Art Newz & Eventz

Must See in the DMV: Riveting Rothko and Other Winter Art Happenings

Even the run-of-the-mill rectangular Rothko colorfield composition is, on paper, rendered all-the-more sublime. (Photo Kelly MacConomy)

Alexandria, VA – Quick! Stop whatever you are doing, after reading the new Zebra, of course, and head straight for the National Gallery of Art East Wing mezzanine to see Mark Rothko: Paintings on Paper. This boffo exhibition showcasing over 100 works on paper explores a Rothko you’ve never known. Many works are on exhibit for the first time.

The iconic expressionist master of the twentieth-century art metaverse exceeds all expectations about his generic geometric color-field parameters. The works range from the provocatively figurative, with portraiture that harkens to post-impressionist masters such as Picasso, Cezanne, and Bonnard, transitioning to the extremely symbolic and surrealistic. These furiously expressive images hint at conceptual and gestural elements evocative of Miro and Picasso, toying with the movement in the 1920s and 1930s.

Would you ever guess this is a Rothko? More likely a Bonnard or Cezanne. Even Picasso would be a good bet. Save the palette; it’s a well-disguised Rothko titled Untitled (Seated Woman in Striped Blouse), 1933/1934, watercolor on construction paper. (Photo Scott MacConomy)

The 100-plus paintings prove to be visually and spiritually transformative. The exhibit, curated by Adam Greenhalgh, takes the viewer on a two-floor metaphysical magic carpet ride culminating in a singular, monumental work of Rothko’s exquisite rectangular fields of gold, amber, garnet, bubble gum, and sky. It’s sheer serenity now!

Untitled, 1944, watercolor, ink, and graphite on watercolor paper. The influence of Picasso and his masterpiece Guernica (1937) as well as the surrealism of Joan Miro are evidenced in this work. (Photo Kelly MacConomy)

Mark Rothko: Paintings on Paper opened November 19 and continues through March 31. The exhibit is extremely popular, so prepare for crowds. Try to visit on weekdays or snowy days to come. You can also visit the permanent Rothko Room in Tower One of the National Gallery East Wing. The Phillips Collection also hosts an intimate Rothko Room experience, limiting viewers to eight people at a time.

Can’t make the trip across the moat to view the Rothkos? There are a number of engaging art happenings here in Port City. Have you been to the Torpedo Factory Art Center lately? If not, you’ll notice that the inviting and eclectic Printmakers Inc. is now in Studio #14, featuring a solo print show, Made From Scratch, the Intaglio printmaking work of new member and USAF veteran Marcus Beauregard, through February 29.

The collective of gifted printmakers has moved from the third floor to the first floor. Their original river-view studio space is now a Torpedo Factory special events and catering room.

The first floor, anchored by the flagship Art League Gallery at the southern end and the contemporary spotlight space of the Target Gallery at the northern end, has always been the crowd draw at the Old Town Alexandria studio art mecca.

Figurative works by Mark Rothko weren’t the only point of interest and artful diversion at the National Gallery’s Mark Rothko: Paintings on Paper exhibit. (Photo Scott MacConomy)

On the third floor, you’ll discover a wealth of diverse working artist studios, the Van Landingham Gallery, run by the Torpedo Factory Artists Association, and the Alexandria Archeology Museum, an intriguing, interactive discovery space. The third floor also boasts the studio of painter Marian Van Landingham, the former Virginia State Delegate and leader of the art center’s conversion from a 1918 munitions factory to the world-renowned art center it has become today.

Don’t miss Studio 328 where Turkish painter Sermin Ciddi is showcasing her new series of work, Breaking Free. Sermin explains, “Breaking Free celebrates the human spirit’s ability to rise above challenges and embrace one’s destiny. It is an exploration of resilience, the combative spirit  ̶  all in pursuit of freeing oneself from the shackles that life presents.” Birds and boats are metaphors for freedom of expression and oppression –  a constant in Sermin’s visual narrative. Her intense azure and fiery red palettes represent Sermin’s expansive passion for the world in which she lives and the lyrical influence of the cultural eloquence of her native Turkey.

This painting by Dipali Rabadiya titled PB&J is part of the Winter Solstice — A Curated Expo at the Nepenthe Gallery in Hollin Hall. It makes you want to whip up the classic, old-school sandwich. (Photo Nepenthe Gallery)

In his City Hall office, Mayor Justin Wilson has a print of one of Sermin’s most popular paintings depicting a scene of Old Town by moonlight. Although the original painting has sold, prints in various sizes are still available.

Breaking Free, a new series of paintings celebrating the enduring spirit of humanity by Torpedo Factory Art Center artist Sermin Ciddi (in Studio #328). (Photos Sermin Ciddi)

If the Torpedo Factory is the jewel in the crown of the Alexandria art scene, the Del Ray Artisans Gallery is the little engine that could – and does! Currently on exhibit through February 24 is Visible Touch: A Look at Texture, curated by DRA President Dawn Wise Hurto and DRA Vice President Lesley Hall. Unique to this show is the “please touch aspect” offered by many of the art pieces. Texture is a visceral experience, both tactile and visually inviting. Come have a look – and feel! Check the DRA website for fascinating classes and workshops exploring texture as a fundamental element of creating art.

Since dry January is over, stop by the Nepenthe Gallery for their weekly Art + Wine + Cheese salon soirées at 6 pm every Thursday. In February, that’s the 8th, 15th, 22nd, and 29th. Hopefully you didn’t miss the first of the 2024 Solstice Series last month. February brings Native American Culture and Experience on exhibit through March 2, featuring the work of Cara Romero, Bryant and Pamela White, Amado Pena, and Kay Walking Stick.

If you missed The Land Carries Our Ancestors, the marvelous National Gallery exhibit of contemporary Native American artistry, a first-time curation by an actual working artist, you won’t want to miss this or any of the events the Nepenthe Gallery hosts this year.

The Alexandria art scene is just gearing up for 2024. The annual Art League February Patron’s Show fundraiser will auction over 700 original works of local artists who donate their talents. Tickets for the February 18 event are on sale now at $245 for a single ticket or $350 for a couple and one piece of art, with $175 for a guest seat without artwork. Or you can take a chance by buying a $15 raffle ticket for the first pick of the artwork, drawn at 6 pm the day of the event.

Collecting and viewing art doesn’t have to be expensive. Most galleries open their doors to welcome all, hosting opening or closing receptions free for the general public. So forget the mall on these cold days of winter’s bones. Art is where it’s at!

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Kelly MacConomy

Kelly MacConomy is the Arts Editor for The Zebra Press.

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