Thursday, March 31, 2005

Gallery Openings

Tomorrow is the first Friday of the month and thus the extended hours for the Dupont Circle area galleries.

Some key Dupont Circle shows not to miss are Maria Friberg's exhibition at Conner Contemporary, Laura Fayer at JET Artworks, William T. Wiley at Marsha Mateyka, Maxine Cable's room installations at Gallery 10 and Gabriel Jules at Washington Printmakers.

In Georgetown, Anne C. Fisher Gallery also has an opening titled "Resonance" for John M. Adams' paintings and Frances Sniffen's sculptures. From 6-8PM.

It's a tough call, but tomorrow I will be heading for the Arlington Arts Center to see the unfortunately named "Art with Accent: Latin Americans in the Mid-Atlantic States," curated by Susana Torruella Leval, Director Emerita, El Museo Del Barrio, New York.

That opening is from 6-9PM, and the exhibiting artists selected by Ms. Torruella Leval are: Aldo Badano, Juan Bernal, Gute Brandao, Mark Caicedo, Ana Cavalcanti, Irene Clouthier, Pepe Coronado, Gerard de la Cruz, Felisa Federman, Luis Flores, Eva Holz, Tamara Kostianovsky, Rosana Lopez, Carolina Mayorga, Lara Oliveira, Alessandra Ramirez, Victoria Restrepo, Helga Thomson, and Maria Velez.

I love the diversity of names, helping to smash the stereotype of "Hispanic" as a cultural segregator. The curator will also lead a round table discussion with participating artists, "Latin American" Art: Expectation and Reality, on Thursday, April 21 at 7PM. My vociferous views on this issue here.

The Thursday Reviews

In the WaPo, Jessica Dawson reviews Mark Dell'Isola at Govinda Gallery in Georgetown, and also reviews Prof. Peter Charles at Irvine Contemporary and has a little blurb on American Icons at Robert Brown.

At G.P., Kriston has an excellent review of Molly Springfield at JET Artworks.

In the City Paper, Louis Jacobson reviews Valeska Soares at Fusebox, while Jeffry Cudlin reviews Shimon Attie at Numark.

The CP also has a letter from J.W. Bailey coming to the defense of curator Annette Polan in the wake of the hubris caused by the "Faces of the Fallen" exhibition.

And finally, the CP has a great feature on painter Erik Sandberg. By the way, since the article doesn't mention it, Erik Sandberg is represented locally by Conner Contemporary Art, which has done a huge amount of work to promote his career and continues to do a superb job in giving Sandberg's name the recognition that it deserves; Erik is lucky to have such a hard working gallery representing his work.

These artist features, which the CP does rather regularly, is one of the key things that makes this paper such a great asset to our cultural tapestry, since none of the other area newspapers does anything remotely similar (unless it is a late obituary).

For the record, I think and have thought for many years, that Sandberg is without a doubt one of the best painters in our area, and I own two of his paintings.

Also for the record, his statement that he left our gallery because "They lost my damn number five times, or they never had my number," differs from my own recollections as to the reasons that he gave us (in a voice mail) for leaving the gallery, one of which was that "he had decided to be on his own and not be represented exclusively by any gallery." This was a couple of days after his very successful first solo show had closed. To this date, he remains the only artist who has ever "left us" voluntarily since we opened our first gallery in 1996.

We gave a very young Erik Sandberg his first solo show in Washington, sold nearly all of his work, and whatever didn't sell was then sold through Sothebys, to collectors in Europe and Japan. Nonetheless, for a variety of reasons, Erik chose to leave our gallery.

I remain a huge fan of Erik Sandberg's work.

Opportunities for Artists

Deadline: April 1, 2005

"In Focus: Photography Techniques and Trends." Juror: Sarah Kennel, Assistant Curator, Department of Photographs, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. This exhibition is open to artists working in all photographic processes. Artists are encouraged to expand parameters and traditional definitions. Award amounts up to $500. Exhibition dates: June 9 to July 17, 2005. Submission fee: $25 for images of 3 works. Deadline: Friday, April 1, 2005. For prospectus, email Clare here or send SASE to:
Target Gallery
105 North Union Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
or Phone: 703.838.4565

Deadline: April 8, 2005

The Bethesda Arts & Entertainment District is accepting submissions for The Trawick Prize: Bethesda Contemporary Art Awards. The 3rd annual juried art competition awards $14,000 in prize monies to four selected artists.

Deadline for slide submission is Friday, April 8, 2005 and up to fifteen artists will be invited to display their work from September 6, 2005 - September 30, 2005 in downtown Bethesda at Creative Partners Gallery.

The competition will be juried by Olga Viso, the Deputy Director at the Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; Andrea Pollan, an independent curator, fine arts appraiser and art consultant and Dr. Thom Collins, Executive Director of the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore, MD.

Deadline: April 8, 2005

Call for Entries for Artscape 2005. Complete application information is available at

Two exhibitions: One at the Baltimore Museum of Art Drawing Show/Juried Show Thalheimer Gallery and a second: The Baltimore Museum of Art and the Meyerhoff Gallery, Fox Building, MICA, Curated by Gary Simmons (A New York artist).

Application deadline: April 8, 2005. The BMA exhibition will focus on drawing based ideas. The Fox building show will cover all media.

Deadline: April 8, 2005

The Halpert Biennial 05, a national juried visual art competition and exhibition, is open to all two-dimensional visual artists, who are over the age of 18 and currently residing in the United States. Awards totaling $5000. Mary Agnes Beach (Museum Curator City of Coral Gables, Florida) will serve as juror. The Halpert Biennial is a part of An Appalachian Summer Festival-a multi-arts festival featuring music, dance, theatre and visual arts. Deadline for entries is April 8, 2005. Send SASE to:
Halpert Biennial 05
Attn - Brook Greene
Box 32139
423 West King St, Boone NC 28608

Deadline: April 11, 2005

Juried Annual Small Works Exhibition. Seeking works on paper no smaller than half of a dollar bill, no larger than a full dollar bill. Entry fee. No commission; insurance. $1000+ in awards.

