In the galleries: Bodies that are more than flesh and bone
Kristy Little, “Falling,” wall scupture with wood and wire, on view at Hillyer Art Space. (Kristy Little/Hillyer Art Space)
By Mark Jenkins July 22, 2016
Once a crucial part of a visual artist’s repertoire, the figure study is far less important in the photographic era. All 40 artists in Hillyer Art Space’s “Flesh & Bone II” may have mastered life drawing, but few of them demonstrate the need to prove it. Representing the human body is essential to pieces such as Ghislaine Fremaux’s outsize drawing of a male nude, glistening not with sweat but with resin. It’s tangential, though, to many more of the works.
Kirsty Little’s wood-and-wire sculpture suggests just a pair of eyelashes. Kevin Quiles Bonilla’s wispy photo-derived faces are secondary to the 100 small circles of recycled paper that contain them. Ambience trumps corporeality in photos such as Gabriela Augero’s diptych of a person at a window and Armaghan Mehrabian’s study of a shrouded woman in a darkened space. Ashley Smith’s female seminude is mostly a photograph, but with fabric in place of pubic hair. In Yikui Gu’s collage-drawing of American archetypes, the human presence is a grimacing Dick Cheney.
It’s hardly surprising that the artists, many from this region but some from New York and beyond, do not share an aesthetic. Juror Lorelle Rau’s selection stresses range, not cohesion. Yet many of the most memorable entries are realistic, and they’re striking not just when they’re intimate on a monumental scale, such as Fremaux’s nude or Ming Ying Hong’s charcoal drawing of fingers kneading a bare belly. Far smaller yet equally as intriguing is Steven Labadessa’s neoclassical oil of a freckled, red-haired woman. The subject looks straight at the viewer, calmly but with a soulfulness that indicates she’s more than flesh and bone.
Flesh & Bone II On view through July 31 at Hillyer Art Space, 9 Hillyer Ct. NW. 202-338-0325. hillyerartspace.org.