About a third of the photos depict a springtime hometown phenomenon: the cherry blossom trees around the Tidal Basin. This is not the easiest subject to make fresh, but Day’s approach yields distinctive imagery. The photographer shot at night, as he frequently does, to achieve lighting effects that appear eerily hyperreal. Long exposures turn the Washington Monument into a white slice through the sky and distant buildings into strings of light, while the pink and white of the blossoms are heightened by shadows.
Even more visually unnatural are the close-ups of individual trees that have been bleached of color and positioned on single-hued backdrops that range from soft gray to bold indigo. Sometimes arranged into diptychs, these pictures highlight gnarled trunks and knotted branches. They were made in Mexico, Asia, the DC region and other areas to demonstrate both the universality and the individuality of arboreal forms.
Day has a special affinity for Bangkok’s multilayered clutter, which is displayed in amusing photos of urban baobabs that serve many purposes. Festooned with wires, cables and signs, and bedecked with banners and votive offerings, each tree is overloaded with purpose and significance. Where the pictures of individual trees depict each as a single entity, these photos show the baobabs to be fully integrated cells of the total organism that is Bangkok.
Frank Hallam Day: Arbor/Real Through April 16 at Addison/Ripley Fine Art, 1670 Wisconsin Ave. NW.
Flowers are traditionally found at funerals and gravesites, but these days some memorial sites are marked with stuffed animals and funny-faced Mylar balloons. Such pop culture artifacts are among the inspirations for Tom Holmes’s “Go Back to PartyCity,” a show of paintings at Von Ammon Co. Updating the classical memento mori, a reminder of mortality, the Tennessee artist depicts toys, ornaments and Halloween decorations. Many of these items are available at the party-supply retailer invoked in the show’s title.
The subjects are often absurdist, but the style is efficiently realistic, with occasional expressionist flourishes. Several pictures, notably a nighttime scene of a beaming jack-o’-lantern and its reflection in a window, are tightly focused, dramatically lighted and composed. Others are more random. The show includes a self-portrait in which the full-bearded artist is positioned below a depiction of a cartoonish skull mask. The disconnection is, as intended, jarring.
A few of the paintings hang on the wall, but most lean against folding chrome chairs (which reflect the daubed images) or balance on plastic jugs. The effect is to make the show seem more impromptu, closer to how the paintings look when propped up in the artist’s studio. The jugs also underscore that plastic is a motif in Holmes’s work, which features several detailed renderings of large sheets of shiny colored material. These are a different sort of memento mori: Plastic is cheap and perishable, yet at the molecular level nearly indestructible. In some form, a Mylar balloon will outlive anyone who buys, or simply looks at, one.
Tom Holmes: Go Back to PartyCity Through April 23 at Von Ammon Co.3330 Cady’s Alley NW.
Cianne Fragione’s pictures — mixed-media drawing-paintings that include collaged paper and fabric — evoke the layers of history, both figurative and literal. They specifically suggest the weathered facades of centuries-old buildings in Italy, the US-born artist’s ancestral land. In the case of “Songs From My Home,” however, the visual inspiration had to be closer at hand. The pieces in Fragione’s show at Gallery Neptune & Brown were made entirely in her DC studio over the past two travel-averse years.
Fragione’s palette is heavy on pink, tan, brown and gray — shades of dry earth and aged stucco — although not restricted to them. In this set of artworks, patches of blue represent what the gallery’s note calls “glimmers of hope amidst hardship.” The sky-hued touches are small but piquant, punctuating areas of soft colors and textures.
Before turning to visual art full time, Fragione was a professional dancer. A sense of that vocation endures in her paintings, which convey motion with free gestures brushed with paint or penciled atop the pigment. In pictures such as “Our Share of Riches Is the Fragrance of the Lemons,” these offhand marks give immediacy to surfaces that appear otherwise timeless.
Cianne Fragione: Songs From My Home Through April 23 at Gallery Neptune & Brown1530 14th St. NW.
There are two styles of abstract drawing in Geoff Desobry’s Waverly Street Gallery show, which is named for a pair of things, “Shadows and Dreams.” But the title refers directly only to the local artist’s set of 16 black-and-white pictures, rendered in pastel and charcoal. Also on exhibit are five pastels in which orange shapes float on blue-black fields. The two series aren’t that dissimilar in means, but vary significantly in impact.
The monochromatic drawings appear more energetic and spontaneous, with smeary blacks and large areas of white that pull the viewer’s eye into the compositions. In “Shadows and Dreams 7,” for example, multiple curved strokes intersect at the bottom, while the top is open, as if waiting for the lines to twist themselves northward. The sense of possibility intrigues.
Although much simpler in form, the color drawings have a strong sense of depth. The most striking is “Valor,” in which an orange rectangle levitates, ever so slightly off-center. The oblong’s edges are soft, creating the illusion that the figure slightly glows. It’s just an orange box on a black field, but it blazes like a beacon.
Geoff Desobry: Shadows and Dreams Through April 17 at Waverly Street Gallery4600 East-West Hwy., Bethesda.