Send SASE to:
Jacksonville State Univ.
Art Department
700 Pelham Rd N
Jacksonville AL 36265

Or call 256-782-5626.

Deadline: April 12, 2005

The Spectrum Gallery in Georgetown, DC is jurying for new members on April 12. For more information please call 202.333.0954 or visit

Deadline:April 15, 2005

"What's So Terrible About Being Beautiful?" A modern art exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art/A+M Galleries in Washington, DC which is looking for an artist to join three other prominent artists in its June exhibition. All media will be considered for this competition. The show will run from June 3 to July 1. Please email: for a prospectus or
mail a request to:
Peter Photikoe
Museum of Contemporary Art/A+M Galleries
1054 31st St NW
Washington DC 20007

Deadline: April 18, 2005

"Containers/Contained." Juror: Twylene Moyer, Managing Editor, Sculpture magazine. This exhibition is open to all artists working in all media, both two-dimensional and three-dimensional. Works can explore both the literal and the conceptual parameters of containers and containment. Artists are encouraged to think broadly and to expand traditional definitions. Award amounts up to
$500. Exhibition dates: July 22 to August 28, 2005. Submission fee: $25 for images of 3 works (slide or JPEG). Deadline: Monday, April 18, 2005. For prospectus, email
Target here or send SASE to:
Target Gallery
105 North Union Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
Or Phone: 703.838.4565

May 1, 2005

22nd Annual Art Competition sponsored by The Artist's Magazine. More than $25,000 in cash prizes will be awarded, and Top Award Winners will be featured in the
December 2005 issue of The Artist's Magazine.

Plus, 13 finalists will be featured in The Artist's Magazine's 2006 Calendar. There are five categories for artists to compete: Portrait & Figures, Still Life, Landscape, Experimental and Animal Art. Plus, there's a Special Student/Beginner Division for new artists.

For details and an entry form visit: or email them at: this email address or call Terri Boes at:513-531-2690 x1328.

Deadline: May 20, 2005

Call For Erotic Artists! Juried show: Art @ Large, New York City's Erotic/Figurative Art Gallery. Juror: Grady T. Turner, New York based art critic, curator and author of "NYC Sex: How New York City Transformed Sex in America." All media and orientations in Erotic Art, Nudes, Sexuality - demure to explicit. Best of Show to receive solo exhibition in 2006. Either download the prospectus from this website or send SASE to:
Art @ Large
630 Ninth Av #707
New York NY 10036

Deadline: June 3, 2005

9th Annual Georgetown International Fine Arts Competition. With $1,000 in cash prizes and a solo show in 2006 for the Best of Show winner, the Annual Georgetown International has a call for artists. See details online here to download the prospectus or send a SASE to:
Fraser Gallery
1054 31st Street, NW
Washington, DC 20007

Deadline: September 15, 2005

i found your photo National Call for Submission of Donated Found Photographs. This is a unique Art exhibition of found photographs to raise money to fund a Photography Scholarship for an at-risk High School Senior aspiring photographer from the Washington, D.C. Area to attend Art School.

According to Bailey, this exhibition will feature donated found photographs submitted from across the country by both artists and non artists who have discovered or found a photograph somewhere that interests them: "I’m issuing a national call for submission for one found photograph to be donated to the exhibition from anyone interested in participating. I’m asking each finder of a submitted found photograph to include an index card with their submission that includes a personal statement about where the photograph they have submitted was found and what meaning it holds for them."

After the exhibition closes in late 2005, the original found photographs, index cards and other curatorial items from the exhibition will be collected and placed into an original one-of-a-kind handmade photography book. This book will be designed by photographer and handmade photography book artist, Melanie De Cola, of Reston, Virginia. To complete the project, the book will be auctioned on Ebay in early 2006 and the proceeds of the auction will be used to fund a the photography scholarship through the League of Reston Artists, a not for profit artist collective based in Reston.

Mail the original photograph, along with an index card that offers your thoughts on the meaning of the photograph and a description of where you found it by September 15, 2005 to:
James W. Bailey
Force Majeure Studios
2142 Glencourse Lane
Reston, VA 20191
Website: here

Wednesday, March 30, 2005


To Behroo Bagheri, who is the winner of the fourth annual Evolving Perceptions (EP) Iranian-American Fine Arts Scholarship.

In 1998, Behroo finished law school in Iran, soon thereafter she decided to move to California. Behroo decided that the paintbrush would be a more effective tool in exposing the exploitation, corruption and injustice that she observed and experienced. She shares, "It was painful to observe my fatherland going down, and not being able to speak out."

EP, which is a local DC area organization, is expanding the scholarship program and is seeking sponsors to donate to the fund. If interested in donating a tax deductible gift to Evolving Perceptions (a 501(c)3 organization), please contact EP at or call them at 202-607-0754.

Donkeys, Elephants, Pandas and... Piggybanks

From a just received news release:

"Recognizing the success of statue events around the world such as the Cows in Europe and Chicago, the Peanuts characters in Saint Paul, the Donkeys, Elephants and Pandas here in Washington D.C., we are proud to be creating Piggybanks in Washington, DC.

The display of the Piggybanks as a form of public art will coincide with the Stash Your Cash program in Washington, DC Public Middle Schools.

Stash Your Cash teaches Middle School students hands on lessons in money management through their schools. The piggybanks will promote awareness of the campaign and will create public art throughout Washington, DC.

The campaign will feature a limited number of 4 feet tall, 5 feet long, and 3 feet wide piggybanks custom designed by middle school students with the assistance of Washington, DC artists. The piggybank statues will be on display throughout Washington, DC from the end of April to June. In June, the piggybanks will be auctioned off and proceeds will go to participating schools."
The organizers have a call for artists and are hereby inviting artists to participate in this event by assisting local middle school students in designing and painting a piggybank statue. A website will soon be up, but in the meantime, to request more information please call Sara Higgs at (703) 741-7500 by Wednesday April 6, 2005.

