiest are Kay Walsh’s abstractions, whose forms are mostly rounded but often hard-edged. Marthe McGrath and Jennifer Duncan array pigment more loosely, evoking the natural world with rich greens (in one of McGrath’s pictures) or literal leaves or trees (in two of Duncan’s). Yet all four artists share a taste for hot oranges and pinks that make their visual chatter bold and scintillating.
Conversations in Color Through Sept. 6 at Martha Spak Gallery, 40 District Square SW.