The photos are by Washington-area residents, but many portray Japan, where Aaron Webb and Alexis Rose found striking downward vantages on, respectively, an Osaka train station platform and a cat on a Nagasaki roof. The images, which include a few views of D.C., are displayed in thematic pairings and arranged to demonstrate visual affinities to the 20 Hiroshige woodblocks, all from American University’s collection. The show also includes a tutorial on the hallmarks of the printmaker’s compositions, including symmetry, S-curves and unusually low or high horizon lines.
These strategies allowed Hiroshige to depict everyday life as a sort of theatrical production, rich with lively details and staged for maximum impact. The artist made multiple series documenting various routes and locales, many of which feature grand landscapes. But he often focused on ordinary objects or activities, whether by themselves or foregrounded to establish a human presence amid towering crags or crashing waves. The show’s photos, made mostly in urban areas, lack the epic natural backdrops yet follow the printmaker’s lessons well. Like Hiroshige, the photographers frame their vignettes so each one appears to be a self-contained universe.
Exploring Hiroshige and His Influence on Social Media Through May 13 at the Japan Information and Culture Center, 1150 18th St. NW.
The title of the Korean Cultural Center’s “Boundless” is an overstatement, yet not by much. The show presents the work of no less than 46 participants, members of the Han-Mee Artists Association of Greater Washington, a Korean American group. Many of the highlights are sculptures, but the selection also includes paintings, prints and textile works.
Among the better-known contributors is Jean Jinho Kim, whose sculptures have been getting leaner and more potent; her “Sanctuary” conjures the idea of home merely with two aluminum pipes, powder-coated in contrasting colors and bent into elementary outlines of a house. Utterly different in look and feel yet thematically linked is Sookkyung Park’scloudlike hanging assemblage of curved paper pieces, inspired by her paper-walled childhood home. As for Ara Koh, it was the absence of buildings in the Upstate New York town where the Seoul native came to study that prompted her landscape-evoking ceramic vessel.
Text, often multilingual, features in pieces such as Hyun Chough’s robust, partly sculptural collage, whose two inset rectangles are filled with fragmentary blocks. A reaction to the pandemic, June Yun’s mixed-media piece arrays small blocks of reversed text from the New Yorker magazine in a grid, over which she has painted yellow flowers. Delicate and diaphanous, the blooms signify rebirth, even if only tentatively.
Boundless Through May 16 at the Korean Cultural Center, 2370 Massachusetts Ave. NW.
A fire eater is a vivid subject for a photograph, but for her portrait of one, Amy Toensingdidn’t simply shoot straight-on. She underscored the movement by positioning her camera at an oblique angle so the flame slashes across the picture as a dramatic diagonal. Such canny compositional gambits enhance many of the visual anecdotes in “Two Stories,” Toensing’s show at Photoworks.
The first of the tales is life on the New Jersey shore. This includes pictures of grim tract housing near the ocean, but focuses primarily on beach and boardwalk denizens. Among the indelible images are a pair of young women in bathing suits, framed by headless nude male torsos in the foreground, and a trio of old friends in the glimmering surf, an immersive shot of immersion.
Toensing has traveled the world as a National Geographic photographer and a documentary filmmaker. One of her themes is widowhood as lived in traditional patriarchal societies, primarily but not exclusively in South Asia. The photos from this series include such purely visual attractions as milky light, fractured sunbeams and powdered pigment suspended in midair during Holi, the Hindu festival of colors. More sobering are an intentionally blurred picture of desperate widows seeking the three-rupee fee promised for singing scripture at a temple, as well as several studies of widows in isolation, whether in an open yard or an enclosed space. Toensing’s compositional flair conveys perpetual solitude as deftly as it does beachfront bustle.
Amy Toensing: Two Stories Through May 22 at Photoworks, Glen Echo Park, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo, Md.
Mozambican artist Lizette Chirrime makes art by stitching together scraps of secondhand fabric and other found materials. Although this sort of patchwork is usually considered humble, Chirrime’s themes are heroic and even cosmic. Among the pieces in her Morton Fine Art show, “Rituals for Souls Search,” is “Somewhere on Earth,” in which textile strips coalesce into a sort of globe. Most of the narrow ribbons flow from one side of the tapestry to the other, but the ones that approach the circle bend into an orbit as if warped by a black hole’s pull.
More typical of Chirrime’s compositions are those that center on human figures, in two cases identified as single mothers. One of the solitary matriarchs is positioned above a photo of a woman’s face and outlined in multiple series of roughly parallel red stitches. Equally expressive is “The Boy Who Stopped the Snake,” in which the child who clutches a brown serpent is a silhouette of hot-colored tatters against a backdrop of blues and greens.
The poses in these tableaux are meant to be celebratory, and reflect the artist’s overcoming her traumatic childhood. “I literally ‘restitched’ myself together,” explains her statement. The use of castoff 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 Search Through May 17 at Morton Fine Art, 52 O St. NW, No. 302. Open by appointment.