Thus “Landscape for WAC Jr.” by Andrew Christenberry. presents a model of Sprott’s Church, a modest Alabama structure that became a motif in his father’s work. Yet young Christenberry grew up in DC, not Alabama, and was influenced by the capital’s landmark buildings. Its spectacle includes arches, rotundas and the “Armored Washington Monument”, a black obelisk surrounded by 51 markers (including one for the potential state of New Columbia). Neoclassical and high-tech styles merge in another model structure, the “Lightning Rod” in wood and metal.
Some of the artwork evokes more rustic views: the soaring “Precipice” combines urban and alpine spiers, and “New Mexico Daydream” places a tribute to Georgia O’Keeffe, with a simulated animal skull, in a box inspired by Joseph Cornell. Architectural designs meet natural designs in the striking “Big Wave”, which features wooden curves with jagged, seemingly torn edges. The sculpture freezes in miniature the power and volatility of great moving water.
The pieces are beautifully crafted by the artist, which also manufactures furniture, and smartly installed. Several mounted pieces stand in front of painted backdrops directly on the wall, and some of the models sit on mirrors, so they appear to float like apparitions. Christenberry’s builds are solid, specific, and sharp, but still have the daydream quality.
As they are partly hand-made accordion-folded books, the “Voyages” of the landscape painter Freya Grand fit naturally into Terzo Piano’s bookshop. The show also features freestanding images, mostly small but a few large enough to fully convey the grandeur of the DC artist’s favorite subjects: rocky coastlines, gnarled trees and smoking volcanoes, rendered mostly in subdued hues but energized by occasional touches of lava red pigment. If the small images convey Grand’s pandemic-era sentiment that the world was shrinking, the larger ones demonstrate his wild expansion.
Andrew Christenberry: To the curious and Freya Grand: Travels Until April 10 at Terzo Piano1515 14th St. NW.
A painter-turned-cabinetmaker, Renee Balfour creates sculptures that imitate natural, non-architectural forms. That doesn’t mean the 11 pieces in “Nature Unbound,” her show at the Amy Kaslow Gallery, are rough and steep. The sinuous forms are artfully shaped and smoothly polished, and assembled in such a way as to emphasize the artist’s control over his material.
Finished products are not fully unbound. Rounded, smaller segments wrap around larger ones or attach to them in fringed networks, and two sculptures are penetrated by arrow-shaped rods. Most of the sculptures are fixed to the wall to cast elaborate shadows, mini-forests of shifting gray outlines on the white surfaces of the gallery.
All pieces are crafted from walnut or cherry sourced from a canyon near Balfour’s workshop on the edge of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, and have been carved to reveal the grain of the wood. ‘Regeneration’, the only horizontal composition, includes a curved depression that was part of the original slab. More characteristic of the artist’s style, however, is the multi-part “Descendant”, which is inspired by the “Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2», a canvas from 1912 which is far from naturalistic. Balfour highlights the intrinsic qualities of wood while giving the material a futuristic touch.
Birth becomes a rescue operation in “Catch,” an expressionist painting by Kanchan Balsé in which a baby falls toward outstretched arms like a child let loose from a burning building. This perilous scenario certainly fits the title of “Human Nature,” a showcase of the 10 current members of Sparkplug, the artist collective at the District of Columbia Arts Center that has been repopulated every two years since 2007. But that’s the individual imagination, not the human condition, which connects the works selected by curator Eric Celarier.
Much of the art is abstract, or almost. Adi Segal projects a gold-ornate geometric silkscreen into the third dimension with artful folding. Rebecca Perez’s cowardly red and black gestures on vertical scroll-like canvases embody both physical and emotional trauma. Gayle Friedman’s colorful assemblages feature painted bandsaw blades stretched into loops to give a sense of tension. Decorative arts go wild in Maggie Gourlay’s “Wallpapers for a Warming World”, in which regular patterns blend into more realistic renderings. Louisa Neill makes beautiful stoneware boxes filled with ceramic sticks that can be repositioned to represent the passage of time. Simple letters and house shapes, but also free-form drips, punctuate Pixie Alexander’s acrylic and spray paint image.
Representational works include one set in black and white and another in Day-Glo color: Alex L. Porter’s high-contrast drawings of intertwining tree branches against an empty sky and Caroline MacKinnon’s dramatic landscapes of this which appears to be extraterrestrial terrain or Earth’s Volcanic Prehistory. Shelley Picot’s Paradise Well also seems drawn from the past, in which a face looks up over an abyss suggested by a ring of charcoal-colored paper-clay balls stacked like stones around a campfire. As in Balse’s painting, an urgent upward gaze captures the drama of the human being.