Several mini-shows nestle within “Represent,” Hemphill Fine Arts’s 20th-anniversary exhibition: portraiture, conceptual work, manipulated nature photographs, painterly canvases in the tradition (sometimes loosely) of the Washington Color School. There’s even an impressive selection of posters, invitations and other graphics produced by Hemphill over its two-decade run.
The array features three works by each of 30 artists, too many for the space. Only about 40 fit at a time, so the lineup has changed during the show’s run. During one visit, many pieces were arranged in visual dialogue. These included Colby Caldwell’s “untitled (yellow),” a crisp photo of a dead bird, and William Christenberry’s “Southern Tree, Yellow,” an expressionist line drawing; Steven Cushner’s “Over Under Sideways Down #10” and Willem de Looper’s “Sam,” two very different approaches to balancing hard and soft in a color-field painting; and Robin Rose’s “The Fab Four,” a set of dangling microphones, and “Terratriad,” a set of three abstractions whose metallic tones complement the mikes.
While most of the works are recent, some predate the gallery’s founding. Godfrey Frankel’s stark photo of a barbershop dates to 1947, and “Sam” is from 1968. Digital imaging is pivotal for some of the later pieces, notably Caldwell’s blurrily pixelated photo abstraction and Franz Jantzen’s deadpan shots of “Objects Outgrown” by his daughter. Computer-assisted art’s clean lines also seem to have influenced the handmade art, such as Linling Lu’s precisely rendered update of 1960s target paintings.
Outside such tides is Workingman Collective’s “Craft,” a wall-mounted rowboat whose mechanized oars periodically slam the gallery wall. The piece is whimsical yet a little alarming, suggesting “The Great Gatsby’s” “boats against the current,” now unable to row into either the past or the future.