Charles Krause is at it again thank goodness. The DC gallery owner and former news correspondent, whose raison d’etre is to show artwork with political content, is focusing a spotlight this month on serious issues facing us all. Culled from what is now a national annual open call, the exhibition includes 61 works by 19 artists on a wide range of issues that are currently caught in a no man’s land of political blue-red gridlock.
Sometimes, politically inspired work becomes too literal or too-in-your-face in its approach, but with the daily plethora of pabulum that we are fed in all forms of media, it is no surprise that artists are often compelled to use a shock effect now and again to get our attention. There is no shortage of this in the current presentation, but for the most part, I was drawn to works that included other elements and approaches.
It isn’t easy to inject humor into serious content, but two artists stand out in the exhibition for the capacity to lighten up a bit. Anatol Zuckerman’s colorful Law and Order drawing, is a mixed media work on paper, with content highlighting a justice system that provides the best legal representation money can buy. The drawing, with figures and characters reminiscent of painter Richard Lindner and even the film “Yellow Submarine,” is a symmetrical composition that features a tower or monument of corrupt power caricatures, with a nude Lady Justice lying down on the job and appearing somewhat inebriated at the top. The work brings with it a dark humor that lingers.
Another work with a humorous vein is Tea for Two: The Koch Brothers’ Legacy by artist Kathleen Ramich. This is one of her signature sculptural light works cum conversation piece, incorporating a large illuminated red ‘T’ form with assembled and found objects that evoke and mock the influence of the Koch brothers and their Tea “Party.” Ramich’s work often incudes a biting humor and I couldn’t help laughing out loud at the centrally-placed mirror image, antique Germanic sweet mold, featuring two little boys sitting across from each other with eyes locked to infinity. More sweets for these sweeties? Please catch my sarcasm.
I was also taken by the subtle and sensitive figurative works of Jennie Neyer, who’s subject is a single homeless woman. She has been drawing this subject for 30 years. Neyer creates authentic and careful treatments of the woman that give one pause. In Homeless, a 30 x 40 inch oil pastel, a figure emerges in subtle tones and textures out of an ambiguous space and is rendered with a respect that defies objectification. As I write this blog, a bill waits before Congress that would include children who are homeless in the definition of “homeless.” Currently children are eliminated from any dialog. It is given a 3% chance for passage. The gridlock on social issues continues.
A human-scale assemblage sculpture by R.M. Croft titled Abandoned Litter commands attention in Krause’s back gallery. Mounted on the wall at an angle, it is at first glance, an interesting form that could relate to transport, yet not so and somewhat alien. Closer inspection reveals that it is comprised of crutches, canes, a beach chair frame, medical hardware, straps and tapes. The whole alludes to the tragedy faced by our wounded vets and the mass domestic gun violence that is now so commonplace in our country.
Peace is a notion that never even enters the discussion before Congress, as the two dominant parties blindly and blithely march to war, but artist Roy Utley has a solution. The Art of Peace is a conceptual work that applies a systematic approach and as such joins a host of contemporary artists who use unique diagrams, schematics, or Venn diagrams. Utley has created a schematic that will school the viewer from point A to point B and more, in how peace can be achieved by following a literal blueprint format with a near step-by-step diagram. The artist explains, it’s “a worldview system map fashioned as a digital logic circuit with feedback loops. It demonstrates a systemic approach to peace-building and conflict resolution theory and practice, critical thinking and positive psychology to shift our culture of war to a culture of peace.” Hint: You’ll need to brush up on your Jung, Gandhi and other heavy hitters.
As I publish this blog, the midterm election results are in this morning. There’s been a shift. Really? The roles are reversed so let the stonewalling and filibustering begin. Where will we be on the political spectrum in this country the next time Krause has a call for art? One thing for sure, there will be no lack of content.
Lines Drawn: America’s Artists Look Beyond the Politics of Red and Blue is on view through November 30.
CHARLES KRAUSE/REPORTING FINE ART Gallery is located at 1300 13th Street NW, corner of N, Suite 105, Washington DC 20005. The gallery is open every Saturday and Sunday, 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., without prior appointment. To make an appointment outside of these hours call: 202 638-3612 or please REQUEST A VISIT form at: http://www.charleskrausereporting.com/contact_us.as