In the galleries: Inspired by their homelands and beyond
By Mark Jenkins - May 1, 2015
Tropical fruit, yesterday’s newspapers and sheer color are among the inspirations for the three South America-bred artists in “Forms of the Journey” at Georgetown’s All We Art. The exhibition includes work by Jesús Matheus, a Venezuelan who lives in Boston, and Colombian-born Félix Ángel and Marta Luz Gutiérrez, both longtime Washingtonians. To complete the journey, viewers must travel to Kensington, where Adah Rose Gallery also is presenting work by Ángel and Gutiérrez in “Motionless, I Stay and Go: I Am a Pause.”
Though Matheus’s paintings draw from fellow Latin American artists and indigenous folk crafts, observers with a Northern Hemisphere background may think of Josef Albers. Where Albers nested squares within squares, employing a narrow range of colors, Matheus abuts rectangles of varying dimensions, generally in contrasting hues. One of these canvases is in shades of medium blue, but more typical are pictures in which hot pinks nuzzle cool greens and the tropical palette is disrupted by a black block. The intent may be purely abstract, but there’s a hint of Caribbean landscapes.
Matheus calls his work “architectonic,” yet of these three artists, he is the only one who did not train as an architect. That background is evident in Ángel’s collages, constructed from snippets of printed text. Arranged in regular patterns, the assemblages contrast the bright colors of magazines with the blacks and grays of newspapers. The tidiness, however, is ironic. Close inspection reveals that the words have been cut from accounts of war, corruption and other iniquities. Ángel’s goal is not merely to correlate chaos and order, but also to question how the media trim complex events into simple stories.
Among Ángel’s other works are mixed-media impressionist renderings of bicyclists, equestrians and baseball players. These pictures are featured at Adah Rose Gallery, along with one landscape in a similar style. Evocative of strength and motion, the images celebrate the physical, if not always the human. Ángel’s bicyclists are brawny and dominating, perched on undersized two-wheelers, yet his horsemen are upstaged by their steeds, which seem built for power rather than for speed.
Gutiérrez is showing paintings and related sculptures at All We Art. The canvases are populated with eccentric, black-outlined entities that combine qualities of mammals, insects and amoebas. They’re rendered in a manner that suggests cave paintings, Philip Guston and underground comics. Removed from the teeming compositions and recast as individual fabric sculptures, the creatures appear part Giacometti, part Pixar.
The Gutiérrez artworks at Adah Rose are stylistically similar, but their principal subject is fruit, with just a few uncanny animals. Earth tones and produce-stand hues dominate, and the simple paintings are distinguished by inventive touches. The artist carved seed shapes into the thick pigment atop one canvas, and she pulled red threads from the backing fabric through another picture to simulate protruding spines. Perhaps all these fruits are available in Colombian street markets, but Gutiérrez gives a strong sense of having invented her own little universe.
Forms of the Journey On view through May 17 at All We Art, 1666 33rd St. NW. 202-375-9713. www.allweartstudio.com. Motionless, I Stay and Go: I Am a Pause On view through May 24 at Adah Rose Gallery, 3766 Howard Ave., Kensington. 301-922-0162.www.adahrosegallery.com.