Arts Desk

Reviewed: “Raising Dust” at Carroll Square Gallery

“Raising Dust” at the Carroll Square Gallery spotlights five artists whose works incorporate clay, but none of the five artists—Akemi Maegawa, Melissa Mytty, Matthew Alden Price, Matt Ziemke, and Margaret Boozer—is content to simply turn clay into pottery. For each of them, clay or dirt is a starting point, not an end in itself.

Price turns acrylic, ceramic, and wood into wall-hung pieces that straddle the lines between painting, sculpture, pottery, tilework, and even (in their patterns, at least) upholstery. One pair of Price’s mixed-media works toys gainfully with the contrast between a repeating, geometric brick shape and the more fluid pattern of sagging, plastic fencing.

Mytty turns porcelain pots into whimsical animal forms like snails and birds, while Maegawa pairs bulbous ceramic sculptures with fabric hangings adorned with faux-primitive, cottony forms that call to mind some of the works of Kiki Smith. Ziemke’s constructions blending natural and industrial forms are just this side of twee, though his strongest work, “Conglomerate No. 4: Mapping Salinity,” mulls geographic themes by combining county-shaped ceramic forms with pots of roughly ground salt.

The show’s standout is Boozer, whose core sampling of downtown D.C. soil and rock at Flashpoint was one of the most intriguing exhibits of 2011. Even more than this show’s other artists, Boozer seems obsessed by dirt; she founded Red Dirt Studio in Mount Rainier, Md., and reportedly enjoys going to quarries and other sites to seek out earth with notable artistic qualities. Such eccentric interests pay off in a 25-by-37-inch book featuring photographs of soil (top) that range in tone from gold to amethyst, and in textures that run the gamut from granular to delicately cracked. None of Boozer’s individual images is uniquely impressive, but viewed as a whole, they have an intellectual and visual coherence that substantially exceeds the sum of their parts.

On view to Aug. 23 at Carroll Square Gallery, 975 F St, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays to Fridays.

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