Also on Thursday

One of the most beautiful art venues in our area is The Art Museum of the Americas, and tomorrow they will host extended hours from 6-8 PM for a viewing of the exhibit "Art of the Print."

This is an encapsulated survey of the museum’s print collection ranging in time from Jose Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913) to contemporary printmakers, Art of the Print brings together the work of artists who have dedicated the greater part of their careers to printmaking, as well as artists best known as painters or sculptors who, at different points in their careers, have been drawn to printmaking’s versatility and sensibility.

Among the artists in the exhibit are Antonio Berni, Jacobo Borges, Claudio Bravo, Rimer Cardillo, Jose Luis Cuevas, Juan Downey, Enrique Grau, Mauricio Lasansky, Matilde Marin, Leopoldo Mendez, Carlos Merida, Oscar Muñoz, Naul Ojeda, Jose Clemente Orozco, Alejandro Otero, Sonnylal Rambissoon, Omar Rayo, Diego Rivera, Jose Sabogal, Lasar Segall, David Alfaro Siquieros, Luis Solari, Fernando de Szyszlo, Rufino Tamayo, Francisco Toledo, Julio Zachrisson, Francisco Zuniga, among others.

Of note among these giants of world art, is Naul Ojeda, who passed away last year, and who lived for many years in the Washington area, where he was an enthusiastic participant in past Art-O-Matics.

For further info for further information call (202) 458-6016.

Wanna Go to an Opening Tomorrow?

print by Clay-RobisonBodies: Prints by Matthew Clay-Robison is an exhibition of over 25 woodcut and serigraph prints commences tomorrow with a lecture by Clay-Robison on Thursday, March 31, 4-4:45 PM at the Margaret Brent Room, Stamp Student Union and is immediately followed by an Opening Reception from 5:00 - 6:30PM at the Union Gallery, Stamp Student Union at the University of Maryland.

Clay-Robison is a printmaker, University of Maryland alumni and assistant professor in the Department of Art and Art History at Bloomsburg University. The works' subjects include highly charged political critiques of the current administration to the depiction of a fight the artist witnessed while living in Washington, D.C.,

The Union Gallery is located on the first floor of the Stamp Student Union on the campus of the University of Maryland. Hours are 10:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

work by Wm ChristenberryIf you'd rather stay in the District, then Hemphill Fine Arts hosts the opening of one of Washington's best known and most respected artists: William Christenberry.

Christenberry needs no introduction and this exhibition promises to be one of the most interesting shows by a key member of ours arts community.

The opening reception is from 6:30 to 8:30PM.

The show will be on exhibit until May 14, 2005.

Arts Management

Debra Smyers wrote a paper for a Master of Arts Management class assignment at George Mason University describing a gallery reception.

She chose our Lida Moser opening last Friday and her eloquent paper can be read online here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

DCistTuesday Arts Agenda

Read it here.

MAP is Out of Order!

Maryland Art Place

The Maryland Art Place
in Baltimore has a call for all artists to join them for their Annual Free-Hung Exhibition, Silent Auction, and Gala: Out of Order.

All 2-D and 3-D artwork is welcome, as well as jewelry, ceramics, media, etc.
One original work per artist, with maximum dimensions of 5’ x 5’.
Work must be ready to hang (i.e. hangers and wire securely attached.)
MAP provides all hardware for installation.
Call ahead for special needs—pedestals and electricity access is limited.
Work must be priced to sell!
Proceeds will be split 50/50 between the artist and MAP.
MAP reserves the right not to exhibit work deemed unacceptable.

Hanging Dates and Times: 24 Straight Hours (That’s Right—24 hours nonstop!) beginning 9 am Wednesday, April 6th, and ending 9 am Thursday, April 7th, 2005.

Silent Auction and Gala: 8 pm-1 am Friday, April 8th. This will be a special evening of entertainment by Abby McGivney and Michael Patrick Smith, along with music by Chris Pumphrey and electronic fun by Snacks; and of course, they’re will be food, beer, and wine! And artists who donate works will receive a free ticket to the auction and gala night.

For more details or to become a member of MAP call them at 410-962-8565 or visit their website.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Artwork Needed for Auction

Two dimensional artwork is needed between the sizes of 8x10 inches and 24x24 inches for the American Red Cross' DC Bandaids/Tsunami Relief Silent Auction and Concert to be held at DCAC next Monday night, April 4th, 2005.

This is a great opportunity to have your artwork help lives that have been devastated by the tsumami, and also donate to the American Red Cross all at once.

For more info, including where to donate your artwork and when, please email the Silent Auction coordinator Mare Meyer here or visit this website for more details.

click here to visit ArtKrush is back! Visit them often.

Block that Quote

MAN has an interesting post on misused quotes in reference to Matisse.

Nothing to do with Matisse, or DC art, but the trouble with misused quotes is also one of my pet peeves, which in a Woody Allen moment, I was able to "fix" (in a very specific case) a few years ago on national television when I was a talking head in a TBS documentary called "Women of the Ink."

The documentary was about female tattoo artists, and I was the talking head discussing the ancient history of tattooing in European culture, specifically focused on the ancient Picts of current day Scotland.

For almost two centuries historians had debated the issue of tattoing among the Pictish kingdoms north of Hadrian's Wall in Roman Britain. A few lines from a poem by Claudian:

"Venit et extremis legio praetenta Britannis, Quae Scotto dat frena truci ferronque notatas Perlegit examines Picto moriente figuras"
Which means:
"This legion, set to guard the furthest Britons, curbs the savage Scot and studies the designs marked with iron on the face of the dying Pict"
Add a few more sparse descriptions (which are actually the first surviving mention of the Picts dating from 297 AD), in a poem praising the emperor Constantius Chlorus, by the Roman orator Eumenius. And then by just repeating the same partial quote over and over, historians get into a debate about tattoo or painted? What does "marked with iron mean?"

Matrilineal (Royal House of The Seal) a drawing by CampelloEven the name is confusing: Pict (Pictii) is actually probably a derrogatory nickname given by the Romans to their tattooed enemies; it could mean "Painted."

