Just as one light ray bears multiple colors, one visual image may contain endless points of departure for the mind to navigate. The four artists selected for Prism II, now on view at Monroe Street Market’s Artwalk, cleave to this notion with works that suggest open-ended journeys rather than discrete narratives. Working across a variety of media, artists Joan Belmar, Lisa Rosenstein, Wilfredo Valladares and Cheryl Edwards (also the exhibition’s curator) present works that demand your contemplation for their ideas to be revealed.
On the surface, the works displayed are a disparate lot—paintings by Edwards are juxtaposed with multimedia works by Rosenstein, while Valladares has sculptures standing directly opposite Belmar’s photography. Edwards notes that while vastly different compositionally, they each reference geometric or biological forms within the body of their work. Most literal are Edwards’ Conception I and Conception II, which feature wasp nests gilded in gold leaf and reflect upon decay and rebirth simultaneously. This pattern of intertwined circles is taken up by Rosenstein most obviously in her mixed-media works such as Homage to Juan I but also obliquely in her ink-based drawings, such as in the background of Guardians. Here Rosenstein takes a more metaphysical approach, designing a geography to probe existential memories rather than biological timelines.
These shapes lend slightly more narrative qualities to the works of Belmar and Valladares. Known widely for his three-dimensional constructions, Belmar debuts a series of pictorial works that serve as touch points for cultural investigations, most notably in Conquerors and Indigenous I and II where circular forms reference the white wigs of the old English courts. Valladares’ references are more oblique, and in a way an outlier in an exhibition largely devoid of portraiture. Look closely though, and you will notice circular (and other geometric) forms making their presence known within the headdresses that surround the faces. Valladares skillfully downplays gender and ethnicity within the sculpted portraits, forcing the viewer to fashion their own narratives upon these blank (social) canvases.
On a first pass, the exhibition feels almost too divergent; with so many potential threads to unravel it is hard to know where to start one’s journey. Thankfully Edwards forces us to slow down our brains by mixing up the media around the gallery, like placing sculpture and two-dimensional works together, and juxtaposing ethereal narratives with more concrete ideas. Force yourself to slowly contemplate and the works begin to mesmerize rather than confuse, serving as anchors in a sea of possibilities.
Prism II is runs through October 24, 2016. c. d. Edwards Studio is located in Studio 9 at 716 Monroe Street NE. in the Brookland Artswalk. The exhibition is available for view by appointment most days of the week. Please RSVP first; contact Cheryl Edwards at 202.309.4539 or via email at [email protected]