That galleries are still standing in Washington, and in relative abundance, is a remarkable thing. They have become symbols of economic stability: arts venues are the first to be impacted by financial troubles in a struggling economy and among the slowest to recover. Over the last few years, the number of art galleries in Dupont Circle has dropped by nearly half. But though this city’s art scene has taken some recent blows, the community is still alive and strong and that the work is as powerful as it ever was.
Susan Calloway Fine Arts (1643 Wisconsin Ave., NW) is currently hosting an exhibition of landscape painter and local favorite Ed Cooper through June 11. Cooper, who carries an easel as a constant companion, has become a regular around the Washington area and Georgetown art community, with a number of exhibitions in Georgetown galleries under his belt. He has been known to paint around here rather frequently, and one past show even focused on scenes from around the neighborhood and the canal.
His current exhibition reveals an old-fashioned master craftsman in top form. The paintings, which from the titles seem to have been produced largely throughout this region, from the Potomac to the Shenandoah to the Chesapeake, have a natural and cumulative resonance that speaks to Cooper’s love of the landscape genre. The scenes of barns and wheat fields, misted rivers and autumn sunsets, rolling hills and billowing clouds, are vague but precise, everywhere and nowhere at the same time. They are sensitive and specific to the moment, much like impressionism, but together they reveal something much larger, more encompassing, like a collection of American short stories.
And Cooper is such a good painter that his nostalgic, Hopper-esque style, which might otherwise be cheeky or kitsch, just works. This is a man who was born to put paint down on canvas, and as an audience this is impossible to ignore. Like listening to Miles Davis play the trumpet, there is an inevitable beauty in these works that comes from the soul of a pure artist. In a time of endless conceptualization, banter and speed, it’s refreshing to see an artist with a simple mission: to paint something beautiful, and to paint it really well. (CallowayArt.com)
Opening Friday, May 20, the Parish Gallery in Canal Square (1054 31st St., NW) is hosting an exhibition of works by members of the visual arts faculty of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, titled “Elements and Principles.” There is a reception from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. on Friday, May 20th, and the show will run through June 14. The featured artists/teachers are Melchus Davis, Mike Easton, Bill Harris, Rod Little and Jacqueline Maggi.
Among the artists, Davis, who teaches painting and drawing, has a wide and diverse style. From landscapes and cityscapes to figurative compositions, all in a variety of media, Davis’ work has an untamed beauty about it, with heavy influences drawn from impressionism and expressionism. The work is fragmentary and expertly composed, with figures and spaces blossoming from a joyous abstraction.
As a whole, the exhibition is an enlightening and inspiring experience, and a very worthy project. For a school that nurtures so many creative and artistic students, it is important that the teachers get their due. (ParishGallery.com)
A series of drawings by artist Carlotta Hester are currently on display at Govinda Gallery (1227 34th St., NW) through June 11. During the summer of 2010 Hester attended the world’s largest traditional Irish music festival in County Cavan, Ireland, “Fleadh Cheoil na hÈireann.” She observed and documented this age-old event with countless drawings, and the gallery alights with flowing images of musicians, singers and dancers, created in the presence and spirit of musical gatherings, theaters, dance classes, pub sessions and outdoor concerts. The life and movement within the drawings capture rare and intimate moments between artists that shouldn’t be missed. (GovindaGallery.com)
“Contain, Maintain, Sustain” just opened at the Artisphere in Rosslyn, right across the Key Bridge, through July 17. This joint exhibition explores sustainability’s influence on contemporary art, with participation from Washington Project for the Arts and Washington Sculptors Group. A group of 24 international and local artists were selected to present work that activates and complicates the local and global dynamic that has historically framed ideas about reuse and conservation of environmental resources. This innovative and original show is not to be missed. (Artisphere.com)