The Washington Post


Three painters and a ceramicist, all in their early 20s, are the “New Talent” of Cross MacKenzie Gallery’s current show. Their work is linked less by style or theme than by vigor and high spirits.

Louise Smith’s large, bustling mixed-media paintings are partially collages, with pigment atop assembled paper and cardboard shards. Maida Monaghan’s red-heavy pictures are partially representational, but they juxtapose pictorial elements in unexpected arrangements. While Cooper MacKenzie depicts hostile nature in paintings of a sinkhole and a tornado, the vibe turns cosmic and perhaps contemplative in his striking “Enso Triptych,” with star-like spatter on space-black backdrops. (In Zen ink painting, an “enso” is a quickly rendered circle, symbolizing enlightenment and the universe.)

Although Nicole Gunning’s life-size figures intentionally suggest the multitudes of Xi’an’s ancient Terra-Cotta Warriors, these are not minions of some emperor. The “Nickies” are all self-portraits, autonomous and unflinchingly nude — albeit headless and armless. Where the Chinese figures are clearly part of set, Gunning’s are personal and individual, and thus entirely contemporary.

Mark Jenkins