The most incendiary photo in the Renee Stout show at Hemphill Fine Arts depicts a human heart inside a fiery house, with a slightly darker shade of red. The power and the mystery of the image are not unexpected, but its immediacy is. Stout often exhibits intricate sculptures of found objects that combine primordial spirituality with obsolete technology. They seem designed to receive the past from ether – or the ethereal of the past. But "When 6 Is 9: Visions of a Parallel Universe" is mainly composed of paintings, their subjects are rarefied or abstract.
The image of the fiery heart, "Red House in Black Rain", is one of the two triggered by Jimi Hendrix's song "Red House", and is dedicated to him. Another of his songs, "If 6 Was 9", is the source of the show's title. Other inspirations of the show include the artist's reaction to the current political climate and the advice of the artist Sean Scully, who encouraged Stout to explore non-representational painting for a 2017 show in his New York studio.
"The show is pretty bloody," Stout admitted in a recent gallery interview. Gory red smears the background of "Bellona (Roman Goddess of War)" and three small paintings resemble crimson drops on microscope slides. Flame and blood can represent violence, but also essence and purity. "No Lie in Her Fire" is the title that Stout gives to a rendition of a fireball partially covered in thick black smoke.
The selection offers only a few assemblies and one is combined with a painting. "The Guardian", a 1996 piece that incorporates a bird's skull, is next to an image of 2018 in which the skull-based creature becomes one of the four "Guardians of the Parallel Universe". The others include a snake and an ancient racist doll, entities that could be seen as sinister or offensive, but here they are transformed into magical protectors. The powerful can be good or bad, or maybe both at the same time.
Instead of the obsolete radios and televisions that Stout often uses, this array presents a series of archaic cell phones. Their now useless cases have been redone in frames for small portraits that the artist labels "passports". What kind of travel do they authorize these curious documents? One who is, whatever the destination, powerful and mysterious.
Renee Stout: When 6 Is 9: Visions of a Universally Parallel Until December 15th at Hemphill Fine Arts, 1515 14th St. NW.
The seven windows of the unique artist of "Fall Solos 2018" by Arlington Arts Center (plus a separate one upstairs) are not thematically linked. Yet most of them involve a kind of history, often personal. Nekisha Durrett multiplies a family heirloom in a field of four-leaf clovers, white and ceramic rather than green and vegetable. Aimee Gilmore fills a gallery of maternity-related objects, including a bottle re-painted in fuchsia chrome, a huge print of breast milk sprayed on Mylar and a mirror printed with the word "wow" (which reverses to "mom") .
Julia Staples investigates the religious heritage with a video interview of a spiritualist and a six-pointed star hanging in a PVC tube. Tristan Roland mixes high-end plastic and wood objects in pieces that contrast products manufactured at low cost with craftsmanship. Zoe Friedman's cut paper animation sets sounds and images of nature on gamelan music. Cindy Stockton Moore observes current trends with photos of a Philadelphia block of nobility, colored here in homage to the stained glass windows of the artistic center of the Tiffany Gallery.
Artemis Herber deals with ancient and even tectonic history in his paintings on shabby and shaped cardboard. The wavy material once seemed to be an integral part of the artist's rocky landscapes, but these four elegant pieces transcend their packaging origins.
Dawn Whitmore reflects recent events, as well as larger concerns, in an installation inspired by a true story of a man from Aleppo who has been home for more than four years. "A house is like a mind that keeps everything", in the Wyatt Resident Artists Gallery on the second floor, it simulates the house of the hermit of the war zone, and also his thoughts. The man read Shakespeare and Molière while he waited for the war to end, so Whitmore filled the space with books and recorded voices. The readings of literary texts overlap in a Babel audio. The room and the brain, however overwhelmed, are the only shelters available from total chaos.
Fall Solos 2018 Until December 15th at the Arlington Arts Center, 3550 Wilson Blvd., Arlington.
From a distance, Negar Ahkami's paintings are remarkable for their aquatic tones and whirling energy. A close look at "The Taking", the Arlington artist show at the Cody Gallery, reveals both his technique and intent.
Ahkami paints with acrylic enamels infused with glitter and made of plaster. The raised areas and glossy surfaces suggest ceramics and mosaics, while the drawings invoke the artistic heritage of Iran, the ancestral homeland of the Baltimore artist. The dynamism of the images reflects "the fascination with exotic stimuli", explains a note from the gallery.
This theme is made explicit in the piece of the show's title, an exhibition similar to a museum of 29 simulated archaeological fragments. Ahkami has produced small artifacts to illustrate how motifs and objects of ancient Persia have been incorporated into Western life and art. It is a worthy lesson, but less compelling than the oceanic strength of the larger paintings.
Negar Ahkami: The Taking Until December 15th at the Cody Gallery, Marymount Ballston Center, 1000 N. Glebe Rd., Arlington.
Meet your neighbors
The last exhibition space in the Brentwood / Hyattsville corridor, Portico Gallery is a corridor off five artist studios in a new condominium. To inaugurate the space, the curator John Paradiso invited 22 artists from the area to show their work. "Meet the Neighbors" includes many participants whose studies are within walking distance, as well as several from further afield and one who works in the district Brookland district.
Masters of glass and ceramics are well represented in the district of Portico. Among those who show here is Alan Binstock, which contains a yellow bloom within four blue glass plates, and Laurel Lukaszewski, whose three clusters of porcelain bloom in shades of gray-green. A similar balance of muscles and delicacy characterizes the assembly of Leslie Berns wood lamellas, whose nuances also change slightly, and the self-portrait of Dave Mordini in melted aluminum slices. The warehouses that overlook the nearby CSX trace more and more local artists, but their new inhabitants retain something of the industrial heritage of the area.
Meet your neighbors Until December 22 at the Portico Gallery and Studios, 3807 Rhode Island Ave., Brentwood.