Where to see art gallery exhibitions in the Washington area

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Because they emphasize Latin American feminist and political art, the exhibitions organized by RoFA Projects are often edgy. Jagged edges, literal and metaphorical, abound in In the Heart of the Beholder, the first show at RoFA’s new gallery. Yet there is a neoclassical element to the array of 10 artists, which includes numerous examples of Renaissance imagery.

Of these, the most traditional are those of the Spanish artist Salustiano, whose delicate, almost photorealistic depictions of heads and shoulders are contained within monochrome circles. The artist’s bright red hues are made from crushed cochineal beetles, an authentic Renaissance technique that links his work to European colonialism, as the bugs were originally brought to Spain from conquered territories in Central America.

Valterio Iraheta ironically updated such paintings as Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolas Tulp by filling them with figurines from McDonald’s Happy Meals. These monochromatic vignettes—some painted, some photographed—are based on toys available in El Salvador’s thrift stores selling American goods. They are thus a stark reminder of the influence on the artist’s homeland of its powerful neighbor to the north.

Mexican artist Fabian Ugalde draws directly from old master paintings but alters them computerized. He digitally remixed such well-known paintings as Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring so that they are recognizable from a distance but revealed as eerily dismembered when viewed up close. The mouth, nose, and eyes of Vermeer’s subject, which appear simply blurred across the room, are actually multiple identical images grouped together in groups.

Also artfully photographic, though more personal, are the self-portraits of Cecilia Paredes. The artist, who splits her time between Philadelphia and her native Peru, almost disappears into decorative backgrounds, covering most of her body in matching patterns. Among the decorative motifs are flowers, butterflies and sea creatures, which give the paintings an ecological feel. They are about how the individual fits into his environment and yet remains separate from it.

The show features works by several artists RoFA has highlighted in the past, one in particular that is decidedly not a classic. Colombian street artist Erre draws her inspiration – and energy – from punk rock, skateboarding and protest. Her stenciled images of defiant young women incorporate and embody such apt mottos as “Vivas Libres” (“live free”) and “Sin Miedo” (“fearless”).

In the heart of the beholder Through Aug. 13 at RoFA Art Gallery, 316 Main St., Kentlands, Gaithersburg.

In most of Matt Neumann’s prints and paintings, neither the intricate geometric designs nor the contrasting warm and cool colors seem natural. Yet highly stylized versions of natural forms sometimes appear unexpectedly in “Pattern Recognition,” the New York artist’s Long View Gallery exhibition. Many of the impressive abstract paintings are in wooden frames, some of them X-shaped, but others rounded and a few with symmetrical outlines of a simplified butterfly.

Symmetry is crucial to Neumann, whose style recalls both 1960s op-art and acid-rock graphics from the same decade, but is more precise and painstaking than either. Often the artist’s motifs are duplicated so that they mirror each other like twin sets of laser-etched chains. The frequent use of metallic inks and pigments also gives the oscillating images an industrial quality, even when the designs are clearly modeled on leafy plants or hint at snakeskin scales. Whatever their inspirations, Neumann’s paintings are visual machines that both absorb and propel the viewer’s eye.

Matt Neumann: Pattern Recognition Through Aug. 7 at Long View Gallery, 1234 Ninth St. NW.

Arabic calligraphy is central to Abdulrahman Naanse’s drawings and paintings, but the works in his Pressure/Movement/Effect are not texts meant to be read. The Syrian’s recent work takes the Arabic versions of the three title words—chosen for their applicability to calligraphy but also to politics—and then twists, swings, and fragments them into abstract compositions. Naanseh is an artist-in-residence at George Mason University who exhibits his work at its Arlington location; the show will move to the main campus in a few weeks.

Most of the works in the show are done on paper with aqueous inks, whether black or brightly colored. Some compositions group the strokes of the pen into such tight groups that the resulting forms are almost entirely filled; others use ink so sparingly that the wispy strokes are mostly air.

Also on display are five vivid paintings in which calligraphic contours and curves serve as backgrounds. The base level brushstrokes are partially redrawn, with larger gestures traced back over them. This intricate layering exemplifies the Naanseh style that both upholds and breaks with tradition.

Abdulrahman Naanse: Pressure/Movement/Effect Through Aug. 6 at Mason Exhibitions Arlington, 3601 Fairfax Dr., Arlington, and Aug. 22 through Oct. 15 at Gillespie Gallery of Art, George Mason University, 4400 University Dr., Fairfax.

There are many close-ups of materials and tools in Fleurette Estes’ photo essay Behind the Loom: The Heritage, Heritage, and Sustainability of Navajo Weaving. Yet the Lost Origins gallery show celebrates landscape as much as culture with its photographs and text by Estes, a Texas-based artist who spent part of her childhood on the Navajo reservation. Its territory includes Monument Valley, a red-rock expanse of rocky plateaus and towering hills in southeastern Utah.

The landscape is aptly prominent, on its own or as a dramatic backdrop to foregrounds in Estes’s crisp, colorful paintings. One photograph, “Weaver in the Wind,” cleverly uses an upright loom as a frame for a sweeping vista, seen in part through strands of strung yarn. Shot on Fuji film, the photos feature vivid blues and turquoise colors, as well as the earthy tones of earth and scrubby grass.

Estes’ project was inspired by her stepmother and sister, both renowned Navajo weavers, and funded in part by the Focus on Emerging Storytellers Fellowship. Proceeds from this show will benefit Adopt-a-Native-Elder, one of whose programs provides yarn to older weavers.

Fleurette Estes: Behind the Loom: The Legacy, Heritage & Resilience of Navajo Weaving Through Aug. 7 at Lost Origins Gallery, 3110 Mt. Pleasant St. NW.

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