The Washington Post, In the galleries: CONTRAST


Clarity emerges from darkness in “Contrast,” a Pyramid Atlantic Art Center show of three artists who etch images into printable matrices. The least traditional is Curt Belshe, a New Yorker who designs 3-D-printed figures, photographs them in posed scenarios and exposes the resulting pictures to light-sensitive plates. Jenny Freestone and Jake Muirhead, both Marylanders, uses such venerable techniques as etching, drypoint and aquatint. All three make monochromatic pictures, although Muirhead sometimes replaces black with dark shades of red or green.

Belshe’s collagelike compositions retain a digital vibe yet have the rich tones of prints and a link to art history. They’re updates of Goya’s 1799 series “Los Caprichos,” whose best-known print is “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters.” Belshe recycles that title in his set, which uses modern technology to chronicle Goya-worthy contemporary upsets.

Among Freestone’s contributions are detailed renderings of natural forms on inky backgrounds, sometimes arranged as triptychs below blocks of black disrupted by just a few white wisps. Not literally the darkest but surely the most severe of her pieces here is a lithograph of a pile of human skulls at Siem Reap, site of Cambodia’s largest war museum.

Muirhead’s prints are simpler in subject matter yet dazzlingly complex in execution. There are landscapes in this selection, but most of the pictures are of a single thing: a bird, a flower, a woman’s snub-nosed face. An oil can is an apt subject for Muirhead, because its battered metal evokes the scraping of copper that yielded the intricate etching. But then all of Muirhead’s prints appear to materialize from a welter of scratches, haphazard yet utterly assured.

Curt Belshe, Jenny Freestone, Jake Muirhead: Contrast Through Aug. 18 at Pyramid Atlantic Art Center, 4318 Gallatin St., Hyattsville.

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