The ancient Greeks called them the "Pritanni" (which some people think is the origin of the word Britannic). Pritanni means "the People of the Designs" as does the word "Cruithnii," which is what the Gaelic Celts called them.

So I actually went and researched the source and text of some of the original documents which mentioned the Picts and discovered that the quotes were but a small part, and once expanded not only confirmed that the Picts were tattooed, but described the process (they used sharp iron tools (needles?) and a natural plant-based ink called woad, which is apparently (in some forms) highly hallucenic by the way... sort of a very strong PCP type drug).

Most of the misquotes were taken from books 9 and 14 of the Etymologies of Isidore of Seville (560-636).

In the Chronica de Origine Antiquorum Pictorum (The Pictish Chronicle), an otherwise confusing text, he writes:
"Picti propria lingua nomen habent a picto corpore; eo quod, aculeis ferreis cum atramento, variarum figurarum sti(n)gmate annotantur."
Which means:
"The Picts take their name in their own tongue from their painted bodies; this is because, using sharp iron tools and ink, they are marked by tattoos of various shapes."
Painted and tattooed!

When I bring this up to a very smug historian in the "Women of the Ink" documentary, you can actually see his proper British jaw drop.

Mark Jenkins

Mark Jenkins is at it again... check out his latest outdoor installations at the reflecting pool here and at the Mall here.

Beck's Futures

Blake Gopnik pens a really superb look at the London Institute of Contemporary Arts' "Beck's Futures" exhibition of emerging British art.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

The 48th Corcoran Biennial

In discussing the 48th Corcoran Biennial with the curators, one encounters the words "traditional" and "earnest" quite often, and after a couple of rounds through the exhibit, it may be a bit if a head scratcher for some to try to figure out exactly where "tradition" fits in.

But like those color dot eye tests that are given to determine color blindness, once the clever thread that holds this exhibition together is discovered, then and only then can one see what co-curators Stacey Schmidt and Dr. Jonathan Binstock have accomplished in the 2005 version of the Biennial.

Titled "Closer to Home," the exhibition gathers fifteen artists from an initial field of around 150 artists initially considered by the curators. The title is both a metaphor for what Binstock and Schmidt attempt to accomplish (a return to more traditional artwork) as well as a signpost to show that the curators are proud of the fact that four of the fifteen artists selected are from our area (that’s three more than the sole DC area artist included in the previous Biennial). Our kudos to the curators for this sensitivity and awareness of Washington area artists.

But finding and examining the thread that unifies this exhibition is the prime objective of my discussion of the show. The second issue is the discovery that seldom has a genre (in this case photography) imposed itself so quickly and firmly, heads above the rest of the other forms of art included in this show. To tip my card early: photographers stole this show.

Sculptural Offerings and Other Oddities

Start by not missing the huge sculpture by Chakaia Booker on the extreme right wall of the ground floor.

Made of torn black tires, it is surprising organic and even visceral when you get right close to it. In the catalog, Schmidt writes that "the worn treads are particularly evocative, and Booker emphasizes their rich textural quality through her deft deployment of repetition." I don’t know about that, but in more plebian language, the artist (by the way, who could walk into any Star Wars movie or any Star Trek set in the world) has morphed the qualities of the discarded rubber into a believable sculpture support system, that (like Michelangelo’s David) seems almost alive and able to move. It was a good choice for inclusion in this show, and it was one of my early favorites in the exhibition, although I wish it could have been placed somewhat closer to the rest of the works, as I am afraid that its present location may make some visitors miss by the Rev. Acres

Then walk through the Rev. Ethan Acres inflatable and brightly colored yellow... uh... things, and examine the preaching pumpkin-headed sculpture surrounded by black felt birds in the Corcoran’s second level rotunda, and it takes a bit to gather the first subtle hints of what ties this exhibition together. And no, it isn’t Stephen King’s The Stand.

So where’s the traditional connection here? Meet the Reverend, a likable and vocal young man who truly has the charm and voice qualities of a street preacher, and he’ll let you know about how he’s been preaching since he was a child, and will soon be starting the "Church of Having Fun" (I think that church's name is in constant flux) in Los Angeles; I have dibs for the first outlet in our area.

For the Biennial, Schmidt and Binstock chose a series of inflatable contraptions, which using some sort of noisy blowing motor, keep the yellow plastic works inflated, sort of like an artsy version of those dancing air men one sometimes sees at outdoor concerts or a children’s bouncy castle. They are covered in writing extolling the virtues of what the Reverend likes to preach.

Therein lies the first hint of where tradition exists within the trying-to-be-outrageous work of the Reverend and our first hint of what the curators are going after.

Go up one level, and upon entering the main exhibit area, one runs into the balls of yarn and the cardboard and yarn floor sculpture of Kathryn Spence, strangely reminiscent (at least to me) of something almost identical that I saw at the last Art-O-Matic.
work by Kathryn Spence
There are also paper towels that have the decorations on them stitched by the artist, as if she’s underlining the quilting impression that Madison Avenue pushes when advertising paper towels. The quilted paper towels are displayed on a shelf, a bit of a heavy handed metaphor for the home, but also one which helps us bridge the "traditionality" of the artist’s work (quilting) to a modern context (the paper towels as the support medium).

Take something "traditional," and marry it with something more "modern." And the thread is now becoming a rope (or in this case yarn).

The paintings by Monique Van Genderen are displayed also in this area, and of all the work in this show, these were the one that I would characterize as most forgettable – they are the kind of sixty-year-old-looking work that one sees almost everywhere artwork is ever exhibited, from the most plebian of community centers in Manassas to the most hoity toity of art galleries in New York. I lost the thread there.

The thread is brilliantly pulled back into focus by the delicate and somewhat puzzling collages of Austin Thomas. Technically anchored by a set of tiny, flower-shaped paper forms, the collages float back and forth between the realm of geometric abstraction, to the illusionist viewpoint of one looking at aerial views or building and airports.

