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Review | In the galleries: An artist clocks in on a visual concept of time


Compared with the idea of time, a perennially tricky topic, a clock is a simple thing. Mechanical ones are just a few gears and a motor inside some sort of box. But in Emily Francisco’s show at IA&A at Hillyer, a single wall clock becomes a multidimensional portal, shadowed literally and metaphorically by lights and video images.

The local artist’s “A Brief Study of Time” centers on what her statement calls “a malfunctioning West German pendulum clock.” In the darkened gallery, the device is highlighted by LEDs that change color in response to ambient sounds. (Clapping works well.) Five small cameras deconstruct the clock into close-up views of parts of its inner mechanisms; those images are transmitted live to floor-mounted video screens, two vertical and three horizontal.

Francisco’s installation responds to a C.M. Lawrence essay that questions whether time really exists. But the piece can also be seen as a study of, well, seeing. It does for the viewer’s perception what the human eye (and brain) can: Behold an object in whole or as its parts, in landscape or portrait mode, and as submerged in or separate from the light that shadows or illuminates it. All of which happens, of course, in a split second. Francisco’s visual exercise accentuates time, but doesn’t stop or even slow it.

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Taking a more archaeological approach to chronology, Magdolene Dyskstra sketches battered Greco-Roman columns. These handsome drawings constitute roughly half of the Ontario artist’s “In the Shadow of Empire,” on display in the gallery adjacent to Francisco’s show. The other part consists of two sculptural columns made of thin wooden strips partly covered with soft-looking blobs of purplish unfired clay.

The drawings depict ancient architectural features that are weathered and damaged. Some of the columns resemble damaged trees, cut off like stumps or tipped over and lying horizontally. And yet they endure, like so many aspects of classical-period Mediterranean culture.

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The 3D columns appear to embody carbon-based life, far less stable than stone yet just as durable in its own way. The bulbous clay forms, dotted with cell-like ovals, suggest protoplasm in a state of continual remaking. Dyskstra’s wood-and-clay structures are fragile and tentative, but the processes they represent are potentially perpetual.

Emily Francisco: A Brief Study of Time and Magdolene Dyskstra: In the Shadow of Empire Through Aug. 27 at IA&A at Hillyer, 9 Hillyer Ct. NW. 202-338-0680.

Divided between prints and photographs, Washington Printmakers Gallery’s “This Land” also splits between sweeping vistas and more intimate views. The group show contemplates the American landscape, from vast Western scenery to a collage-like monoprint of industrial New Jersey that artist Leslie Rose’s statement calls notable for its “lack of beauty.”

The most compelling photos acknowledge human intervention: Bob Burgess observes irrigated crop fields in Florida, and Clara Young Kim spies two tiny cows beneath a massive sandstone butte in Utah. But it’s the printmakers who tell the more complex stories. Ron Meick’s painterly monotypes are folded and cracked to symbolize fracking, and Rosemary Cooley’s monoprint-collage winds a highway, outlined in glitter, across a landscape built in part from road maps and the lyrics of the Woody Guthrie song that provides the show’s title.

Both Nina Muys and Susan Wooddell Campbell offer blue-heavy triptychs of local waterways: Muys frames a historical vignette of fishing Native Americans between two renderings of arrowheads; Wooddell Campbell bobs three views of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in a river of soft color. Deborah Schindler’s black-and-white linocut may bend the show’s premise a bit, but to impressive effect: In her “Carnival in the Garden of Eden,” a costumed woman clutches an apple as she reclines atop a tree flanked by two dragon-like lizards. It’s not a specifically American scene, but it is an engrossing one.

This Land Through Aug. 27 at Washington Printmakers Gallery, 1675 Wisconsin Ave. NW. 202-669-1497.

While some of the flickering imagery in “Lights Out 2023” is photographic, most of the videos in the seven-artist show at Brentwood Arts Exchange are drawn, whether by hand or computer. Rather than deliver the cryptic narratives typical of most video art, these animations tend toward the abstract, the atmospheric and the seemingly organic. The scale of the works often suggests microscopic life, but some of the shimmering, shimmying forms could just as easily be galactic.

Jacqueline Hoysted offers a sort of landscape whose soft-edged shapes pulse in floral tones of yellow, purple and green. In Heloisa Escudero’s piece, white-on-black drawings are slowly infiltrated by color. The images in MichaelAngelo Rodriguez’s video, all black-and-white, billow like smoke. The cartoonish animation by dN eQ features a wormlike, yellow-green creature that undulates across the screen. Noah McWilliams’s two-monitor video divides a promenading entity from its legs, which are relegated to the lower screen.

The only purely photographic video is Shelby Hubbard’s cryptic scenario of a woman and a large doll on a beach. Rashad Ali Muhammad places an actual human head at the center of the composition, but overlays it with kaleidoscopic patterns. The colors swirl, illuminating one corner of the darkened gallery with the force of a miniature sun.

Lights Out 2023 Through Aug. 26 at Brentwood Arts Exchange, 3901 Rhode Island Ave., Brentwood. 301-277-2863.

Two generations and as much as two millennia removed from their sources, the artworks in “Metamorphosis” are paper-pulp castings of plaster replicas of sculptures from ancient Greece and Rome. Previously the property of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the nearly 70 plaster pieces now belong to George Mason University. Jennifer Lillis and Christopher Kardambikis, who made the molded-paper versions on display at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, both teach there.

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The castings are not perfect copies of the copies, let alone of the originals. The artists embrace the lost fidelity by incorporating discarded prints from the university’s printmaking studio. Bright colors and geometric designs from the rejects survive in the paper casts, calling attention to the material’s recycling. Here are such venerable relics as frieze-blocks from the Parthenon, reproduced in blotchy, pulpy pink. The original statues are ageless and unyielding, but these incarnations are contemporary and impermanent. The contrast is as piquant as it is playful.

Jennifer Lillis and Christopher Kardambikis: Metamorphosis Through Aug. 27 at the Writer’s Center, 4508 Walsh St., Bethesda. 301-654-8664.

POST AUTHOR: Mark Jenkins

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