Mark Jenkins, The Washington Post
Image: Stephen Benedicto, Radius, 2018, plaster, graphite and India ink on wood panel, 60" x 48"
There’s more “less” than “more” in “More or Less,” an 18-artist show at Hemphill Fine Arts that should mesmerize fans of minimalism. Many of the pictures feature simple forms, obsessively repeated motifs and muted colors, especially gray. Douglas Witmer splashes a band of watery blue across a concrete-hued field; Robin Rose endows a subtle weave to an off-white expanse; Pete Schulte offers two gray geometric figures that simulate 3-D; and Stephen Benedicto burnishes a semi-sculptural plaster-graphite-and-ink piece to a metallic sheen. Among the few representational works are a pair of Kevin MacDonald drawings of interior spaces that could hardly be less emphatic in subject or color.
The selection includes a 1974 stripe painting — nine feet wide but less than nine inches high — by Gene Davis, the best known of the artists. Compared with the late Washington colorist’s most vivid work, the low-key “Javelin” is not quite “more.” But there are hot hues in paintings by Michael West, who uses metal leaf to add glimmer, and Jeremy Flick, who coolly arrays blocks of color so they appear to hover above a gray-scale grid. The most expressionist pictures are Ryan Crotty’s mottled deep-red abstraction and Hedieh Javanshir Ilchi’s luxuriant black-and-blue nocturne. In a gallery full of orderly surface patterns, these two paintings draw the eye into incalculable depths.