Outdoors is where Kiril Jeliazkov’s big, bold, vertical banners work best
Intense color, grand scale and variations on a theme are all artistic devices that were common long before the rise of abstract painting. But they seem particularly suited to abstract expressionism, whether in Robert Motherwell’s vast series of “Elegies” or such suites as Barnett Newman’s 14-canvas “Stations of the Cross” (on display at the National Gallery). Kiril Jeliazkov’s “The Orange Step” is not in their league, but it does have one advantage over them: The set of 128 huge, vertical banners is designed to be displayed outside, where it defines open space as it bows to the surrounding greenery,
Kiril Jeliazkov’s “The Orange Step” in Rose Park in Georgetown. The artist couldn’t get enough land to show all 128 banners in the set in the District. The works define open space even as they bow to surrounding greenery.
Jeliazkov, a Bulgaria-born Washingtonian, couldn’t get enough land to show all of “Step” in the District. But he has unfurled 81 of the 22-foot-high paintings in two locations: Georgetown’s Rose Park and along Massachusetts Avenue NW near the Naval Observatory. At the first site, groups of pictures draw a nearly straight line on the park’s south side and form an arc around a baseball diamond on the north. At the second, the artworks are split between two triangular greens, where they’re planted in groves amid the trees.
This is the fifth installation of “Step,” first erected in 2006 near Jeliazkov’s Bulgarian birthplace. Built for heavy weather, the paintings are on vinyl sheets, rendered with water-based paints formulated for durability, and hoisted in sets of two per metal pole. The pictures’ gestures appear spontaneous, even ephemeral, but their underlying materials are sturdy.
Jeliazkov often exhibits his expressionist representational paintings at the Toolbox Pilates Art Studio near Dupont Circle. His abstractions are more appealing, if far from innovative. Most of them are allover compositions, with bold hues in energetic motion. A few feature more muted shades and a softer touch. One has a red footprint, revealing the artist’s presence while demonstrating how the pictures dwarf their creator.
Towering and festive, “The Orange Step” emulates both architecture and nature. It’s made to be walked through, or around, and to be contemplated from a distance or up close. These are paintings, of course, but the groupings of them outdoors are most effective as Christo-style environmental art. They reframe existing vistas so they can be seen anew.
Kiril Jeliazkov: The Orange Step Through June 7 at Rose Park, 26th and P streets NW, and near 35th Street and Massachusetts Avenue NW. kirilism.com.