What Austin has cleverly done is fool us into becoming intimate examiners of her work, traditional in the sense that she’s just assembling paper on paper, while at the same time puzzling us with questions as to the significance (and identity) of what she’s trying to, or not to, represent.

Thomas also has a couple of sculptural pieces in this show, that even after a few close looks, still seem to me like nothing more than a glorified gazebo. I will admit that the bench that is now in the last room of the exhibition (looking strangely out of place in a gallery full of early American portrait paintings) is an improvement over the ordinary bench that it replaced and I encourage the Corcoran to buy it; but it's just a fancy bench.

A couple of floor sculptures by area stalwart Jeff Spaulding (a Trawick Prize finalist last year) hark back to the halcyon days of found-object assemblage and return us to tradition, especially with the bike seat sculpture. As soon as Picasso married a bike seat with the bike’s handlebars to create the head of a bull, back in the early years of the last century, those objects entered the pantheon of tradition, while at the same time remaining modern-looking parts for generations of sculptors to come.

The Triumph of Photography

The next room reveals the true great find of this Biennial: the daguerreotypes of Adam Fuss. And it was Fuss, during my first walk-through, who provided me with the key to unravel the unifying force of the exhibition.

What can be more traditional that a 19th century photographic process? And is there a geekier group of people in the fine arts than techno photographers, with their love of wet plates, pinhole cameras, and even daguerreotypes. Some people think that digital photography will soon eclipse the dark room and film.

To them I say bull! As long as there are Adam Fusses in the art world, there will always be bridges between the old and the modern.

Couple a modern-looking image (in this case wave-like forms made -- I think -- by a drop of water), repeated in multiple instantiations with the technical beauty of a daguerreotype, and then present it in a super clean, barely-there minimalist clear frame, and you have a room of photographs that are the essence of post-modern hi-fallutinism but owing their birth to one of the most traditional of photography’s ancestors.

This is what the 48th Biennial is all about -- Bravo Fuss; you rule this show!

And I think that Binstock and Schmidt know this, because as we sail past Fuss' photographs, the next few artists (all three of them area residents) all seem to get it, and better still offer it back.

That is if you skip Matthew Buckingham’s slide show. This is the one piece that truly fails by trying too hard.
slide show by Buckingham
Like an awful lot of conceptual art, Buckingham’s entry in the Biennial suffers from conceptualititis, that strange and common disease where the conceptual idea is a lot more interesting than the actual visual project. In this case, Buckingham bridges the road between the traditional and the new by re-visiting the 1910 project by photographer Rudolph DeLeeuw, who photographed every building on both sides of Broadway (from Bowling Green to Columbus Circle) in New York City.

Buckingham returns to the scene of the original photography, re-shoots the exact same views, and tries to bring it to a modern setting through the pseudo installation process of showing fade-away slides in a dimly lit room.

And it doesn’t just fail because the interesting concept is just that (interesting as a concept), but it also fails because Buckingham’s photos are some of the drabbest, plainest, fill-in-the-blank-with-a-negative-word "est" photos that I’ve seen since I last attempted to take photographs (in an eerily similar project) as an art school student in Seattle a couple of decades ago.

Locals to the Rescue

But the local boys rekindle the show. We first encounter Colby Caldwell (represented locally by Hemphill Fine Arts), and who is easily one of the most innovative photographers in our area. Caldwell has two bodies of works on exhibition – both of which reinforce what Binstock and Schmidt are trying to assert.

In the first series of works, he displays the 8mm film of his friends (shown in modern looking video monitors). The traditionality of the 8mm film, which has been a key part of Colby’s work for the last few years, is married to the modernity of the video as art (although this form of art is getting a bit long in the tooth now -- it’s in its 40s).

The 8mm film is scratchy and color-flooded enough, and short enough (three minutes each) to warrant attention (as opposed to the interminable bores of Tacita Dean for example).

Caldwell left individual friends alone with the 8mm camera running, and let them choose what to say and do. It works well in this exhibition – underline another artist who solidifies the exhibition premise.

example of the Caldwell work I am discussingCaldwell’s other pieces are enlarged color works derived from single frames from old 8mm film. He has chosen various frames, but it is the "error" frames, where perhaps the rastering of the 8mm has gone off, which are the most interesting.

Once these colorful raster images are gigantized to the proper Teutonic scale required by modern day museum curators, and presented on the walls, it is easy to handcuff them to the tradition of the Washington Color School.

Yes, yes, I know that no stripe painter ever painted anything like Caldwell’s old family movies have birthed, but if they’ve had the visual idea, they would have done so and Caldwell’s modern works would have fit right into the painting dialogue of the Color School (not to mention that Colby’s would have been "thinner" than the "thinnest" of paintings).

I love it when intelligence, technical ability and historical glue all come together to deliver great artwork. Bravo Caldwell!

And the rest of this room belongs to our own, for Caldwell’s neighbors are James Huckenpahler (represented locally by Fusebox and also a Trawick Prize finalist) and Baltimore’s John Lehr, who is not represented by anyone locally, but who I am sure will soon be in the stable of a good local gallery and a powerhouse LA or NYC gallery.

John Lehr is a very young photographer whose work came through the attention of co-curator Jonathan Binstock through the jurying process for the Trawick Prize (are we seeing another thread here?). Two bodies of work are exhibited, but it is the first set, a series titled Sound and Fury that truly identify young Mr. Lehr as someone to keep an eye upon.

And let me be frank and tell you that Lehr’s photography is that sort of photography that does not speak to me personally; I don’t like boring, blasé photography, but an awful lot of important contemporary art world voices do, and thus I predict good things for this likeable young man, who is not yet 30..

About his work: start with the "everyone is photographing empty streetscapes" formula, but then add something compositionally (and contextually) different. In this set of photographs, Lehr has skillfully bisected the large, drab images with a neat view of the slim side of a large sign. Imagine your typical billboard, or neon advertising sign, etc. When viewed from the side, Lehr denies us (and the sign sponsors) the message. All that’s left is a bisecting line that divides the landscape into shapes, sometimes eerily unrelated.

