"Landmarks" at the Virginia Center for Architecture
If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere, and if you make it to only one of these exhibits before they close, it should be "Landmarks of New York by Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel," on view at the Virginia Center for Architecture until April 30.
The 85 black-and-white photographs, which are more aptly described as architectural portraits, include the greatest hits of the Manhattan skyline, such as the Flatiron Building and the Plaza Hotel, as well as some lesser-known, but equally significant, examples of public, residential and landscape architecture spanning the past three-and a-half centuries.
The wall text doesn't skimp on the architectural jargon, but don't be intimidated if you don't know drip moldings or trusses. Accompanying descriptions never talk down to the audience but also avoid academic pomposity, while the chronological arrangement allows the angsty modernists to skip the Gothic revival and jump right to Eero Saarinen's undulating TWA terminal at JFK International Airport and Mies van der Rohe's austere Seagram Building.
Prints at Reynolds
If you think you have to go to New York to see works by Picasso and Matisse while VMFA is undergoing massive renovations, you haven't been to Reynolds Gallery in a while. Open until March 18, "Modern and Contemporary Master Prints" is a blockbuster exhibit of, oh, every major player in art history since the postimpressionist era.
The downstairs gallery is a knock-you-sideways display of contemporary works on paper, featuring lithographs by Jasper Johns and the sublimely succinct Ellsworth Kelly as well as a fantastic photo mosaic by Chuck Close.
Helen Frankenthaler's Japanese-inspired exclamation point of magenta and blue shows just how powerful color alone can be. Upstairs, Picasso's collection of etchings for Frenchman Ambrose Vollard's 1933 commission shares wall space with Matisse's delightfully simplistic reclining women and abstracted faces, while Marc Chagall's "Les Cyclistes" steals the show with its expert use of abrasives to create watercolorlike washes and gradients in the black-and-white lithograph.
Softic at Reynolds
Sharing space with Picasso, Matisse and friends at Reynolds is local artist Tanja Softic, whose "Migration Songs" is also closing next weekend. A suite of chromolithographs and acrylic, pigment and chalk works on handmade paper comprises the University of Richmond art professor's exhibit, and her lofty intellect shines through this highly intelligent show. Precisely drawn constellation charts and geometric graphs of astronomical phenomena are superimposed on softer, more haphazard arrangements of leaf stalks and other biomorphic images. This interplay between mathematics and nature seems to address the relationship between organization and randomness in the underlying patterns of life.
"Artefakts" at Art Works
As an alternative to the traditional painting-and-sculpture shows, "human artefakts," an exhibit of collage and assemblage by an international showing of artists, runs until March 19 in the upstairs All Media Gallery at Art Works and is worth a gander for fans of Dumpster diving and everyday-objects-as-art. Many artists make the mistake of turning off that inner editor and affixing bits of paper and metal willy-nilly to the surface of the work, but some, like Elizabeth Holmes, whose "Ghetto" explores the dirty windows and rusted siding of abandoned buildings, find the middle ground between overdone and basic. Since most of the artists represent studios outside the Eastern time zone, "human artefakts" is itself an assemblage of talent and personalities who may or may not be seen in Richmond again for a while.
Weems at Visual Arts Center
Don't like puffed-up expositions on art theory? Neither does photographer Carrie Mae Weems. "To Be Continued," the acclaimed African-American artist's show at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond, runs through March 19 and is a refreshing departure from the overindulgent world of contemporary art.
The tightly constructed show features two series of images by Weems, representing her early and recent work. While 2003's "May Days Long Forgotten" is a hopeful expression of idyllic youth and includes some compelling images of girls from Weems' own neighborhood, it struggles to compete with the powerful "Kitchen Table Series." Comprising a group of "movie stills," all set around the eponymous piece of furniture, the photographs illustrate a narrative that plays out on accompanying text panels. Weems weaves a story of a doomed relationship whose participants seem to battle modern behavioral standards as much as they battle each other. It's straightforward, legible and, above all, relatable (although let's hope miserable, unhealthy relationships like this aren't that common). Weems doesn't have to make esoteric references to Foucault to be an effective modern artist who creates images that leave an impression in your mind long after you've left the gallery. S
The Virginia Center for Architecture is at 2501 Monument Ave., 644-3041. Reynolds Gallery is at 1514 W. Main St., 355-6553. The Visual Arts Center of Richmond is at 1812 W. Main St., 353-0094. Art Works is at 320 Hull St., 291-1400.
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