Must See Art Exhibitions, January 2023: Art and the City

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Annika Elisabeth von Hausswolff (Photo: American Chronicle Press). Image courtesy House of Sweden

One of the great joys that comes from living in Washington, DC is being able to access global cultures simply by taking metro versus having to fly across time zones.  Currently, four exhibitions offer the opportunity to see a rising British star at 11:Eleven Gallery; reexamine American society through the eyes of a group of Swedish artists;  an exhibition by Middle Eastern and South Asian artists who tackle global environmental issues; and a hand-cut paper series by Rosa Leff who explores changing cities across the world.  Lastly, Bradley Stevens captures DC’s “quality of light” through oil paintings of familiar landmarks.

11:Eleven Gallery
“Self Help”
by Eve De Haan
10 Florida Ave NW,  202-766-8283
11elevengallery.com

11:Eleven Gallery was founded by British expat and Londoner Nicola Charles and specializes in showcasing contemporary British art.  Currently on view is a recent series by Eve De Haan, who also uses the pseudonym Half a Roasted Chicken.  A rising international star, she has shown at the Saatchi Gallery and Museum of Neon in Los Angeles.  Her solo exhibition at 11:Eleven Gallery titled “Self Help,” delves into De Haan’s observations of the effect which technology has on youth culture and how it impacts their relationships.  “Self Help” is a series of bright pink neon words created in various handwritten block and cursive types. The artist selected neon as a medium as it allows her to explore “how malleable definitions of words and phrases can be.”  While works like “Be Nice” and “Happiness = Absence of Unhappiness” merit their own examination, collectively, the typographical work weaves a storyline which the artist believes “is a way of carrying culture.  Everything you create is a story, from beginning to end.”  So what is “Self Help’s” story?  That part is intentionally left up to the viewer to interpret and understand. Through January 22.

Abdulnasser Gharem. “Climate Refugee” (2022) Lacquer paint on rubber stamps mounted on aluminum. Courtesy of the artist and Middle East Institute.

House of Sweden
“Faraway So Close”
2900 K Street NW, 202-467-2600
houseofsweden.com

House of Sweden, the cultural arm of the Swedish embassy in Washington, is currently exhibiting a grouping of work by Swedish artists who have spent years examining social and political trends in the United States.  Participating artists include Annika Elisabeth von Hausswolff, Axel Annica Karlsson Rixon, Hannah Modigh, Lars Tunbjörk, Mats Hjelm, Sara Jordenö, Sune Jonsson, and Tova Mozard.  Among the exhibiting artists, only Twiggy Pucci Garçon is American, hailing from Virginia.  Since World War II, American culture and politics have captured Sweden’s imagination, greatly impacting its society and way of life.  Most of the exhibiting artists have spent extensive periods of time living and working in the United States with some their projects going back as far as the 1960s. In other words, the works are not cursory examinations by artists who participated in a short-term residency but rather career-long studies of the United States, its culture and its people.   In “Faraway So Close”, photography and film examine US cultural symbols such as shopping centers, gas stations, cowboys, the Black experience in urban centers like Detroit, the life of long-haul truckers and naturally, Hollywood, the place which created so many of the American icons which drew the Swedish artists to the US in the first place. Through February 19.

Middle East Institute
“Perceptible Rhythms/Alternative Temporalities”
Curated by Maya El Khalil
1763 N Street NW,  202-785-1141 x202
www.mei.edu

Curated by Oxford, UK-based Maya El Khalil, “Perceptible Rhythms/Alternative Temporalities” regroups 12 artists from nations as divergent as the UAE, Iran, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.  Artists include Sarah Abu Abdallah, Abbas Akhavan, Moza Almatrooshi, Sarah Almehairi, Nadia Bseiso, Marianne Fahmy, Abdulnasser Gharem, Ali Kazim, Mohamed Mahdy, Maha Nasrallah, Filwa Nazer, Christian Sleiman.  Collectively, they examine environmental degradation and its impact on society through media as diverse as their countries of origin. While critical of the societal and political structures which led to the current ecological crisis, the artists also offer ways for humanity to move forward and correct the errors of the past.  Of particular note is the work exhibited by Iranian-born artist Abbas Akhavan’s “Study for a Monument” (2014) depicting native plants in Iraq which have been systematically eradicated due to years of environmental destruction. Through April 28.

“Hoopties & Hoagies” by Rosa Leff, 16”x20”, Hand Cut Paper. Courtesy Pyramid Atlantic Art Center

Pyramid Atlantic Art Center
“Pastports” Cut Paper Landscapes
by Rosa Leff
4318 Gallatin Street, Hyattsville MD
301-608-9101
pyramidatlanticartcenter.org

At first glance, Rosa Leff’s works look like digitally altered photographs or screen prints. However, the works are made of paper which the artist painstakingly creates by cutting with an exacto knife from a single sheet.  While in isolation during the pandemic, like many artists, Leff had time to contemplate her archive and discovered elements in her travel photos which she previously ignored.  “Pastports” examines the changing ebb and flow of the cities Leff explored over the years in China, Japan and the US.  She explains what she has come to understand about changing urban landscapes in the following way: “What I love about cities is that they’re always changing. Businesses come and go. Neighborhoods become trendy. Others fall into disrepair. Offices are torn down. Condos go up. And even when things seem to stay the same, the people change. These changes become part of the background of our lives and we may not really even notice them. But when one has the opportunity to return to a place they once loved after a long time there’s the feeling that everything, all of it, is different.” Through January 29.

“Speaker’s Perch” by Bradley Stevens. Courtesy Zenith Gallery

Zenith Gallery
“Capital Light” Oil Paintings
by Bradley Stevens
1429 Iris Street NW, 202-783-2963
zenithgallery.com 

Bradley Stevens’ “Capital Light” on view at Zenith Gallery examines the “quality of light,” as the artist calls it, in our city.  The artist notes that unlike many of the world’s capital cities which are tightly packed and crammed spaces, the spacious placement of DC’s great landmarks allows light to shine through and directly into the city.  Stevens examines the manner in which this penetrating light reflects or casts shadows on DC’s museums, bridges and public spaces. Stevens masterfully captures the warm glow of a setting summer sun over the Key Bridge, the pale light of the late fall on the National Gallery of Art or the mid-day sun at Eastern Market.  All of these scenes will feel both familiar and intimate to the viewer. Through January 28.

Phil Hutinet is the founding publisher of East City Art, DC’s visual art journal of record. For more information visit www.eastcityart.com