Robert Brown Gallery celebrates 30 years in D.C.

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Robert Brown Gallery opened in 1978 in New York and moved to Washington three years later. It's the D.C. run that the space is marking with "Robert Brown Celebrates the First 30 Years," a show that's impressive in range and quality. It includes work by more than a dozen artists, most of whom Brown has represented for years.

Like the other two galleries that alternate shows in the shared upper-Georgetown townhouse, Robert Brown often features works on paper by internationally known artists. This exhibition includes prints by R.B. Kitaj, William Kentridge, Mel Bochner and Oleg Kudryashov, among others. It also includes a handsome, large charcoal drawing of grouped cone shapes, "Layer on Layer," by British earth artist David Nash. In addition, there are a few paintings, some mixed-media work, several sculptures and a video. (Grouped separately are a selection of ancient Chinese sculptures and pottery and some Chinese advertising posters from the 1930s.)

(William Waybourn/Long View Gallery and Eve Stockton) - Eve Stockton. Two pieces: “Ensemble II: Podscape I,” 3/5, woodcut, 3’x 3’ and “Podscape III,” 1/1, woodcut, 3’ x 3’.

Much of the work has a strong graphic quality, with clean lines and direct images, sometimes incorporating everyday printed objects. Two Kitaj prints are derived from old book covers, which probably looked ordinary in their time but now have a quaint appeal. Bochner's "Scoundrel" and "Liar" are handwritten lists of synonyms for their titles, jottings made powerful by their size and being printed in reverse (white on black). Two gouaches by Joseph Solman are painted on facsimiles of newspaper pages. Kentridge's contributions include a landscape drawn in pencil and charcoal on a 1913 ledger from a mining company, the sort of firm that played a crucial (and controversial) part in his homeland, South Africa.

Kudryashov, who shared a show with Kentridge at the Kreeger Museum in 2009, is represented mostly by multi-layered paper constructions, framed within boxes. They're prints yet also sculptural. Even Will Clift's wooden sculptures are, in a sense, drawings; such pieces as "Enclosing Form, Round" and "Three Simple Curves" are swooping lines in space.

One of the larger pieces is Deborah Bell's "Memo Scaffolding of Thoughts," a mixed-media work that incorporates visual motifs from "Memo," a short film made by Bell, Kentridge and Robert Hodgins. The short (which can be seen at the gallery) combines old-fashioned stop-action animation and surrealist themes in a manner that seems both classic and modern. That's characteristic of this elegant show.

Eve Stockton

Some 25 blocks east, Long View Gallery is showing work that has much in common with Kentridge's and Nash's. Eve Stockton is a printmaker who uses a traditional form, wood block, but on an usually large scale. Inspired in part by visits to Nova Scotia, the Connecticut artist crafts views of nature, both macro and micro. Her painstaking technique and some visual motifs, such as waves and branches, recall great Japanese printmakers such as Hokusai (the subject of a recent Sackler Gallery exhibition). But Stockton doesn't emulate her Japanese precursors' dramatic compositions, preferring all-over designs that feature repeated forms. She often focuses on modest objects, such as seed pods, or depicts cellular patterns that could represent nature in extreme closeup. If Stockton were to take Mount Fuji as a subject, she'd probably fix on its tiniest details.

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