Art for the Holiday Season

John Blee, “Poet’s House — Octavio Paz.” | Courtesy of the artist.

John Blee at Cross MacKenzie

For John Blee, painting is poetry and color is its language.

“Color determines the voice of each painting,” he says. “It can never be exactly repeated. So when I find the right colors in the process of painting, they are like keys that open the works for me.”

His recent work, on view at Cross MacKenzie Gallery, 1675 Wisconsin Ave. NW, expands his “Orchard” series, which began in 2007. These lush, atmospheric environments of color and delicate shapes are a sensory envelopment, recalling the painterly geometric abstraction of Hans Hofmann and the alluring garden scenes of Pierre Bonnard.

Yet Blee finds much of his inspiration in poetry. The origin of this series is connected to the late French poems of Rainer Maria Rilke, specifically his collection “Vergers,” (French for “Orchards”).

Regardless, his paintings are for those among us who adore the secret life of paint itself. They are for those who lean in close to explore the trails of the brush, tracing its path and listening for the echo of colors scratched gently across the taut canvas. For this writer, paintings do not get much better. These are paintings I would like to live with.

Wolf Kahn at Addison/Ripley and Gallery Neptune & Brown

Wolf Kahn is one of the greatest living American landscape artists, able to evoke with his soft, exuberant palette the fleeting essence and particularities of time and place in nature. His work is beloved because he so beautifully communicates his own love for the world so clearly.

Born in Stuttgart in 1927, Kahn came to the U.S. in 1940. He studied painting with Hans Hofmann in New York before venturing across the country on his own, beginning to distill his visions of nature. Kahn’s current work at Addison/Ripley Fine Art, 1670 Wisconsin Ave. NW, is a continuum of his steadily unfolding oeuvre. There are trees, hills, fields and skies, painted and drawn in colors that feel as if they were plucked right out of the sky at dawn.
The exhibition at Gallery Neptune & Brown, 1530 14th St. NW, presents Kahn’s limited editions and unique monotypes, suitable for seasoned collectors and recent devotees alike. It includes both early and recent works on paper that display his iconic use of gestural line, compelling composition and ever-evolving mastery of color and light.

Dana Westring at Susan Calloway

Dana Westring looks for the beauty found in timeless forms. Interpreting the grand, awe-inspiring ruins of Cambodia and Angkor Wat, his watercolors and drawings are meticulously created, with rendering both gestural and precise. Westring’s work, on view at Susan Calloway Art, 1643 Wisconsin Ave. NW, aims to draw us into shadows, scattered across the mysterious terrain of a lost history.

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