Comings and Goings
Usually, exhibits with Japanese themes build to a crescendo around Cherry Blossom time, but this year, it looks like the celebration came early. Several of January's most promising exhibitions highlight Japanese techniques, but obsessive artwork, collector-selected pieces and live frogs round out this month's exhibit offerings.
In "Silent Blossoms," an exhibition opening Jan. 18 at the Japan Information and Culture Center, a husband-and-wife duo presents two wildly different Japanese techniques. Tamiko Matsumura celebrates nature with delicate designs in deep indigo dye on cloth. Her husband, Yasuo Matsumura, offers austere, carved Noh masks, which draw upon the 600-year-old theatrical traditions.
Also on Jan. 18, the Mandarin Oriental opens an exhibition of Yoshitoshi Mori's stencil prints in its gallery space. The prints, which come from the University of Maryland's collection, deal with historical Japanese figures and characters from folklore. The exhibition is open daily, but visitors are advised to call 202-554-8588 before making the trip; the gallery room is sometimes booked for private functions.
Ikebana -- or flower arranging -- has a long tradition in Japan, but practitioners from the Sogetsu School give this ancient art a contemporary twist. For the Art League's bi-annual show, members of Washington's Sogetsu School select works by Torpedo Factory artists and create fresh flower arrangements inspired by them. Special programs, including a demonstration and tea ceremony, accompany the exhibit. It's only up for a week -- from Jan. 31 until Feb. 4 -- but it's well worth a visit.
From Jan. 9 until Jan. 30, the Art League presents the work of painter Jill Banks. The gauzy oil pictures seem to capture their subjects unaware, which allows viewers to peek in on unrehearsed moments in their lives. (Reception: 2-4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 13)
The Mid City Artists have got to be the most organized group of artists in this town. In addition to the bi-annual walking tour of their open studios, they're showing off finished pieces at Studio Gallery until Jan. 26.
Creativity has its perks, but "Committed," this month's show at Fraser Gallery, shows off some of the obsessive-compulsive drawbacks. Swirling, intricately detailed pen-and-ink drawings by Fiona Ross, an emerging artist who earned high praise from Post critic Michael O'Sullivan, are on view alongside an installation by Dawn Gavin and photographs by Stephanie Booth. (Reception: 6-9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 11)
On Jan. 25, the National Geographic Museum welcomes "Frogs: A Chorus of Colors," a traveling exhibition featuring live frogs from across the globe. Interactive components enhance this exhibition, but let's face it, the true stars are the poison dart frogs, bullfrogs and tree frogs that will make their home inside the museum until May.
For its upcoming show, the Arlington Arts Center tapped six prominent local collectors and asked them to do the curating. The selections are wildly different: Heather and Tony Podesta's picks are photographs and a site-specific sculpture inspired by nature. Philippa Hughes has selected D.C. graffiti artist Tim Conlon to work directly on the gallery walls. Henry L. Thaggert presents the photography and video work of husband-and-wife duo Bradley McCallum and Jacqueline Tarry. And the others are equally diverse. (Reception: 6-9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 1)
Reception of the Month
Fifteen artists offer a different take on portraiture at Curator's Office this month. They present representational and abstract works about Phillip Barlow, a local collector and curator (who is among the curators in the Arlington Art Center show above). Video works, sculptures and even sound pieces pay tribute to the man. Want a catch a glimpse of the face that could launch 15 portraits? The opening reception's your time to do it. He'll be among those packed into the Curator's Office "micro-gallery" from 6 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 12.
If the tiny Curator's Office gets too crowded, venture across the hall to G Fine Art's photographic portraiture show, which also opens that night, or across the street to the opening of Phil Nesmith's solo exhibition, "My Baghdad," at Irvine Contemporary. Nesmith's Baghdad work has been previously featured in this space; it combines present-day pictures of the warn-torn city with photograph-printing techniques of old.
"Edward Hopper," simply one of the best exhibitions of the year, closes its doors on Jan. 21. Visit on a weekday if possible. I encountered a long, snaking line of visitors on a recent Sunday. "Going West! Quilts and Community," an exhibition about quilts and life on the prairie, also closes on Jan. 21.
"The Art of Being Tuareg," a National Museum of African Art exhibition that fuses anthopology and art, features some intricate and beautiful metalwork. See it before it closes on Jan. 27.
January 28 is the last day to see the Building Museum's look at illustrator David Macaulay.
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