"MORE or LESS" showcases how D.C.'s affinity for Abstraction has always been a part of its artistic DNA.
by KRISTON CAPPS, Washington City Paper
MAY 24, 2018 11 AM
Process-based abstraction has always been a staple of painting in D.C. The Washington Color School was built by artists who defined their work by their approach to the canvas, whether by staining it or draping it or something else. MORE or LESS, a group show on view at Hemphill Fine Arts, shows how new trends in contemporary painting continue to line up with the work that put D.C. on the map in the 1960s and ’70s.
Morton Fine Art, a gallery that is off to the side of the U Street Corridor in Washington D.C., fills in a niche for vibrant artists of color that are pushing boundaries and expectations on art and its potential. Mixed-media installation artist Amber Robles-Gordon's solo exhibition Third Eye Open, which closes on May 20th, was comprised of 8 assemblages produced in 2018, and presented the meeting between the physical world and the intuition of human experience. The chosen forms of the show – circles and ovum – alluded to the ongoing cycle of inserting and patterning elements for self-discovery, incubation, and introspection. Throughout, Robles-Gordon explored abstract art's potential for demonstrating spiritual growth and emotional connection on a metaphorically cosmic scale – where the rules of time and gravity fall to the wayside.
Her work is multilayered; upon first glance there is an overall image presented of cellular circles that contain significant amounts of patterned dark matter, or space, and then heavily layered nuclei that are brightly colored with strategically placed materials giving balance to the form. Then, upon closer inspection, one discovers tiny details, be they altering textures or hand drawn ink strokes, all seamlessly weaving their individualities into the cohesiveness of the piece. Her art is steeped in duality and the connection to divine feminine, an examination of what femininity means and how it is viewed in relationship to the masculine. Her spirals are comprised of bits of lace, portion of a blouse, lanyard reminiscent of childhood art endeavors, and other found materials that represent the realm of womanhood. The pieces spiral, reminiscent of kundalini energy, further enhanced by the subtle abstract snakes that are strategically woven into the tapestries.
Fabric scraps and damaged tissue paper are the essential ingredients of new work now at Morton Fine Art. Those materials might sound negligible, but Amber Robles-Gordon and Maya Freelon employ them with ambition and impact.
Robles-Gordon, a D.C. native, is known for hanging strands of textiles and other found objects in intricate arrangements. The pieces in her “Third Eye Open” are wall-mounted rather than suspended, and feature circular drawing-collages orbited by smaller rounded objects, some partly covered in bits of garments. The forms suggest zygotes and planets, as well as eyes, but at the heart of each of the larger circles is a leafy motif. Whether seen as cosmic or botanical, the artist’s circling compositions exalt natural cycles.
by Kimberli Gant, PhD, McKinnon Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art
“…an Earth alive in my consciousness as a living crystal being whose etheric geometric skeleton could be mapped in its patterns of energy flows…in ocean currents, the winds, river systems, and distributions of precious minerals. It seemed to me that ancient humans had known this sacred, hidden body of Earth and had settled on it in ways that took advantage of very visceral powers of place.” - Bethe Hagens
At face value, there’s an able group show at the Washington Project for the Arts, filled with work that ranges from the aesthetically pleasing, to the conceptual, and the socially relevant. A 55-color lithograph, “Ramble,” by Benjamin Edwards, is a dizzying map exploding with color and shape. Margaret Boozer’s “Red Dirt Print,” a four-foot square patch of dirt, re-contextualizes the ground beneath our feet into an aesthetic object to hang on the wall. Naoko Wowsugi’s “Thank You For Teaching Me English” presents several photographed portraits against high-key color backgrounds: people mouthing English words for the artist to learn (English is her second language).
This week’s Art Watch is all about an important center for the arts that most of you have never been to. The Delaware Contemporary, or DCCA, is a fascinating art center with ever-changing art installations that is located just 24 minutes from Longwood Gardens, and is free to the public and open every day except Monday.
DCCA has a large parking lot, is easy to get to from I-95 or down Route 52, and offers a safe, light-filled, airy space full of new art to nudge the senses. Such a cool place, and most of us have never been there! Artists often sigh that there are not enough places that show contemporary art (that is, art that shows a new take on what’s going on in the world around us), but sigh no more because we have DCCA.
Amber Robles-Gordon’s “When a Honey Is Looking Just Right,”
East of the River
Although it doesn’t attempt to be comprehensive, Honfleur Gallery’s annual “East of the River Exhibition” usually offers a broad survey. This year brings a tighter focus, with only three contributors. Both Sheila Crider and Amber Robles-Gordon work with fabric and found objects. The art of painter Asha Elena Casey is less closely related, but she does inscribe textile-like patterns into thickly applied, mostly black-and-white pigment.