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Review | In the galleries: Captivating works of the celestial and terrestrial

Visions of the natural world and depictions of mechanisms for its destruction link the art of Donald Moffett and Shaun Krupa, two New Yorkers showing together in “Nature Cult: Tremor” at Von Ammon Co. All but one of Krupa’s contributions are hard-edged representational paintings. Moffett’s are mostly sculptures but vary from cleanly machined to roughly collaged.

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Among Krupa’s pictures are two of augers, corkscrew-like drill bits the artist renders as monochromatic — one gray, one forest green — and massive. Equally precise and blankly objective is “Dinosaur,” a large, light-green 3D architectural model that might be a segment of a ziggurat. (Krupa’s art-college degree is in industrial design.)

Natural forms appear in the other two paintings, one of which shows a glove made of patterned segments that resemble reptile skin. Bits of the fingers are missing, but it’s impossible to tell whether the glove is forming or decaying. Given the implicit destructiveness of those augers, however, rupture seems more likely.

Among Moffett’s sculptures are epoxy-resin wall pieces that suggest liquid or malleable materials yet are solid and nearly symmetrical. An aqua-hued one (subtitled “Nature Cult, Beautiful Blue”) might be a hugely enlarged water droplet; a brown one (subtitled “Cocoa Brain”) looks like a tissue sample pressed onto a glass slide. The contrast between soft connotation and hard actuality proves engrossing.

The show’s largest entry is Moffett’s burlesque of a tree, made mostly of genuine branches or chunks of lumber, all painted gold and attached with heavy metal bolts. With a coffee-table art book affixed to one bough, the simulated tree is clearly an art object. As with Krupa’s glove, the structure could be a work of either demolition or reclamation. The way the metal intersects with the wood, though, is deeply unsettling.

Donald Moffett and Shaun Krupa: Nature Cult: Tremor Through Oct. 15 at Von Ammon Co., 3330 Cady’s Alley NW. 202-893-9797.

The science-based collaborations of artist Langley Spurlock and poet John Martin Tarrat are always far out, but their “Solar Circus” is especially unearthly. This Studio Gallery introduction to our solar system ponders the major planets and takes more than one look at the sun. But it reaches far past Neptune to Sedna, an orphan dwarf planet that was discovered a mere 20 years ago and whose orbit is so distant and elongated that it circles the sun just once every 11,400 years.

Those are Earth years, of course. Spurlock and Tarrat, whose largest project illustrates the periodic table of elements, can hardly offer anything except a human perspective on the universe. So they mix scientific and historical facts with playful references to popular culture. A piece about how the moon is drifting away from Earth bids farewell with the help of the children’s book “Goodnight Moon.” And one that looks ahead to the sun’s eventual (and catastrophic) expansion borrows the title of the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun.”

In the pair’s previous undertakings, Spurlock complemented Tarrat’s text in a variety of visual modes. Here all the artworks are digital collages, usually printed on aluminum or birch panels. The mashed-up imagery is occasionally supplemented by other elements, notably the yellow and red neon that underlies the piece consisting primarily of that “Abbey Road” song title stenciled in red block letters on gold metal. The cosmic glow of “Solar Circus” is mainly conceptual, but sometimes it’s literal.

Langley Spurlock and John Martin Tarrat: Solar Circus Through Oct. 21 at Studio Gallery, 2108 R St. NW. 202-232-8734.

Both Sookkyung Parkand Caroline MacKinnon make artworks by grouping hundreds of small pieces. The materials are different, but the primary distinction is in how they’re assembled. Park’s triangles of origami-folded paper, often painted with metallic pigment, are tightly nested together. MacKinnon’s ceramic buttons, circles and tubes are dispersed widely and, it sometimes appears, randomly. “Impressions,” at Betty Mae Kramer Gallery, contrasts the local artists’ strategies.

Park’s subjects include a red-and-orange sun, a craggy mountain in mineral-like hues and a roiling blue sea with a wave that’s about to break. The mountain’s curtain-like curves meander around an open core, but its individual bits are closely fitted. Two large mixed-media floor pieces are less centrally focused, but the origami chains that snake through them are densely woven. Representing natural forms that are massive and uncontrollable, Park imposes a fundamental order.

MacKinnon demonstrates her organizing impulse with wall-mounted wooden cubbyholes that contain tiny natural objects such as a seed, a shell and a feather, each placed on a tiny plate. But her other offerings include a cloud of small ceramic objects that splay eccentrically across a wall, linked only by thin wire, and arrays of button-like discs that haphazardly swarm parts of the floor, held in place only by gravity. MacKinnon positions items in space without suggesting that anything truly has a proper place.

Sookkyung Park and Caroline MacKinnon: Impressions Through Oct. 20 at Betty Mae Kramer Gallery, One Veterans Place, Silver Spring. 301-565-3805.

The principal subject of Jeff Duka’s show at Art Sound Language, a record and book boutique, is nothing less than the sky — vast, vaporous and ever-changing. Yet five of the six paintings in “Interstitial” are bisected by a spindly broadcast tower, and the other picture has three such spires. Perhaps the Northern Virginia artist simply likes the contrast between solid metal and insubstantial air, or enjoys the way a skinny vertical scaffold punctuates the immense horizontal sweep of clouds, mist and light.

The venue’s statement calls the paintings “landscapes of communication” in which each scene “references the intervals between signals as they race across great distances.” But it’s possible to see Duka’s pictures as parables of human frailty. Each tower appears vulnerable and insignificant, and perhaps even presumptuous, compared with the heavens around and above it.

People who saw Duka’s show at Olly Olly four years ago may be surprised by this one. The earlier exhibition featured pictures of faces in styles that were expressionist or nearly abstract. The “Interstitial” paintings, however, are as precise and sharply defined as renderings of clouds and twilights can be. Duka depicts the intangible and the invisible, but he does so with crisp realism.

Jeff Duka: Interstitial Through Oct. 15 at Art Sound Language, 5520 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 106. 202-596-1068.

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