by Mark Jenkins


Empirical Evidence Installation Image

If the artistic process is more interesting than the outcome, as some modernists hold, then the greatest artist is nature itself. Its systems are endless and inexorable, even if the results aren’t always impressive to the naked eye. Take, for example, the fungal experiments of Selin Balci, one of five former Hamiltonian Artists fellows who return to the gallery in Empirical Evidence. The Turkey-born Marylander is exhibiting such seemingly inert items as petri dishes that contain slowly evolving mold spores. Far more dramatic is a more artist-directed piece, a five-minute fast-motion video in which molds spread across a world map. It demonstrates the power and scope of the tiniest living things.


Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann | Water Ribbon, 2021 | Acrylic and sumi ink on paper | 90 × 60 inches

Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann is the most conventional of the five participants, at least in her choice of media. The Washington artist paints, usually on paper and often on a mammoth scale, with acrylic pigment and sumi ink. The ink links Mann’s style to historical Chinese painting, as does her nature imagery. Yet the crowded, layered pictures are mostly abstract. Mann begins by pouring pigment to make random patterns, which are then amended and extrapolated, partly by collage.

That synthesis — of flowing and improvisational with hard-edged and precise — yields tableaux that are dynamic and distinctive. The two Mann panoramas in Empirical Evidence — the larger almost 12 feet wide — are among the show’s highlights.

Anyone smitten with these sweeping pictures can easily find more, if not quite so expansive, examples at Morton Fine Art. The biggest offering is the title piece, Water Ribbon, a rare vertical composition that’s 7½ feet high. Many of the other pictures are, unusually for Mann, square or nearly so. Although they still suggest landscapes, such pictures as Arch 3 have a stronger central focus than is typical of the artist’s style. Rather than meander every which way, Mann’s latest water ribbons coalesce into dazzling wholes.

Empirical Evidence Through Nov. 13 at Hamiltonian Artists, 1353 U St. NW.

Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann: Water Ribbon Through Oct. 6 at Morton Fine Art, 52 O St. NW, No. 302.

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