In the galleries: Images reflect an artist’s unrivaled technical skill

In the galleries: Images reflect an artist’s unrivaled technical skill


Immaculately rendered, Jörg Schmeisser’s etchings depict man-made and natural edifices with intricate detail. Yet pictorial complexity was not enough for Schmeisser (1942-2012). The globe-hopping artist packed his already dense pictures with contrapuntal flourishes and sometimes incorporated diaristic text written in a tight, distinctive style. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to bring a magnifying glass to view the exquisitely crowded prints in “The Traveler’s Eye, the Artist’s Touch,” a retrospective at the Art Gallery at Stanford in Washington.

The artist was born in an area of Germany that’s now in Poland and was based in Australia for much of the second half of his life. He studied in Kyoto from 1969 to 1972, taught there from 2002 to 2008 and married Japanese textile artist Keiko Amenomori. These 24 prints, part of a collector’s promised gift to Georgetown University, include evidence of travels to Italy, India, Cambodia, Antarctica and the United States.

“New York” clumps Manhattan architectural landmarks that partly break down into a grid that echoes Midtown’s street plan. The composition of “Uluru (Ayers Rock)” is mostly foreground and underground, with the Australian outcropping framed by overlapping horizontal lines and a large subterranean tree. “Kiyomizu” delineates that Kyoto temple, known for being elevated on a platform, with writing and mysterious forms in the mists and shadows below the deck.

The black-and-white prints, some subtly accented by touches of color, include exacting nature studies: an array of icebergs, a chart of 100 flower buds and a single bird whose image pops from an inky black background. Schmeisser etched these and his other pictures with the precision of a scientist, but endowed them with a singular autobiographical character.

Jörg Schmeisser: The Traveler’s Eye, the Artist’s Touch Through Jan. 7 at the Art Gallery at Stanford in Washington, 2655 Connecticut Ave. NW. 202-803-8100.

Stephen Benedicto

Ears and trash bags are the motifs of Stephen Benedicto’s “The Body and Infinite Excess,” and they’re endowed with meanings that are specific to the artist. Yet those meanings may not be the most compelling aspect of the Culturehouse show.

Benedicto, who divides his time between D.C. and Berlin, is illustrating concepts from Lacanian psychoanalysis. The ears, elegantly cast in silver from the artist’s own, embody the role of listening in therapy. The black bags represent waste and excess, and refer to Jacques Lacan’s cryptic assertion that the analyst “acts as trash” in psychiatric dialogue.

These two symbols take a remarkable number of forms in this show. Melted trash bags became the pigment of black allover “paintings” through which the outline of a hidden ear can be discerned. In photographs, a black-clad Benedicto reclines amid draped plastic bags, barely visible in the monochromatic environment. Bags also pack a clear vitrine, nestling one of the many ear sculptures. (Other ears are available in trade for a visitor’s cellphone, a deal that had no takers as of the early days of the show.)

Viewers needn’t admire (or even understand) Lacan to appreciate Benedicto’s skill and inventiveness. As in his previous local show, the artist shows a flair for working with unconventional materials and a fascination with the human body and submerged objects and information. Whatever is hidden underneath, the skin shimmers alluringly.

Stephen Benedicto: The Body and Infinite Excess Through Jan. 7 at Culturehouse, 700 Delaware Ave. SW.

Kit-Keung Kan

Classical Chinese landscape paintings were rendered with black ink, without the watercolor tints that Kit-Keung Kan sometimes adds to his updates of the genre. But gentle green or blue hues are not the most novel thing about the Chinese-born local artist’s “Rhythm of Nature.” Even more distinctive are Kan’s compositions. The pictures in his show at the Chinese American Museum focus tightly on their subjects, and often convey a sense of motion.

A distant mountain is usually prominent in a traditional Chinese landscape, whose earliest examples are more than 1,500 years old. These painted vistas are imaginary, not based on actual places, but appear as solid and immobile as the rocky crags they feature. Kan’s recent subjects are swaying pines and rushing waterfalls, viewed up close as if through a telephoto lens. The artist leaves unpainted white areas that effectively conjure mist and white foam. The inspiration for the churning waters includes Chinese sites and the Potomac River’s Great Falls.

Verse usually accompanied Chinese landscapes, and that’s a precedent Kan upholds. His terse poems are incorporated into the image, as well as printed in Chinese and English alongside the pictures. The show also includes purely calligraphic works, brushed on banners and suspended on fan-like paper forms. The characters are painted in a variety of colors, some of them bright. At his most expressive, though, Kan makes paintings that are mainly gray, with hints of green and blues, and most dynamic where the paper is entirely blank.

Kit-Keung Kan: Rhythm of Nature Through Dec. 31 at the Chinese American Museum, 1218 16th St. NW. 202-838-3180.

Michelle Peterson-Albandoz

After reclaiming her materials from landfills, Michelle Peterson-Albandoz turns the wooden remains of demolished houses into large, 3D wall sculptures. None of these are literally representational, but some of the most striking pieces in the Chicago artist’s Long View Gallery show, “Elements of Nature,” are stylized renderings of real-world phenomena.

Although some individual pieces are painted or tinted, Peterson-Albandoz often emphasizes the wood’s natural tones, revealing and contrasting the vast variety of colors that qualify as brown. Woven together like abstract jigsaw puzzles, the sculptures assume alternately organic or geometric forms. Some protruding cylinders look like partial chair legs, connecting the assemblages to their architectural or decorative origins.

If many of the sculptures are as rectangular as a typical house, the show includes several that jumble their wooden bits into perfect circles. Among these is a set that depicts the moon in four of its phases. Made with sho sugi ban, a Japanese technique for preserving wood by charring it, these blackened pieces depict partially dark sides of the moon. The effect is celestial, and yet as gnarled as one of the trees that, several transformations ago, was felled to begin a process that culminates in a Michelle Peterson-Albandoz sculpture.

Michelle Peterson-Albandoz: Elements of Nature Through Dec. 31 at Long View Gallery, 1234 Ninth St. NW. 202-232-4788.

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