The show takes its title from a recent series that includes renderings of a cat, a rabbit, a dog within a leafy garland and a bird that perches atop, rather than inside, a metal cage. The animals are elegant yet jagged and lumpy, with bits of protruding steel that reveal the original shapes of the castoff pieces Frank incorporated. If Alberto Giacometti had built his craggy figures from found-metal fragments, they would have looked something like this.
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The smaller of the two rooms is devoted to “Remembering Andromeda,” a spiraling stack of small chair forms, and related paintings of individual chairs rendered in metal leaf. These refer to the myth of Cassiopeia, mother of Andromeda and a queen whose arrogance drew the wrath of Poseidon. Supposedly, Cassiopeia was turned into a constellation that resembles a flesh. That’s why Frank spins metal seats as if they were stars in the heavens.
“One of my objectives has been to make works that appear finished yet leave the process brutally evident,” Frank says in her statement. The artist achieves that, but the results are more graceful than brutal.
Mary Annella Frank: Creature Comforts Through April 24 at Fred Schnider Gallery of Art, 888 N. Quincy St., Arlington. Open by appointment.
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Between the Sky and the Earth
In Tarek Al-Ghoussein’s stark overhead photograph, a man stands at what appears to be the abrupt end of a two-lane highway, staring beyond at an expanse of white sand. This near-empty scene is not exactly the standard image of the United Arab Emirates, known in recent years for such hyper-modern urban enclaves as Dubai. But urbanity and modernity aren’t the preferred subjects of “Between the Sky and the Earth: Contemporary Art From the UAE,” an exhibition curated by Munira Al Sayegh for the MEI Art Gallery to mark the UAE’s 50th anniversary.
The four photographers in the 12-artist show depict mostly unpopulated scenes. Lamya Gargash’s are interiors and Alaa Edris’s are computer-manipulated to give architectural elements a sci-fi feel. Augustine Paredes portrays the lives of truckers through vignettes of vehicles, signs and ephemera. Al-Ghoussein evokes loneliness and alienation by including a single black-clad figure (likely the artist himself) whose presence is incongruous at such locations as a surrealistic desert playground or a traditional edifice that looks to be abandoned.
Solimar Miller includes palm trees in a decorative print on fabric, and watercolorist Mohammed Kazem uses densely arrayed hanging laundry to represent an apartment building’s teeming population. But most of the non-photographic works are abstract, minimalist and often three-dimensional. Shaikha Al Mazrou stacks four steel chevrons whose faces are coated in blue; Ebtisam Abdulaziz disrupts an orderly target design by painting it on rippled wood; and Afra Al Dhaheri’s two constructions feature cotton rope to stand for human hair. Making art that is so simple and intimate is an understandable reaction to burgeoning urbanization.
Between the Sky and the Earth: Contemporary Art From the UAE Through April 29 at the MEI Art Gallery, 1763 N St. NW. Open by appointment.
History is mostly submerged, but occasionally visible, in Rush Baker IV’s recent paintings. “American Sunset,” the Hyattsville painter’s show at Hemphill Artworks, was partly inspired by Tony Horwitz’s book “Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War.” The results include three canvases titled “Harpers Ferry” and one called “John Brown.” That last piece has the most representational imagery of any in this set, although its two warlike figures (one of whom appears to be Brown) constitute just a small part of the complex, mostly abstract picture.
Baker paints with acrylics, augmenting the brightly hued pigment with plaster and resin, and sometimes paper and spray paint. He layers the materials, sands the surface and then repeats the process multiple times. “It’s a matter of adding and subtracting compositional elements until the painting reveals itself to me,” the artist says in an interview published by the gallery.
Most of the paintings pit blue against pinkish red, suggesting “Battle Flags,” as two of them are titled. A few (including “John Brown”) are dominated by yellow that contends with swirls of purplish black. Most of the gestures appear soft-edged, but some areas are firm and glossy. Most notable of these is a pool of reflective pink in “Harpers Ferry II.” This rose lagoon is a rare placid region in sweeping pictures that depict, if seldom literally, the Civil War. It’s also a sort of mirror, allowing viewers to glimpse themselves within the chaos of an American conflict that’s yet to be entirely resolved.
Rush Baker IV: American Sunset Through April 29 at Hemphill Artworks434K St. NW.
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The juxtaposition of bold black lines and vivid color provides a lively contrast in Amy Guadagnoli’s abstract woodblocks. There’s also another contrast in “Ritual & Relief,” the artist’s show at Washington Printmakers Gallery. Alongside prints in her familiar style are 15 small, mixed-media “ritual grievance drawings” that Guadagnoli began making weekly in 2020, exactly six months after her spouse’s death. Their watery hues are poignantly unlike the heavy black outlines and bright red touches of the other work.
The first of the hushed, delicate pictures is titled “Pink Hospital,” but the drawings portray mood more than places or events. The same is true of the woodblocks, which can suggest landscapes and include the representational details suggested by titles such as “Icequake.” Often strongly vertical, the artist’s prints are kinetic, with swirling and plunging forms set off by subtle patterning in the quieter colors. Guadagnoli evokes the real world while carving scenery that exists only in her mind.
Amy Guadagnoli: Ritual & Relief Through April 29 at Washington Printmakers Gallery, 1641 Wisconsin Ave. NW.