All the work in RoFa Art Gallery’s current show includes text, yet “Reading Room: Current Words” doesn’t lack visual appeal. Some of that comes from making or remaking books. Acaymo Cuesta meticulously carved the word “Herstory” into the out-turned pages of a multivolume encyclopedia of art history, and Avelino Sala incised feminist slogans (mostly in Spanish) into hardback covers arrayed in shades of purple. Even a simple alphabet by the graffiti artist known as Worm is sensuously pictorial, since it’s rendered in bulbous, smeary and hot-colored letters.
Van Gogh through a pinhole Waterproof Dye Ink
As is typical of the group exhibitions curated by Gabriela Rosso at this gallery and other venues, the art is generally political and largely from the Spanish-speaking world. “Reading Room” includes artists familiar from earlier shows and incorporates a few works Rosso has exhibited before, as well as new pieces from previously seen series, such as Sala and Eugenio Merino’s doormats emblazoned with embarrassingly misogynist remarks by famous historical men.
In one case, the art turns on words that are unreadable. Merino symbolically shredded the constitutions of three Latin American countries with deplorable human rights records and lumped the illegible scraps inside glass frames.
As might be expected, several of the contributors address migration. Erika Harrsch created a United States of North America passport whose seal features the artist’s familiar talisman, a hemispheres-traversing butterfly; the document’s interior text is the NAFTA trade agreement. Davis Birks fabricated a migrant-ready suitcase whose transparent acrylic sides reveal a promise packed inside: “Trust Me I Have Nothing to Hide.”
Words abound but don’t dominate in two of the show’s highlights, Marina Vargas’s elaborate drawings in silver ink on black. Inspired by tarot cards, the nearly four-foot-high pictures encompass symbols of death, disease and transcendence. At the center of one is a human heart with a scorpion nestled inside, a reference to the belief that the venomous arachnids sometimes commit suicide. That’s a myth, but then these illustrations are not intended to be scientific. They conjure dread and despair, but also magic and hope.
Reading Room: Current Words Through Oct. 22 at RoFa Art Gallery, 316 Main St., Gaithersburg.
The center will not hold in Kathryn Camicia’s abstract paintings. The pictures that introduce her Studio Gallery show, “Letting Go,” consist of rough squares of mottled, seemingly moist paint splashed at the middle of contrasting single-color backdrops. These potent “Portals” combine three kinds of pigment — flashe, oil and latex — to yield densely layered, multihued blocks that suggest both liquid and light. While the backgrounds could not be flatter, the soft-edged central forms simulate infinite depths.
Diane Arbus was accused of exploiting ‘freaks.’ We misunderstood her art.
In another series, the local artist uses variegated color to frame channels of white that flow irregularly through the middle of diptychs. Although the color schemes are not naturalistic, these pictures evoke creeks and recall earlier Camicia abstractions that were more clearly derived from nature. So does the show’s title painting, which is dominated by an aqueous blue wave that breaks on a tan expanse that can be seen as a beach. Other pictures somewhat resemble Jackson Pollock canvases but are focused on central figures that appear floral.
It’s fitting that much of Camicia’s work evokes seas and streams, since her technique emphasizes the fluidity of her media. The artist combines oil- and water-based pigments, which can overlap but never fully mix. Pouring and dripping, Camicia crafts pictures that surge with possibility.
Kathryn Camicia: Letting Go Through Oct. 22 at Studio Gallery, 2108 R St. NW.
Consisting primarily of overlapping circles, the abstract paintings in Mira Hecht’s Addison/Ripley Fine Art show look simultaneously centered and uncentered. The soft orbs of “Mirror of the Floating World” are rendered mostly in complementary colors and arranged to pull the eye both toward and away from the pictures’ cores. The hues are vivid but can be extremely pale; blacks and grays occasionally appear, whether by themselves or layered atop brighter colors. The effect is kaleidoscopic and gently dynamic.
This Renaissance portrait is even stranger than it appears
The term “floating world” is best known from Japanese art, where it originally referred to the fleeting pleasures of urban life. That’s clearly not what Hecht has in mind. This show offers a few screen prints that include depictions of birds, but most of the pieces aren’t representational. If they illustrate anything other than pure color, it might be the qualities of prismatic light.
The most recent canvases extrapolate from smaller painting-drawings in which some of the roundels are outlined in graphite, and other pencil strokes jut among the circular forms. Even when set off by gray lines, though, Hecht’s bobbing spheres are incandescent.
Mira Hecht: Mirror of the Floating World Through Oct. 22 at Addison/Ripley Fine Art, 1670 Wisconsin Ave. NW.
The two series on display in Charles Philippe Jean-Pierre’s “Future Memories III: Stargates and Celestial Beings” are different in layout but identical in technique. For both, the artist makes one-of-a-kind prints that he then clips into pieces to construct collages. The stargates, inspired in part by stained-glass windows, are densely packed and evocative of architecture. The celestial beings stand alone or in twos, their multi-pattern, cut-together figures silhouetted against bright, single-color backgrounds.
Jean-Pierre, who was raised in Chicago and teaches at American University, draws from his Haitian roots to represent spiritual aspects of physical existence; among his models are veves — Vodoun symbols designed to summon astral spirits.
The artist’s beings appear in outline to be everyday people but are filled with color and light. So are the stargates, which are quilt-like patchworks of boxes, arches and circles. According to the gallery’s statement, Jean-Pierre sees collage, in a way, as “a summary of experiences.” His assemblages seek to express both a universal future and the artist’s specific past.
Promax Ink Dtf Charles Philippe Jean-Pierre: Future Memories III: Stargates and Celestial Beings Through Oct. 16 at the Silva Gallery x Latela Curatorial, 1630 Columbia Rd. NW.