Friday, December 31, 2004

New Timeout

The current Timeout 2004 guide for Washington, DC has really good coverage of DMV art galleries; in fact it is the only DC guide that offers any decent "guiding" to Washington area galleries.

It is written by Jessica Dawson, who also pens the "Galleries" column for the Washington Post.

Read her introduction (you'll need an Amazon password) here and her favorites here under "Names of the Game."

Jessica nails it when she recognizes in her intro that a new "optimism" is kindling a really good art scene in our region.

Throughout the pages dedicated to the galleries, and as it is to be expected, there are quite a few comparisons to New York this, New York that all over the place.

And reading through Jessica's descriptions of the various galleries also offers an honest and rare insight as to how this critic evaluates and views (she seems to have something about "safe art," whatever that is) most of our region's art galleries. For example Dawson praises Zenith Gallery's Margery Goldberg for her "tireless activism," but describes the gallery as "while influential in the neon art scene, consistently shows mediocre painting and craft."

Addison/Ripley is praised for selling "high-calibre paintings, photography and prints," but "their selections, while lovely, are awfully safe."

Cheryl Numark is "Washington's power dealer", while Leigh Conner shows work by the "kind of cutting-edge artists that Washingtonians usually travel to New York to see."

MOCA is "DC's answer to the hip, alternative galleries of New York."

We "concentrate on photography, but occasionally shows innovative sculpture and work in other media," while our Bethesda outpost is a "bright, glass-walled gallery [that] exhibits realist painting and photography."

Hemphill Fine Arts "plays host to many of Washington's strongest artists," but "the art here tends towards the decorative."

Fusebox is "sharp and savvy," and has "raised the bar for visual art in Washington," and their openings are "events to see and be seen at."

Does anyone know why Jessica has never reviewed Fusebox in her "Galleries" column? Fusebox is easily one of our top area galleries, and I'm curious as to why it is so nicely praised in Timeout, but (so far) avoided in Dawson's bi-weekly column at the WaPo.

Anyway... Bravo Timeout!

More galleries to open in 2005

One strong sign that the Greater Washington area "art scene" is really strong and gathering more heat is evidenced by the significant number of new galleries that opened in 2004, and the news that a few more will open in 2005.

I hear of a "Plan B Gallery" opening soon at 1530 P Street, as well as a second gallery (don't know name) being opened by a former Fusebox intern at 12th and U Street. If anyone has details on these two new spaces, email me.

And Zoe Myers is still looking for a large space so that she can open a gallery. If anyone knows of a substantial available space, then email her with details.

The Power of the Web

Yesterday I posted James W. Bailey's clever marriage of DC's top visual art shows with the cultural contributions of the mighty state of Mississippi.

Within a few hours, Bailey had received phone calls from the Directors of the Mississippi Arts Commission and the Mississippi Museum of Art thanking him and DC Art News for publishing the piece.

And get this... Bailey has even received a phone call from Governor Hally Barbour's Chief of Staff acknowledging that the Director of the Mississippi Museum of Art had forwarded the piece to the Governor's office.

O'Sullivan's Top 10 DC Art Shows

The WaPo's excellent Weekend section art critic checks in with his top 10 visual art shows for 2004:

1. "The Quilts of Gee's Bend." Sewn together by craftswomen from rural southwestern Alabama from scraps of denim work clothes, corduroy of many hues and whatever else was lying around the house, these boldly cockeyed quilts, on view at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, could have gone head to head with anything from the museum's collection of contemporary abstract painting -- and won handily.

2. "Douglas Gordon." From a video depicting the fingers of a man's hand appearing to, er, copulate with his own fist to "24 Hour Psycho," in which the Hitchcock thriller is slowed down to two frames per second, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden's exhibition of the contemporary Scottish artist's conceptual yet eye-catching work demonstrated the strangeness of the familiar.

3. "Drawings of Jim Dine." There's nothing pure about Dine's drawings, which incorporate bits of sculpture and painting, pop and classicism. Still, as the contemporary draftsman's show at the National Gallery of Art proved, there's something in Dine's blend of virtuosic technique and dark, smoky romanticism that lends his work on paper a surprising, enduring heft.

4. "Samuel Mockbee and the Rural Studio: Community Architecture." The National Building Museum's examination of the Auburn University architecture program, co-founded by the late artist, architect and educator -- whose students are taught that building solutions should come from within the community, not without -- was full of examples of design featuring wit, good sense and boundless imagination.

5. "Sally Mann: What Remains." Death is a difficult subject. Its ugliness, its frightening beauty, its inevitability are enough to make anyone squirm. Mann's show at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, with its photographs of decomposing human remains, Civil War sites, the bones of a beloved family pet and portraits of the artist's children, stirred up thoughts about mortality -- hers, mine and ours -- even as it spelled out a message about the endurance of love that cast these predictably disturbing images in an oddly reassuring light.

6. "Thinking Inside the Box: The Art of Andrew Krieger." The Washington-based artist's retrospective featured more than 100 drawings, etchings, box constructions and surreal "mail poems" squeezed into the Rotunda of the Corcoran Gallery of Art. While it could feel a little like a bric-a-brac shop at times, the crowded, flea-market flavor of the room underscored Krieger's themes of fading memory, miscommunication and the inadequacy of technology.

7. "Kerry James Marshall: One True Thing, Meditations on Black Aesthetics." Featuring photography, painting, sculpture, video and installation, the MacArthur "genius" grant winner's topic-hopping exhibition at the Baltimore Museum of Art was, despite its title, neither singular nor especially true. That is to say, it tackled themes of slavery, multiculturalism, gentrification, cultural assimilation and art, offering up not answers but questions that you were challenged to answer on your own.

8. "Calder Miro: A New Space for the Imagination." The subtitle of this artistic pairing at the Phillips Collection is intended to be taken both figuratively and literally. On one level, it refers to the creative interchange that went on between these two longtime friends, while on another it refers to the museum building itself, whose renovated Goh Annex makes the perfect setting to see both of these familiar modernists in a new light. Through Jan. 23.

9. "Treasures." In a year when the notion of "nonhegemonic curating" (to use the New York Times' wonky phrase) took center stage with the opening of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, the National Museum of African Art's latest exhibition -- the first in a series showcasing works from the permanent collection and other private collections -- shows how to do the label- and context-free thing right. That is to say, in moderation, and with an eye for clean, contemporary gallery design that lets visitors savor each and every object for the gem it is. Through Aug. 15.

10. "Cai Guo-Qiang: Traveler." The two-part show, featuring the rotting carcass of a boat resting on a sea of broken white porcelain at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, and large-scale drawings, in burnt gunpowder, at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, references two kinds of traveling: time and distance. The work, by the Chinese-born, New York-based artist whose projects often involve explosives and fireworks, is impressive, in a monumental, big-idea kind of way, yet there's as much here to chew on as there is to look at. Through April 24.