But after that's over and done with... what then? That is the biggest challenge for young Mr. Lehr. In fact, his second body of works in this exhibition, aligned to the left of the Sound and Fury photographs, are just another set of common, colorful, poster-like photos. The challenge then for young John Lehr, even before he pops into the national stage, is the curse of the "what's new?" crowd... after all, one can't photograph signs sideways for the rest of your life (can they?).

Iñigo Maglano-Ovalle Cloud Prototypeno.1A blob of silver suspended from the ceiling directs us to the computer-generated work of James Huckenpahler.

The blob of silver is by Iñigo Maglano-Ovalle, although for a minute there I thought that perhaps Huckenpahler was trying his hand at sculpture and was taking one of his computer-generated works into the third dimension.

As any Washington area art junkie knows, Huckenpahler’s palette is the laptop, and his art are the computer manipulated images that he distills from the original input files, in this case forms and parts of the body that eventually yield amorphous forms and designs that struggle to leave the two dimensional trap of the flat surface though the intelligent use of highlight to give the illusion of three dimensions. They are beautiful, almost sensual images, and yet, after seeing Huckenpahler push his laptop to the limit, one but gets the feeling that he’s beginning to accomplish all that can be done with the avenue that he has so well explored.

Somewhere in some lab in Silicon Valley, some techy geek is now inventing holographs for the masses, so that our kids can play their Xbox games in three dimensions. As soon as he does that, Huckenpahler can probably explode his formidable artistic vision away from the wall, but for now I think that he is dangerously close to becoming trapped by his own ability and success. He does well in this show, and his work is by far some of the best in the Biennial, as he was clearly pushed by Binstock and Schmidt to stretch the boundaries of his art, but I think he’s now reached max speed and needs to invent a new acceleration scheme.

The Failure of Painting

As I mentioned earlier, Van Genderen's paintings left me in a complete state of apathy, and the other two painters in the show also fail miserably to impress anything memorable for the "ancient medium."

The curators do try to impress upon visitors that there’s no irony in any of the works selected; these are artists working in "earnest," and perhaps while not at the vanguard of the irony-driven front lines of the art scene, they are nonetheless an important and serious part of it.

But if George Condo’s paintings are not supposed to be ironic, then what the hell are they supposed to be about? I suppose that with enough art jargon anyone could coat these silly, cartoonish, badly painted works with a certain sense of decorum and purpose; I for one, lack that much talent.

The imagery itself is puzzling: distorted heads and community college night school surrealism. And although the catalog describes them as "exquisite, painterly portraits," this is not true. In fact, they are (technically) badly painted by someone who makes tones and hues by mixing everything with white (the unfortunate and common pseudo technical weapon of choice of self-taught Sunday painters).

The lack of technical skill as a painter is not the only thing that makes these works fail, although if Condo’s works are truly to be seen as "earnest," then a few painting classes wouldn’t hurt.

But the imagery itself is just plain... uh... silly! Not "bizarre," just silly. Like what would come out if you commissioned Zippy to create a new series of paintings for Sears. I can see it now: Thomas Kinkade: Painter of Light and Zippy the Pinhead: Painter of Silliness.

Dana Schutz's paintings have been in a lot of Biennials all over the world since this young painter got her MFA at Columbia in 2002. And they are an improvement over Condo’s, but they are nonetheless still somewhat of a surprise to me, simply because, when viewed in person and up close, they seem so pedestrian and art school assignmentish.

Surgery by Dana SchutzWith the sole exception of "Surgery," which earns some respect by employing that powerful trump card of representational painting that will always keep it as the king of the fine arts: the ability to capture our attention by offering an unusual (in this case slightly gruesome) scene.

In "Surgery" a female figure is being dissected by a set of other figures around her. It is the most memorable of paintings in the show, but fails to rescue painting from the bottom of the pile in this exhibition.

Finally, the Richard Rezac sculptures left me without a deep opinion. They are minimalist enough, and simple enough, a colorful enough, so that they could easily (if anyone wanted to) be mass-produced into a "make your own modern sculpture" kit. Perhaps the "tradition" here could be a "family art night" where family members could all re-arrange the clean, elegant pieces into different shapes to create modern sculptures.

Well Done!

The 48th Corcoran Biennial is a clever and interesting show, which by design and intention delivers an intelligent marriage of what is seen as traditional, but often able to cross into what we now perceive as modern.

As with any group show, the failures are jaw-dropping in their lack of presence, but the successes, led by Fuss, Caldwell, Lehr and Huckenpahler, more than make up for the weak links in this top notch group show. It is well worth the two-year wait and well worth a visit.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Airborne today

In a futile attempt to avoid the fiasco of my flight west, I'll be heading to the airport about four hours early, hoping to avoid the Easter rush, which coupled with a massive snowstorm being predicted to hit this area tomorrow, will make for an interesting flying day.

Today was another gorgeous day in Seattle, and I had dinner with a few Seattle area gallery owners (ahhhh... the Power of the Web), a local star artist who's an old friend of mine, and even a critic for a local paper who happens to be a schoolmate from my U-Dub days.

After a lot of good seafood and a lot of beer and wine, it's interesting to me to see how the two Washingtons share a lot of the same bitching topics about the visual arts, newspaper coverage, grubs, etc.

Seattle is definately a "wired" city... I can't believe the number of emails that flooded my inbox after I posted the Seattle gallery walk-through; all of them from Seattlelites either agreeing or disagreeing with my notes, and more than one gallerist asking why I skipped his/her gallery.

My daughter Elise finished High School in three years, and so for the last year or so she has been attending college, all the time waiting for her formal graduation ceremony, which takes places in June.

I think that means that "I'll be bek" [pronounced in an Austrian accent].

Friday, March 25, 2005

Lida Moser and the Biennial in the WaPo

There's a great review by O'Sullivan of our current Lida Moser exhibition at Fraser Gallery Georgetown.

The exhibition is well on its way to become our best selling photography show ever.

