Where to see art gallery shows in the Washington region



In 1971, performance artist Chris Burden had himself shot in his left shoulder. It’s unlikely that any conceptualist will ever address American gun culture more viscerally than that, but Robert Buck has come close. His Von Ammon Co. show, “Wound Filler,” demonstrates the effects of point-blank 12-gauge shotgun blasts into cylinders of the modeling compound used by embalmers to reconstruct damaged flesh. The voids blown through the waxy material are monuments in reverse to firearm victims, whose ranks have grown substantially since Buck made these pieces from 2004 to 2006.

If the holes at their centers are inherently catastrophic, the seven sculptures are otherwise quiet. Each tube of dried filler, in a variety of corporeal hues, sits atop one or more white plastic buckets and inside a sealed transparent vitrine. The blasted assemblages look like art objects and medical specimens, clinically detached from the brutality that made them.

Also included is a candle, complete with wick, that was cast as a positive impression of one of the shotgun gashes, and a sort-of drawing made by firing a shot through an artist’s sketch pad. The top sheet of paper was left with a bloom-like design rendered in shades of gray that suggest pencil or charcoal, but are actually gunpowder. Again, the remains of violence are surprisingly tranquil.

There’s no blood, viscera or pulverized bone in the sculptures made by the Baltimore-born Buck, who divides his time between New York and Texas. Yet the artist has found a material that, if not actual human fragments, is closely linked to the body. It’s just that instead of repairing corpses, he has used it to simulate fatal devastation. Each of the seven simulated injuries is clean, simple and discrete, but also stands for a larger, and much messier, toll.

Robert Buck: Wound Filler Through Nov. 26 at Von Ammon Co., 3330 Cady’s Alley NW.

It is Brian Kirk who necessitates the qualifier in “Primarily Abstract,” the title of a two-artist show at Zenith Gallery’s downtown space. Where Anne Marchand’s paintings are entirely abstract, Kirk’s sculptures include some representational pieces, as well as random assemblages that incorporate recognizable (if no longer functional) metal objects.

Kirk powder-coats his steel creations, usually in a single, bright color. This gives them a playground vibe, which is reinforced by the Northern Virginia artist’s fabrication of such kid-friendly critters as dinosaurs, an anthropomorphic pea pod and a red-spotted beetle that’s a rare example of a multihued piece. Among the most striking sculptures are ones that appear at once solid and spindly: Its pieces unified by their shared color, “Razzmatazz” uses orbs, curves and mesh to draw a set of jagged red lines in space.

The hard-edge arcs of Marchand’s “Harmony” and “Form and Formless” echo Kirk’s style, but most of the D.C. artist’s gestures are soft and fluid. Mixing acrylic and enamel pigments, the painter renders billowing forms in black, but makes crucial use of white. That color is as much a presence as an absence in Marchand’s pictures, which often feature areas of yolky lushness.

Primarily Abstract: Brian Kirk and Anne Marchand Through Nov. 19 at Zenith Gallery, 1111 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.

The drama is in the painting, not the subject matter, of Dominic Chambers’s pictures. The Connecticut-based artist, whose “What Makes the Earth Shake” is at Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art, often depicts people reading, pondering or gazing out a window. Yet there’s tension in his work, since he and the figures in his paintings are Black. In the hushed moments the artist depicts, “Black life finds reprieve from the brutal state of emergency that so often describes it,” as Zoe Hopkins writes in her catalogue essay.

Another intriguing source of friction in the show, whose title derives from James Baldwin’s 1962 “Letter to My Nephew,” is the dance between realism and abstraction. Chambers’s pictures are representational, yet informed by mid-20th-century art that rejected that approach. Some of the paintings are partly obscured by abstract gestures or overlaid veils of small shapes that resemble leaves or loosely rendered diamonds.

Another sign that Chambers isn’t simply painting the visible universe is his depiction of the ephemeral. Ghostly figures sometimes hover in the background, and in one of the most striking pictures, a man’s hand turns translucent as it rests on a window sill. The view outside is simply of white light, suggesting that the hand is merging with the bright exterior. The person at the window is both secluded from the world and connected to all existence.

Dominic Chambers: What Makes the Earth Shake Through Nov. 20 at Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art, 12001 Market St., Reston.

Fabric seems to express pliable identity in several of the pieces in “Innervisions: Dialogues in Self-Portraiture,” a six-artist show at Brentwood Arts Exchange. A face is just one element in Aliana Grace Bailey’s banner, whose quilted elements suggest a wealth of heritage and connections. In Armando Lopez-Bircann’s video, face and body are covered with digitally animated masks that evoke gender fluidity. One of Holly Bass’s suite of self-images, set in a cotton field to recall her father’s sharecropper past, is printed on gauzy material stretched across a mirror to give a sense of shifting levels.

In Carolina Mayorga’s impeccably staged photos, fabric takes the form of costumes she used to reinterpret figures from her Catholic upbringing, such as a pieta that cradles another woman rather than the body of Jesus. Matt Storm’s photos of his nude or near-nude body in vigorous motion include one printed on sheeting that’s folded tightly onto a narrow frame, thus twisting the image like a flexed muscle.

Hosna Shahramipoor’s self-portraits are even more pointed — literally. One covers a photo of her face with a thousand (according to the work’s title) needles; another uses pins to spell out “I am not white.” Where the show’s other participants employ materials that are flexible, Shahramipoor prefers ones that are sharp and formidable.

Innervisions: Dialogues in Self-Portraiture Through Nov. 26 at Brentwood Arts Exchange, 3901 Rhode Island Ave., Brentwood.

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