In the Washington Post: Sally Kauffman, Freda Lee-McCann, Susan Raines, & Lisa Battle

Transgression, Sally Kauffman. From Jeopardy.

“Local painter Sally Kauffman finds her footing in crowds. After the 2017 Women’s March, she produced vast, loosely gestural views of massed humanity. Those soft-detailed pictures verged on the abstract, yet were placed precisely in history by the scores of pink blurs that represented knit hats. Kauffman uses the same technique in “Jeopardy,” her new Studio Gallery show. This time, her subjects are creatures threatened by ecological perils.

Most often depicted are butterflies, whether as smears of vivid color in the eight-foot-wide “Border Crossing” or as dark shapes in a trio of gray-and-black pictures. An underwater scene is rendered more traditionally, with oceans of blue oil paint between the sea turtles and other swimmers. But “Intercept” packs great-cat faces so tightly that muzzles and whiskers nearly fuse into a single organism, almost as hivelike as the teeming bees of “Transgression.”

From a distance, Kauffman’s canvases are all bold color and implied movement, recalling the busier varieties of abstract expressionism. Yet the artist’s themes add another level of meaning. In her statement, Kauffman calls her work “my instinctive response to the world around me.” That may be true, but “Jeopardy” is thoughtful as well as visceral

.In both style and subject, Chinese literati ink painting flourished for centuries with no significant updates. Local artist Freda Lee-McCann, who is of Chinese descent, is set on modernizing the genre. Her latest experiment, “A Point of View,” is one of several small shows downstairs from Kauffman’s at Studio Gallery.

Lee-McCann ponders rocky peaks, a common subject for monochromatic Chinese paintings, but she forgoes the calligraphic brushwork of the archetypes. Her landscapes are made primarily with acrylics, supplemented by Sharpie pens. The latter are used to simulate the halftone dots Roy Lichtenstein so lovingly reproduced in paintings inspired by comic strips. In this case, the dotted areas serve primarily to set off expanses of white. One thing Lee-McCann retains from bygone Chinese ink painting is the sense of openness.

Nearby is “Echoes,” a small selection of Lisa Battle’s sinuous ceramic sculptures. The twists in the Maryland artist’s work are inspired by flowers and dance movements, but some might also be seen as wafting smoke made solid. The pieces range from vases — familiar in purpose, if not in shape — to a multipart creation that undulates on the wall. Battle’s stoneware wriggles as if alive.

There are curves in Susan Raines’s photographs, but most of them are segments of circles, often located in buildings. The local artist’s “Serendipity,” adjacent to Battle’s work, is a tour of found geometry from Italy to Vietnam to (unsurprisingly) the National Gallery of Art’s East Building in the District. The sunnier climes also yield intense hues and strong color contrasts, as in a striking picture of green rectangles on an orange facade. Raines’s camera distills specific places into universal forms.”

-Mark Jenkins, the Washington Post, May 2019