Inside the building are seven handmade hammocks that symbolize relaxation but also craftsmanship, tradition and of course effort. The pieces consist primarily of white rope, which the artist has partially dyed black by burning, tarring, painting, or—in a piece indirectly referring to well-known African-American performers—embellished with sequins. Also dark are the shadows of the intertwined ropes that draw complex, shifting webs on the white walls of the gallery.
For all pieces, Scott drew on the braiding techniques of his birthplace, the South Carolina Lowcountry, known for its African-rooted Gullah Geechee culture. Two of the assemblages have other sources: “I’m Coming Up,” which wraps multiple hammocks around a pole to create a tree-like whole, was inspired in part by “Ladder for Booker T. Washington,” a wooden sculpture by Black with roots in DC sculptor Martin Puryear. The biblical story mentioned in the title triggered “Jacob’s Ladder, A Leisurely Stroll to Heaven for Black Folx” in which three hammocks are hung horizontally to resemble steps. But the hammocks are too far apart to climb comfortably. Scott began Altar of Repose with the idea of stillness, but his art always includes memories of battle.
Sheldon Scott: “Altar of Tranquility: I’ll lie down…” Until August 6 at Connersmith1013 E St. Open by appointment.
Originally presented at the Irish Arts Center in Manhattan, The Space We Occupy was not designed for the space it currently occupies: a towering atrium in the futuristic former Intelsat headquarters, which recently housed the Whittle School & Studios. Just ahead of the opening of the exhibition, which is sponsored by local Irish arts group Solas Nua, Whittle announced it would be closing the DC location, a development that ironically complements the six Irish artists’ focus on change, decay and possible rebirth. However, it seems unlikely that the site will soon be fulfilling contributor Katie Holton’s prophecy, who uses her own tree alphabet to spell the phrase “This Will Be Forest Again.”
Holtons are among the pieces dramatically mounted or suspended in the multi-story chamber. George Bolster’s You Are Made of Stardust is a mobile of stylized celestial shapes in glittering silver and gold. Bolster also offers Extinctioneering: Soon Available Only in Museums, a series of banners printed with photographs of natural history dioramas in the most unnatural shades of pink, green, and purple.
Closer to eye level are Colin Crotty’s almost neoclassical paintings of blurred people with just a hint of faces; Fiona Kelly’s etchings and woodwork with branches of nature images; and Ailbhe Ní Bhriain’s photographic collages of people, fabrics and damaged quarry walls. These walls resemble the 3D surfaces of Neil Carroll’s large collages, which are abstract but suggest abandoned buildings and graffiti-covered storefronts. Set in the pristine atrium, Carroll’s constructions look both out of place and a little ominous, as if the artist had fast-forwarded to the building’s final ruins.
The space we occupy Until July 31 at Whittle School & Studios3400 International Dr. NW.
One of Jenny Singleton’s main inspirations is Islamic art, which generally eschews representation, so it’s hardly surprising that her paintings are abstract. And yet, in the Maryland artist’s Touchstone Gallery exhibition, Do It Whatever, there are bits and pieces of nature imagery as well as embedded messages. The hauntingly intricate “SOS (There Is No Planet B)” places simplified blue waves at the center of a desert landscape that could be seen from the air, and telegraphs “SOS” in Morse code dots and dashes across the image ground.
Other paintings, mostly with metal pigments, contrast watery or plant-like tendrils with ornaments reminiscent of fabric patterns or Persian illuminations. “Shabaka”, which suggests a microscopic cosmos, is covered with delicate light blue filigree. Such gestures may be derived from calligraphy, but they also point to a world written by forces mightier than a pen or brush.
Also at Touchstone is an exhibition of sculptural paintings by Jenny Wu entitled Emoji for Eyes, Easel and Picture. The DC artist, who frequently exhibits her work, begins by applying several coats of latex paint; When the fields are dry, she cuts them into small shards and arranges them into geometric patterns. The resin-coated agglomerations resemble multi-layered mosaics, sometimes opening to reveal a solid color at the bottom of the stack. The 3D collages appear both decorative and pristine, like artificial tectonic plates moving towards the formation of a new continent.
Jenny Singleton: Do it anyway and Jenny Wu: Eye Easel Painting Until July 31 at Touchstone Gallery901 New York Avenue NW.
Broad black brushstrokes meander through space – and metaphorically through time – in Emon Surakitkoson’s recent mixed-media paintings. The Thai-born DC artist’s What Was & What Will exhibition at Gallery Y is an abstract narrative of a particular period in recent history. Not surprisingly, this period was the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, as isolation encouraged artists to turn inward. The gallery’s statement also cites “economic insecurity, political instability and violent hate crime” as motivations for this work.
Surakitkoson’s style is strict and geometric, but with a wealth of detail. The black-on-white pigment is arranged in tight curves that alternately interlock or interlock. Backgrounds are usually white but sometimes contain large areas of thickly textured black, and the clean shapes can be contrasted with drips or cracks. All these elements are in “No. 32122”, in which meandering black bands divide the circular pictorial plane between a dried white top and a mottled black base. This depiction of the arrow of time on a loop-to-loop trajectory has touches of scenery and more than a little bit of drama.
Emon Surakitkoson: what was and what will be Until August 5 at Gallery Y, YMCA Anthony Bowen, 1325 W St. NW.