September 16, 2010 | by David J. Hoffman
Busy season on tap for local galleries

Last week’s Fall Arts Preview issue featured seasonal highlights from local art galleries, but there’s so much on tap that we needed another column to do the scene justice.

First, take a short trip to the University of Maryland Gallery in College Park for the show there, “The Very Queer Portraits of Heyd Fontenot,” a collection of visually arresting male and female nudes including self-portraits by the acclaimed gay painter also well known for his work as a designer, music video producer and experimental film director and art director.

Fontenot, born in rural Louisiana in 1964 but a longtime denizen of the Austin, Texas art scene, has declared: “I think that body politics are interesting in general, because it’s like things get whittled down and whittled down.” So go see this show expecting to see a lot of naked people on the walls of the gallery, which is located on campus in 1202 Art-Sociology Building. But expect to see people naked as they are in real life, not porn stars or A&F models, no airbrushing out imperfections, but instead sporting freckles and shortcomings, “warts and all,” and most of all, with personality.

Fontenot’s goal in his exploration of the nude goes back for many years, rooted in his aim to de-fetishize the human body. “Many people hate their bodies and disown their sexualities,” he says.

The exhibit closes Dec. 4 and includes on Nov. 4 at 6 p.m. a reception and gallery talk, “The Queerest of Discussions,” free and open to the public, led by guest curator Jonathan Weitz with Fontenot. Gallery hours are Monday-Saurday 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Second, don’t miss “Hide/Seek: Difference and desire in American Portraiture,” opening Oct. 30 at the National Portrait Gallery. The show will display portraits beginning with late 19th century works by Thomas Eakins and John Singer Sargent and continues into the 20th century with Romaine Brooks and Georgia O’Keefe and through the postwar period with David Hockney, Jasper johns and Andy Warhol.

The exhibit will depict how artists have explored the fluidity of sexuality and gender and how major themes in modern were influenced by the social marginalization of gay and lesbian artists. The exhibit will close Feb. 13. The National Portrait Gallery is at 8th and F streets, N.W.

At Thos. Moser, 3300 M St., N.W. in Georgetown, explore the brilliant California vineyard landscapes with great fields of primary colors in the paintings of Gary Conway, artist, musician, actor, writer and winemaker.

At Hamiltonian Gallery, 1333 U St., N.W., fairy tale meets flesh in a two-show exhibit beginning Sept. 18 through Oct. 30. First, “James Rieck – Mead Hall” presents a five-painting series masterly inspired by the heroic poem “Beowulf” and the consequential 1956 lecture, titled “The Monsters and the Critics,” on that Old English epic by the Oxford scholar J.R.R. Tolkien, perhaps better known for his trilogy about hobbits and monsters on the quest for a powerful ring.

Second, the other artist at the Hamiltonian — Jonathan Moneghan — presents “Life Tastes Good in Disco Heaven” in two digital constructs and two video projections. Like Rieck, Moneghan also appropriates iconographies of storytelling and marketing to question notions of power and subjugation. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 6 p.m.

Finally, at Irvine Contemporary at 1412 14th St., N.W., there is another two-artist exhibit with an equal double whammy. First, in a show titled “Uniform: New Paintings,” Bruno Perillo, who lives and works in Brooklyn, N.Y., presents oil paintings of male and female characters in various states of dress and undress set in narrative scenes with culturally encoded clothing styles and genre cues, appropriating the realist styles of painters from many era from Caravaggio to Degas

Second, there is “Flow,” by Phil Nesmith, who lives and works in Richmond and teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University. He depicts the impact of the worst oil disaster in U.S. history, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Irvine is open Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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