O'Sullivan also reviews the Corcoran Biennial and picks up on the whole "earnest" issue which was a key component of how the curators discussed the show.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

The Thursday Reviews and Faces of the Fallen

The WaPo's Jonathan Padget has a take on "Never Mind The Corcoran" at Warehouse Gallery.

In the City Paper, Louis Jacobson reviews our current photography show in our Bethesda gallery and also reviews Andrea Way at Marsha Mateyka.

Also in the City Paper, Jeffry Cudlin delivers on a hard assignment: William Basinski and Richard Chartier's live electronic sound art at G Fine Art.

And there's also a very good piece by someone named Deborah Burand, who writes a really readable story on how her portrait came to be painted.

But it is the CP's Christ Shott who's got the best art story/review of the week, in discussing "Faces of the Fallen," a massive exhibition co-chaired by Annette Pollan.

A total of 1,678 American military personnel have perished so far in ongoing missions overseas, according to the Pentagon’s latest U.S. Casualty Status update. That’s 1,519 reported dead in Operation Iraqi Freedom plus 118 killed in and around Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom and another 41 in other locations.

"Faces of the Fallen," a massive outpouring of portraiture intended "to honor the American service men and women who have died," has room for only 1,327 of them. "There are that many of the fallen represented," says exhibit co-chair Annette Polan, a professor at the Corcoran College of Art & Design who recruited nearly 200 volunteers to memorialize each of the deceased through individual portraits.
The issue that is the core of Schott's article, is that some works have been pulled from the exhibition "on account of their content." This issue has not been (so far) discussed by anyone else from what I can find on the web.

Trying to keep an exhibition (homage?) like this apolitical, as Pollan has apparently tried to do, has to be one of the hardest tasks a curator has to face. She takes quite a bit of heat in the article.

And yet, exploiting a dead soldier's portrait to convey a political point of view (which may not have been shared by that soldier or by his family) is also a very difficult thing to swallow.

If you disagree, then reverse the sentiments of the artists discussed in Shott's article.

Imagine that a couple of the artists were "sooooo pro-war" that they would have submitted imagery glorifying war... say a portrait of one of the dead American soldiers with the inscription "avenge my death and kill 1,000 Iraquis for me and let God sort out the bad guys from the good guys."

We would all of course be horrified and probably no one would protest having that piece removed from the exhibition.

Two sides of a very dividing issue. You cannot support one without supporting the other.

There are no winners in a situation like this, and no art world Solomon can solve this issue. As much as anyone may disagree with the pro or anti war leanings of the artists, we must all support their right to express it; but as much as we may agree or disagree with the task and decisions of the curator, we must also all support his or her right to choose what is included, what gets pulled and how the exhibition ends up.

Read the CBS story here. According to CBS:
"This is to honor these men and women who have died, period," says portrait artist Annette Polan, who organized a couple of hundred artists to paint the portraits.
Read the Seattle Post Intelligencer story here. According to the PI article:
The artists were told to "use your own style" and "be respectful for the soldiers and their families," said Anne Murphy, a volunteer organizer and president of Linkages, a consulting firm specializing in public policy and the arts.

"There will be someone who is unhappy" with a portrayal of their lost loved one, predicted Murphy, also a member of the acquisitions and exhibitions committee of the Corcoran Museum [sic] of Art.
Read the New York Times story here. The Times writes:
Jean Prewitt of Birmingham, Ala., looked for the date of April 6, 2003, so she could find the picture of her son Kelley. He was her baby, all of 24, when he left for Iraq, she said. He was the soccer player, the Auburn University fan, the mischief maker.

Ms. Prewitt said she came to the exhibit with no expectations, but she was touched that someone cared enough to do this for her and the other families. Then, through the jostling in the warm hall, she saw Kelley's portrait.

"I don't like it," she said. She got closer. She took out the photograph the portrait seemed to be based on, and the resemblance between it and the painting by the artist, Tom Mullany, appeared faint at best.

Her voice cracked. "This upsets me a lot," she said of the painting. Then she looked around at the crowd. She had said earlier that she knew everyone else at the hall would be from a family that had been destroyed, too. "But just being here upsets me, too."

The painting of Specialist Gregory P. Sanders, who was 19 when he was killed by a sniper on March 24, 2003, disappointed his family, too. His face is shadowy and gaunt in the portrait by Christine Chernow. His cherished big blue eyes are indeterminately dark.

But guided by the adamant cheerfulness of his mother, Leslie Sanders, his relatives remained gracious. "It doesn't matter," said Pat Knight, Specialist Sanders's grandmother. "It's the thought that counts."
Lots more reviews from across the country here.

The WaPo's jack-of-all-trades cultural writer Phillip Kennicott suddenly becomes a visual arts critic when he wrote about the exhibition yesterday and challenges the notion that if you "take a humble snapshot, turn it into a painting, or a sculpture, or a collage, and [then] it is somehow more than a photograph, more serious and honorable and respectful to the subject portrayed." Kennicott then goes on to get on a high pulpit and preaches to the readers; and in the process he misses the point completely.

But Kennicott's colleage, Libby Copeland, who is not a critic at all, sees what Kennicott's imperial view of art fails to see from the viewpoint of the plebian masses.

Copeland writes (bold effect is mine): "Painted portraits seem not only archaic but also impractical compared with photographs, which are taken in an instant and never drip. A portrait takes devotion, which is why painting a person can be an intimate process, even if you've never met your subject, even if the person died before you ever heard his name."

Bravo Copeland!

It's the thought that counts.

Seattle Gallery Walkthrough

On Tuesday I spent most of a gloriously sunny day in downtown Seattle walking through several of the area's art galleries.

Seattle trafficOne thing that Seattle and DC share (other than the "Washington") is some of the worst traffic on the planet, and thus after making my way downtown, I parked my car in one of the many multi-story parking lots downtown, and started the day by dropping by the William Traver Gallery, where I had an appointment to talk about Tim Tate with Bill Traver.

The William Traver Gallery has been a Seattle mainstay for over 40 years, and I think it is the largest in the city. In fact, the gallery could easily swallow DC's three largest galleries inside its mammooth second floor space on Union Street, right across from where the addition to the Seattle Art Museum is being built.

