JANUARY'S A GREAT MONTH for group shows—artists huddling for warmth as the dark, desolate downtown streets menace away all but the most ardent art walkers. Ten artists together have the same draw in winter as one in midsummer—so, galleries figure, let's get together.
Froelick Gallery's group show Fire Department gathers around (guess?) fire. Kevin Kadar's "Scourgage" is dynamic and dark, with brushstrokes like question marks; stagecoach drivers flee a central blaze. Gwen Davidson's "Beach Fire" is serene, a collage of horizontal rectangles lending a hardwood-floorish domesticity. Stephen O'Donnell finds a new excuse to cross-dress and self-portrait paint, his flaming veiled hat signaling "The End of Decorum" (or at least a nice candlelit dinner party). And Miles Cleveland Goodwin's vast expanse of textured white space with a brackish, spiky outburst in the lower right corner—while evocative—might be titled "Black Fire" to force a fit.
The White Box, truer to its name than ever, is totally empty. No, wait—Nancy Bulalacao's one-page poem adorns the backmost wall. Hang in there, lonely poem; the rest of the About Desire group show will emerge this week, including works from Storm Tharp, Kristan Kennedy, and more, plus a four-wall screening of a Tahni Holt dance video.
Compared to the White Box wasteland, Hartman's a hodgepodge, enlivening its vintage photo collection with neo-retro black-and-whites like Jason Langer's "Lampe," a timeless tableau of a man climbing steps alongside a riveted aluminum wall (or ship's hull?). In Holly Andres' "Shine," a little girl gazes at an oval locket, hypnotized by its sparkle as an oval frame envelops both into a mise en abyme. Blakely Dadson's oil painting of Shabba Ranks is a colorful, meritorious misfit here, as is Anna Fidler's very of-the-moment Will O' the Wisp, a watercolor with tribal, tie-dye, and silhouette textures.
The Museum of Contemporary Craft displays diverse, almost disparate works with one point in common: Each piece in The Tool at Hand is (arguably) made with only one tool. Ndidi Ekubia serves this assignment by hammering sterling silver into a gorgeously formal, delicately textured vase. Beth Lipman, meanwhile, uses a caulk gun to squirt a clump of yellowish polyurethane that resembles... "A booger!" exclaims a rude patron, who's not wrong.
If you find this month's multiplicity too confusing, there are still a few commanding one-man shows. Joe Feddersen's Charmed at Froelick plays with Native American totems in an unlikely medium: glass. Kent Krugh at Blue Sky and Pamela Green at Augen both zone in on winter trees, and Fernando Brito's shocking real-life shots of found corpses (also at Blue Sky) grimly humanize Cualicán, Mexico's drug war, using images haunting enough to stand on their own even in the chilly, lonely winter.