Review | In the galleries: Big messages conveyed in close quarters


With curtains, paintings and a few other elements, Heather Goodchild has staged a miniature museum in the smallest gallery at IA&A at Hillyer. The individual parts of the Toronto native’s “Violet Peach” aren’t unusual, but they combine to express what the gallery’s statement calls an “unsettled state of consciousness.” Goodchild’s installation is on view alongside Jeremy Jirsa’s mixed-media work and Lynn Alleva Lilley’s photographs.

Cloth partitions divide Goodchild’s show into three rooms. The first two each link a painting with wool-and-burlap hooked rugs; the subjects are such traditional ones as flowers, a reclining person and dogs in a forest. The third chamber contains nine small oils of people in architectural spaces, whether domestic or monumental. These pictures, too, are traditional, except that they’re hung at the eye level of a faceless three-foot-high figure made of ceramic, cloth and wood. Crouching to inspect the paintings, viewers may feel they’re intruding on the mannequin’s territory.

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That’s likely intentional, since the paintings are so attuned to the oppressiveness of interior spaces. The pictures depict sites such as a basement cafeteria, and many are oriented upward to reveal the rooms’ ceilings. Both the paintings and the small gallery holding them feel cloistering yet claustrophobic. Some visitors will linger; others may flee.

The smiley face is the ironic motif of Jirsa’s “Gray Area,” which is mostly painting but also encompasses video, photography and found-object sculpture. According to the Baltimore artist’s statement, the show was inspired by “reactions to bouts with Tourette’s, severe OCD, anxiety and depression, ultimately leading to the overwhelming projection of a facade to the world through a smile, while suffering in secret.”

Jirsa combines such glossy everyday objects — actual or simulated with adept trompe-l’oeil painting — as black plastic trash bags, pink neon-tube hearts and metallic Mylar balloons emblazoned with, of course, blithe grins. It seems noteworthy that all these pop-culture relics are essentially hollow, with no substance behind the printed-on smiles or other exterior details.

The pictures in Lilley’s “Earth Bound” often employ narrow depth of field, so that in a shot such as “Dove and Robin Nesting,” only the dove is crisp. The intent may be to fix on a specific detail of a larger landscape much as the human eye does. But the technique might also be the photographer’s way of disguising the narrowness of the seeming wilderness she is documenting.

The pictures were made more than seven years in Sligo Creek Park, a sliver of nature where Lilley located deer and snakes as well as birds near her Silver Spring, Md., home. The critters are enclosed within the photo frame, and also by the tightly packed brambles the artist’s statement says “feel like both sanctuary and entanglement.” Lilley’s neighborhood wilderness may be slender, but it’s dense.

Heather Goodchild: Violet Peach; Jeremy Jirsa: Gray Area; and Lynn Alleva Lilley: Earth Bound Through Aug. 28 at IA&A at Hillyer, 9 Hillyer Ct. NW.

David-Jeremiah & Focus Group 3

Perhaps the world’s least calming yoga studio, David-Jeremiah’s installation at CulturalDC’s pop-up space is modeled on a prison day room. The formerly incarcerated Dallas artist’s “Foga: Real N—- Edition” is partly satirical, but sincere in its dedication to what the gallery statement terms “radical nonviolence.” That theme is illustrated with such brutal pseudo-artifacts as a display of shivs — homemade prison knives — and white wooden cutouts in the shapes of guns.

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“Foga” is short for “felon yoga,” an imaginary exercise business whose logo is a peace symbol made of shell casings. Metal benches, tables and chairs echo jailhouse decor, and four videos introduce Foga’s fictional entrepreneur and other characters, mostly wearing ski masks. The many references to violence are jarring, but the artist considers them purely metaphorical. Designed to help Black men channel their rage, “Foga” is a program for spiritual rather than physical exertion.

Incarceration is also the theme of the four David-Jeremiah pieces in “Focus Group 3,” Von Ammon Co.’s summer group show. Assembled from prison contraband, the two-sided collages feature pictures of guns, scantily clad women and — one of the artist’s touchstones — pricey Italian sports cars. The artworks fit well into the 16-contributor show, which is heavy on found objects and images, often roughly juxtaposed.

Another recurring factor is damage: Helmut Lang’s battered disco ball is spattered with blood-like red pigment; Catharine Czudej’s ceramic and metal panels appear to be corroded; and Sylvie Fleury’s floor-mounted steel metal squares are covered with smashed makeup compacts and scattered cosmetic powder. Other jaundiced looks at the cosmetics industry include Kayode Ojo’s assemblage, which drapes a faux-fur coat and accessories over a chair, and Max Hooper Schneider’s red-plastic terrarium, filled with fake plants, tiny bottles and the word “Botox” spelled in pink neon. As is frequently the case at Von Ammon, consumer products are presented as both beguiling and repellent.

David-Jeremiah: Foga: Real N—- Edition Through Aug. 28 at CulturalDC pop-up, 1831 14th St. NW.

Focus Group 3 Through Aug. 31 at Von Ammon Co., 3330 Cady’s Alley NW.

The soft-focus mixed-media images don’t make their subject immediately obvious, but Quinci Baker’s show at Mehari Sequar Gallery is all about an incident involving Venus Williams. The tennis star, then 19, was penalized when beads came loose from her hair on the court at the 1999 Australian Open. “Show Your Hand” memorializes the incident with an artfully smudgy rendering of the athlete and a set of 15 small paintings of the audience at the tournament. Also featured are seven convex mirrors, festooned with beads, that diagonally ascend the wall as the color of their ornaments shifts from red to orange to pale yellow.

That progression of hues clearly appeals to Baker, a Prince George’s County resident who recently earned an MFA at Yale. But the crux of the show is Baker’s identification with Williams, whose experience embodies “things being projected on Black women,” the artist told a recent visitor to the gallery. Baker’s pictures are blurred and mostly pastel, but they’re meant to celebrate the tennis player’s strength and perseverance.

Quinci Baker: Show Your Hand Through Aug. 29 at Mehari Sequar Gallery, 1402 H St. NE.

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