The microscope is an essential tool for Michal Gavish, a former research chemist who now specializes in “Nano Portraiture,” the title of her show at the BlackRock Center for the Arts. The D.C. artist renders DNA sequences and protein samples in large 3-D constructions, which are echoed by smaller paintings of the same or a similar subject.
The red blotches depict protein in a piece that layers two compositions on diaphanous fabric atop another on paper. Another assemblage positions dabs of blue, red and green — representing DNA — on ribbons of paper, plastic and tissue tied in a bowlike helix. DNA is also the crux of “Fine Mess,” whose bars of color are painted horizontally on long strips of paper that hang nearly from ceiling to floor. Gavish gives tiny things an outsized presence.
To a chemist, urban structures are familiar: they look naturally constructed, growing like crystals in a laboratory. Michal Gavish, originally a chemist studying these structures, now creates large, handmade prints of cityscapes from her past in the manner of the crystals she used to study. In her new exhibition Crystalline City, Gavish will exhibit for the first time her prints deconstructing her new hometown of Washington, DC. These will be shown alongside her recent personal pieces on New York neighborhoods.
Gavish rearranges her photography-based images of city buildings into geometries that extend vertically. She recasts familiar city streets into invented layouts, instilling undercurrents of turmoil in the magnificent, quiet buildings. She builds scaffoldings of infinitely long rows of windows and columns. These careful compositions of multiple lines, squares and rectangles display magnificent patterns of crystalline-like geometries.
Printed on translucent fabric layers, the vacant structures become intimate memories of contemporary archaeological sites. These images emerge like thin embroidery patterns that sometimes appear flat and at other moments are three-dimensional.