Most of the pictures in “Colors of Confidence,” Pazo Fine Art’s impressive mini-survey of late-20th-century D.C. abstraction, were made after 1970. But a few date from the period of John Alexander Steele’s “Chicago/Washington” color-field paintings, and that’s not the only overlap between the two shows. Pazo’s selection includes several examples of Washington colorism at its most geometric.
Visitors are first greeted by the dark-toned “Magenta Double,” one of Mehring’s paintings made of canvases dappled with a single hue and then cut and pasted into symmetrical arrays of multicolor blocks and bars. Also on exhibit are three Thomas Downing paintings, one of which has never been shown publicly, of dots in contrasting tints. The rounds are stained into raw canvas in the usual Washington-colorist manner, but plotted in tidy patterns. Only slightly looser is a Paul Reed painting whose circular layout of lavender petals is framed by hot-colored, regularly shaped triangles. (Reed, longest-lived of the show’s eight artists, died in 2015.)
In the two more-complex Downing paintings, some of the dots are white, which accentuates the canvas’s muted tan and sets off the circles of blue, green and shades of brown. White dots also pop from the orderly yet gently eccentric “Share,” a typically mesmerizing composition by Simon Gouverneur, one of two artists of color in the show. The other is Carroll Sockwell, whose gray-toned drawing suggests a meticulous rendering of a titled rectangle as seen through cracked glass. (Sockwell was a D.C. native, while Gouverneur spent just the last decade of his life here. Sadly, each committed suicide, just two years apart in the early ’90s.)
Tom Green’s 1997 “Sightings” (the most recent piece) and Jacob Kainen’s 1972 “Secretary General” play soft color against sketchily defined shapes, to vastly different effects. The most fluid picture is Willem de Looper’s untitled 1975 one, whose layered bands of tan and brown suggest water and earth at the same time. The Dutch-born D.C. painter’s version of a stripe painting appears as primordial as it does modern.