Home Entertainment Review | In the galleries: A filmmaker’s latest edition of souls on separate journeys

Review | In the galleries: A filmmaker’s latest edition of souls on separate journeys

Review | In the galleries: A filmmaker’s latest edition of souls on separate journeys


Practitioners of walking meditation often move at a glacial pace, engaging each step the way a sitting meditator registers every breath. The exercise is usually performed in a quiet room, not the bustling D.C. sites depicted in “Abiding Nowhere,” the 10th installment in Tsai Ming-liang’s “Walker” series and the first shot in the Western Hemisphere. The film was commissioned by the National Museum of Asian Art to mark the 2023 centennial of its Freer Gallery of Art, where the 79-minute movie will screen on March 1.

The red-robed man moving with exquisite deliberation through Georgetown, the Mall and Union Station is not an actual monk. He’s played by Lee Kang-sheng, Tsai’s longtime collaborator and on-screen alter ego. The Malaysian-Taiwanese director largely abandoned narrative filmmaking a decade ago, but has continued to make “Walkers,” inspired by Xuanzang, the 7th-century monk who journeyed to India to acquire Buddhist texts and bring them back to China.

Although “Abiding Nowhere” tells no story, it shares much with Tsai’s earlier fiction films. The director has always employed long takes and leisurely action, thus calling attention to the passing of time. The latest “Walker” alternates the monk’s steps with moments that feature a secondary character (Anong Houngheuangsy, a recent addition to Tsai’s repertory company); in one scene, the latter wears a T-shirt that reads “time to kill.”

In interviews, the director often compares himself to a painter and says that his style has been shaped by exhibiting his films in museums such as the National Museum of Asian Art (long a reliable supporter of his work). The Freer itself appears in “Abiding Nowhere,” but so do scruffier, lesser-known D.C. locations, many of them associated with the local art scene. In a sense, all these places are equal: backdrops for the detached motion of bodies and minutes. Tsai’s latest film is set in Washington, but also in a realm outside place and time.

Tsai Ming-liang: Abiding Nowhere At 7 p.m., March 1 at the Freer Gallery of Art, National Museum of Asian Art, 1050 Independence Ave. SW. asia.si.edu. 202-633-1000.

Many color-field abstractionists have rejected the notion that their pictures look like landscapes, but sometimes the resemblance is hard to deny. Most of the vivid canvases in Hemphill Artworks’ “Willem de Looper: Paintings 1972-1975” were made soon after the Dutch-born D.C. artist’s 1973 trip to the American Southwest. The large pictures sweep horizontally and are usually in the colors of stone, sand and clay. (There are also three heavily blue ones, at least one of which predates the excursion.) The paintings are not literal landscapes, but the inspiration is palpable.

De Looper (1932-2009) was among the second group of Washington colorists to achieve prominence, and he adopted some of the methods of his predecessors. Like Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland, he stained unprimed canvases with acrylic pigments, which had been developed at that time. But the long-unexhibited paintings in this group were not made by brushing or pouring. Instead, de Looper used rollers to sweep bands of color horizontally across the composition.

This technique yielded pictures that suggest a spectator’s movement through vast expanses of tans and browns, or layers of rock built up and worn down by millennia. The arrays of close-colored streaks can also suggest other things, such as unglazed pottery. Whatever the softly striped hues evoke, de Looper used watery washes of diluted paint to conjure something profoundly earthy. These paintings are gauzy and solid at the same time.

Willem de Looper: Paintings 1972-1975 Through March 2 at Hemphill Artworks, 434 K St. NW. hemphillfinearts.com. 202-234-5601.

One piece in “A Corcoran Homecoming: The Art of Carroll Sockwell” seems to encapsulate the life and the work of this acclaimed but conflicted artist. Made when Sockwell was 15, “Hands Off Me/Am I Bad?” is an oil-pastel drawing of a face that combines geometric and expressionist aspects and includes the picture’s title, roughly written in white.

The juxtaposition of spontaneous and calculated lines recurs in the art Sockwell made between the late 1950s and his 1992 suicide, at age 49. A native Washingtonian who grew up in Foggy Bottom — the neighborhood was then predominantly Black — Sockwell showed great artistic promise as a teenager, encouraged by an art therapist who worked with him while he was committed at St. Elizabeths Hospital.

The show includes Sockwell’s collage portrait of one of his patrons, Walter Hopps, who was the Corcoran Gallery’s director from 1967 to 1972. More typical, however, are purely abstract works. All the pieces are on board and paper, sometimes shaped, and feature tones that are mostly dark or muted. “Mirror Composition” is an expanse of black graphite and oil pastel, separated into blocks by silvery lines and framed under glass to reflect the viewer’s face. Gazing into this void is a suitably ambiguous experience. Sockwell assuredly conjured his own uncertainty.

A Corcoran Homecoming: The Art of Carroll Sockwell Through March 9 at Luther W. Brady Art Gallery, Corcoran Flagg Building, 500 17th St. NW. bradygallery.gwu.edu. 202-994-1525.

Brentwood Arts Exchange’s “Chosen Family,” curated by Lauren Davidson, presents work by seven African American artists who constitute three sets of friends: Omari Jesse, Bria Edwards and Olivia Bruce; Wesley Clark and Rodney “Buck!” Herring; Austin “Auz” Miles and Angelique Scott. The standout, as he usually is in group shows that include him, is Clark.

The artist’s two entries are part painting, part sculpture. Screws and nails intrude on planes of thickly applied, partly cracked pigment, set off by wooden shingles or a band of weathered steel. The works evoke making and unmaking simultaneously.

Where Clark’s abstractions have an industrial vibe, most of the other work is at least partly representational, often portraying domestic scenes or private moments. What many of the artists share with Clark is an interest in metamorphosis. In Bruce’s drippy triptych, a nude woman takes on aspects of the water around her. In Miles’s portrait of a woman, the face appears solid but the rest is fluid. In Edwards’s scene of a couple in a kitchen, metal objects rendered in silver leaf add a sculptural quality. The figures and their environments are ordinary, but endowed with an intriguing mutability.

Chosen Family Through March 9 at Brentwood Arts Exchange, 3901 Rhode Island Ave., Brentwood. pgparks.com. 301-277-2863.


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