By Mark Jenkins

Published in the Washington Post, February 4, 2016
Other Worlds, Other Stories

On the quest to explore outer space, pulp writers and illustrators got a head start on fine artists. So it’s only fair that the Washington Project for the Arts’ cosmically themed “Other Worlds, Other Stories” includes works from both camps.

Lucy West’s realist space-scapes are precise, luminous and grand, suitable for the covers of 1950s intergalactic adventure novels. It’s the art-worlders who focus on gritty details, make inside jokes or gaze backward. A duo trading as Menu4Mars offers materials for dining in a seriously takeaway setting, while Roxana Pérez-Méndez imagines Puerto Rico’s version of NASA. Casey Johnson’s massive “Oculus” combines a simulated observatory with a wooden space capsule that recalls Jules Verne-era notions of sailing to the stars.

“Oculus” is suspended in midair, just a few feet from Jefferson Pinder’s elegant “Black Hole,” a large, wall-mounted disc that appears to float. Its ebony surface glitters, while neon light from behind the circle gives it a heavenly glow. In another setting, though, it might seem merely stark, not spacey.

Two other artists’ contributions draw on interplanetary phenomena, yet are more art than science. Felipe Gonclaves’s large wall painting spins a cartoonish wormhole across a cosmic backdrop, creating the illusion that its center has been cut into slices that have been yanked to one side. Adam Fung’s pattern paintings, inspired by astronomy, superimpose geometric forms over twinkling black skies. His gemlike “New Star” is an act of abstraction, not observation.

Other Worlds, Other Stories On view through Feb. 20 at the Washington Project for the Arts, 2124 Eighth St. NW.


February 4, 2016