For dedicated local gallery-goers who have never quite made the trek to Adah Rose Bitterbaum’s space in Kensington, Md., Studio Gallery’s “Carte Blanche” should be enlightening. Bitterbaum, who was once Studio’s director, has assembled a survey that’s heavy on artists she has shown in Kensington, and given it the name of her gallery’s annual summer group show.
Most of the art could be termed post-minimalist, concerned with patterns but also their disruption. Chris Trueman overlaps curving spray-painted lines in oscillating grids. Gabe Brown’s paintings feature biomorphic forms, but also lattices and parallel lines. Brian Dupont stencils text on metal panels — and, in this show, two aluminum tubes — and contrasts the regular lettering with loosely applied paint.
The show’s aesthetic extends to artists who haven’t had individual shows at Adah Rose Gallery, such as Mary Early and Wayson Jones. Early arranges a set of her trademark cast-beeswax bars, nearly identical yet clearly handmade, into a wall piece. (The bars’ pale-yellow color and peaked shapes echo the triangular perhaps-mountains in an abstracted landscape by Alison Rash.) More messily, Jones sculpts black-and-white paintings with thick pigment, acrylic medium and powdered graphite.
Jessica Drenk carves and clusters ready-made objects into unexpected assemblages: White PVC pipes become undulating abstract sculptures; pencils compose a hollow curve that resembles a shell; and book pages simulate a tree trunk’s core. The results are more whimsical than most of the show’s work, yet otherwise congruent with it.
Bitterbaum does exhibit representational work, and there are some examples here. They’re mostly hazy, distorted or surreal. Laila Jadallah’s photos observe landscapes through a fog of superimpositions; Manuela Holban’s historical vignettes are so loose they appear to be half-forgotten; and Kyujin Lee’s fairy-tale illustrations are strange enough for a Brother Grimm. In “Carte Blanche,” disruption takes many intriguing forms.
-Mark Jenkins, the Washington Post, January 2019