The photos are taken by locals in the Washington DC area, but many depict Japan, where Aaron Webb and Alexis Rose found striking benefits on, respectively, an Osaka train station platform and a cat on a Nagasaki rooftop . The images, which include some views of DC, are presented in thematic pairs and arranged to demonstrate visual affinities with the 20 Hiroshige wooden blocks, all from the American University collection. The show also includes a tutorial on the characteristics of the engraver’s compositions, including symmetry, S-curves, and unusually low or high horizon lines.
These strategies enabled Hiroshige to portray everyday life as a kind of theatrical production, rich in vivid detail and staged for maximum impact. The artist has produced several series documenting various routes and locations, many of which feature large landscapes. But he often focused on ordinary objects or activities, whether alone or in the foreground to establish a human presence amid towering rocks or crashing waves. The show’s stills, shot mostly in urban areas, lack epic natural settings, but follow the engraver’s lessons well. Like Hiroshige, the photographers frame their vignettes so that each appears as a self-contained universe.
Exploring Hiroshige and his influence on social media Until May 13 at Japan Culture and Information Center1150 18th St. NW.
The Korean Cultural Center’s title of “Boundless” is exaggerated, but not by much. The exhibition presents the work of no less than 46 participants, members of the Association of Han-Mee Artists of Greater Washington, a Korean American band. Most of the highlights are sculptures, but the selection also includes paintings, prints and textile works.
Among the best-known contributors are Jean Jinho Kim, whose sculptures have become leaner and more powerful; his “Sanctuary” evokes the idea of a house simply with two aluminum pipes, powder coated in contrasting colors and bent into the elementary contours of a house. Sookkyung Park’s hanging assemblage of curved paper pieces, inspired by his paper-walled childhood home, looks and feels totally different, yet thematically related. As for Ara Koh, it was the lack of buildings in the upstate New York city where the Seoul native came to study that prompted her landscape-evoking ceramic vase.
The often multilingual text features in pieces such as Hyun Chough’s robust and partly sculptural collage, whose two inset rectangles are filled with fragmentary blocks. In response to the pandemic, June Yun’s multimedia piece features small blocks of reverse text from The New Yorker magazine in a grid, on which she has painted yellow flowers. Delicate and diaphanous, flowers signify rebirth, even if only temporarily.
Without Borders Until May 16 at Korean Cultural Center2370 Massachusetts Avenue NW.
A fire-eater is a living subject for a photograph, but for her portrait, Amy Toensing didn’t just photograph directly. She emphasized the movement by positioning her camera at an oblique angle so that the flame crossed the image as a dramatic diagonal. Such clever compositional stratagems enhance many of the visual anecdotes in “Two Stories,” Toensing’s exhibit at Photoworks.
The first of the tales is life on the Jersey Shore. This includes images of spooky dwellings near the ocean, but focuses primarily on beach and boardwalk dwellers. Among the indelible images are a pair of young women in bathing suits, framed by headless naked male torsos in the foreground, and a trio of old friends in the shimmering waves, an immersive shot of immersion.
Toensing has traveled the world as a National Geographic photographer and documentary filmmaker. One of her themes is widowhood as it is experienced in traditional patriarchal societies, primarily but not exclusively in South Asia. Photos in this series include purely visual attractions such as milky light, fractured sunbeams and powdered pigments suspended in the air during Holi, the Hindu festival of colours. More disturbing are an intentionally blurred image of desperate widows seeking the promised three rupees to chant scriptures in a temple, as well as several studies of isolated widows, whether in an open courtyard or an enclosed space. Toensing’s compositional flair conveys perpetual loneliness as deftly as the bustle of the seaside.
Amy Toensing: two stories Until May 22 at photoworksGlen Echo Park, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo, Maryland.
Mozambican artist Lizette Chirrime creates art by assembling scraps of second-hand fabric and other found materials. Although this type of patchwork is generally considered humble, Chirrime’s themes are heroic and even cosmic. Among the pieces in his Morton Fine Art exhibition, “Rituals for Souls Search,” is “Somewhere on Earth,” in which strips of textile coalesce into a kind of globe. Most of the narrow ribbons flow from side to side of the tapestry, but those that approach the circle bend in orbit as if distorted by the pull of a black hole.
More typical of Chirrime compositions are those that focus on human figures, in two cases identified as single mothers. One of the lone matriarchs is positioned above a photo of a woman’s face and outlined by several sets of roughly parallel red dots. Equally expressive is “The Boy Who Stopped the Snake,” in which the child clutching a brown snake is a tattered silhouette in warm colors against a backdrop of blues and greens.
The poses of these paintings are intended to be festive and reflect the way in which the artist overcame his traumatic childhood. “I literally ‘stitched’ myself back together,” her statement explains. The use of scrap materials is an ecological statement and the imagery is often spiritual, but the essence of Chirrime’s art is autobiographical.
Lizette Chirrime: Rituals for Souls Until May 17 at Morton’s Fine Arts52 O St. NW, #302. Open by appointment.