- The Washington Times - Friday, August 4, 2006

Hillyer Art Space’s exhibit “Scratching the Surface: A Survey of Artists in the Washington Region” is as contradictory as its title. With 21 pieces by 11 artists, it does, indeed, just “scratch the surface” of what is going on artistically in the metropolitan area.

The second part of the show’s name, however, “A Survey of Artists in the Washington Region,” is incorrect and presumptuous.

First, consider that the gallery’s space is too small for such an ambitious undertaking. The advisory committee — composed of 21 artists described by the gallery as “some of region’s most celebrated and respected artists” — wisely selected 21 mostly diminutive pieces.

Despite the promotional lingo, the participants are not representative of the region as a whole. The show reflects the tastes of curators who were instructed to select only younger, underexposed artists.

Also, the exhibit’s content, including work by artists of realist, neorealist, abstract-expressionist and pop persuasions, is not first-rate. Just a few of the pieces stand out.

Two are by Jiha Moon (chosen by advisory committee member senior artist Carol Goldberg), whose undulating “Beanstalk Road” of reds flowing into oranges and back again and whose flowing spheres of blues in “Home Wheel” mesmerize viewers in the first gallery.

The Korea-born Miss Moon’s use of line and images that she washes across paper are her special forte. Linear patterns that explode into what she calls “land-and-mind scapes” show how she has landed shows at Washington’s Elizabeth Roberts Gallery, the McLean Project for the Arts and White Columns gallery in New York City.

Nearby are two fabric-and-steel sculptures by Conrad M. Meyers II titled “Apathetic Love” and “Painting” (chosen by sculptor and committee member Foon Shan) in which Mr. Meyers effectively contrasts thin, muted red gauze with steel. In “Painting,” he contrasts the softness of the fabric with the hardness of steel fishhooks.

Mounted on the floor nearby is F. Steven Kijek’s “Coconut” — seemingly inspired by a coconut cake. Mr. Kijek used French rag paper, antique crystals and pearls for an engaging pop-art spoof.

Another engaging work in the same gallery is Zachary Jackson’s “513 Sets” of cast iron and ceramic shells. Set on a pedestal, the piece challenges visitors to view it from above as well as from its sides.

Obvious to visitors is the connection between exhibit artist Jody Bergstresser’s hard-edge painting and that of committee member artist Lou Stovall’s very similar oeuvre. Mr. Stovall chose Miss Bergstresser’s “Produce Road,” a work that reflects the countryside of her parents’ rural Pennsylvania home, and “18th & F, East to West,” a painting of her District neighborhood. Her use of brilliant colors and patterning in acrylics makes her one of the stars here.

Such artists-chosen-by-other-artists exhibits are rarely successful — although there are a few artists here to watch in the future.

WHAT: “Scratching the Surface: A Survey of Artists in the Washington Region”

WHERE: Hillyer Art Space, 9 Hillyer Court NW

WHEN:10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, closed Saturday through Monday, through Aug. 24

PHONE: 202/338-0680

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