I had a most entertaining time with the owner as we were both hypnotized by the construction of this massive skyscraper right in front of the gallery's large windows. I don't know how anyone in the gallery gets anything done with the constant spectacle of seeing a skyscraper being built, one bolt and nut at a time, right in front of their eyes.

One doesn't last that many years in the art business by being a dummy, and it only takes a few minutes of talking to Bill Traver to realize that this is one sharp mind, already well in tune with the revolution being caused in the art world by the growth of the Internet and the guaranteed demise of the newsprint media.

Coming from DC, with our unexplicable lack of a large collecting base in one of the world's largest concentrations of wealth, it is astonishing to see red dots on sculptures that approach the $55,000 range (and more than one). This first visit was one that would set a trend for galleries to follow: Seattlelites appear to be buying art and lots of it.

Traver (like us) has two galleries, one in Seattle and one in Tacoma. The Seattle gallery was featuring the work of local artist Nancy Worden, which consisted of a series of most unsual jewelry (see them here) spectacularly displayed in a ring of beige maniquins in the center gallery. It was a very pleasant visit with a true professional and an opportunity to drool over a truly gorgeous gallery space.

From there I went to get lunch at the Pike Place Market where from 1977-1981 I sold all of my UW art school assignments plus hundreds of local watercolors and drawings, and first cut my teeth on the business side of the arts. At the northern end of the market I went to the Lisa Harris Gallery, which opened a few years (1985) after I left Seattle, and has been doing brisk business since then by concentrating on Pacific Northwest artists and art about the Pacific NW.

Waterfall by John Cole at Lisa Harris GalleryOn exhibition were painterly landscape works by British-born (and now a local) painter John Cole. The works focused on Northwest landscape imagery, but also brilliantly married a Marsden Hartley "abstract look and feel" to them, so that they became more about the palette and brushwork than truly about the subject, which was elegant enough. There were maybe 25 paintings on exhibit, and I think that all but one or two were sold.

And just like my previous visit, both the gallerina on duty and gallery owner were friendly and warm, immediately joining in a conversation about the local art scene. I also noticed a fact which was to become a trend in nearly every Seattle gallery that I visited, including William Traver: labeling.

It has always been a mystery to me why in some galleries (most NYC and DC galleries by the way), it takes an act of Congress to get a price list or a way to identify the works on display. In our galleries, we always label each and every piece with a wall label by the work itself. Most other DC area galleries do not - prefering the little pin with a number, a minimalist way of making you go and find a master list somewhere, or worse still, no identification at all. Not here; in fact a trend that I noticed is that nearly every gallery that I visited had a wall label by the piece, thereby making it easy to discover title, media, artist and price.

Lisa Harris Gallery is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary, succssfully achieved by focusing on local artists, local collectors and Northwest themes.

I visited a few more galleries along this area, including a huge awful place full of paintings of whales and fish, but the gallery that next sticks in my mind was a very clean, minimalist space called Solomon Fine Art which has two levels, including a beautiful space facing the street on First Avenue.

sculpture by Nik Tongas at Solomon Fine ArtOn exhibit on the ground floor was a group show titled Small Tales, which included works by Ellen Garvens, Chris St. Pierre, Nik Tongas, Peter Stanfield, and Linda Welker. Of these, Tongas' wall sculptures stood out, although I also really liked the frenetic drawings of St. Pierre.

The second level gallery had a show titled Evolution featuring a series of really gorgeous abstract paintings by local Seattle artist Fred Holcomb.

This was the first place that I saw abstract work, and I realize that one visit to a limited number of galleries isn't enough to generalize, but at the end of the day I came away with the distinct impression that the Seattle art face that I saw has a definite representational art focus.

Another artist in this group show of interest was Ellen Garvens, whose marriage of technology and art may be of some interest to my business partner Catriona Fraser, who is currently curating a "Art and Technology" exhibition.

A few blocks' walk to Pioneer Square, which when I was an art student here, was home to art galleries, drunks and pigeons. And it's still home to a lot of galleries and pigeons - don't know about drunks.

There are a few gift shop type spaces here, but also a terrific set of spectacular spaces. I walked down Occidental Avenue South, and there are seven or eight good galleries in a row. First was Calix Fine Art, which had an exhibition titled "Happy." According to the text on the invitation, this is a "show of Toys, Girls & Boys, Blooms & Things that Vroom!" - I kid thee not.

There were some silly and badly worked paintings by Dave Howard, but what I liked were the hyper realist oils of Barbies by Judy Ragagli. There were also a couple of minimalist pieces on slim wood panels by an artist named Garland Fielder that J.T. Kirkland would love.

Breezed through a huge gallery with heavy handed surrealism and then at Grover/Thurston Gallery I came across a set of naive paintings by Michael Nakoneczny and a show titled "Cigar Boxes" by Patrick LoCicero, who shows in the DC area with the Ralls Collection and who is a professor at the UW. The works (other than the boxes) consisted of paintings of bikes, cars and tricycles on big canvases with other stuff collaged onto it.

Next was the Glasshouse Studio, which is Seattle's oldest glassblowing studio and shows a wide range of glass artists with an emphasis on Northwest artists.

11AM Seattle by Art WergerThe huge Davidson Galleries have an emphasis on printmaking, and their antique print gallery upstairs has a superb Kathe Kollwitz exhibition worthy of a small museum show.

The exhibit focuses attention on Kollwit's works that concentrate on faces and figures. In the main gallery, I was pleasantly surprised to run into Art Werger's third solo at Davidson.

Werger, whose work we've exhibited several times in the DC area, most recently at the Printmakers Only exhibition, is in my opinion one of the best figurative intaglio printmakers in the country, with an astounding eye for detail and the sort of technical skills in a demanding media, that few schools teach anymore.

At the first gallery of the ground floor, there were some interesting lit boxes by Jill Weinstock which deliver an interesting marriage of "Dan Flavin meets the Washington Color School."

The second gallery hosted Sally Cleveland with (what else?) technically well-done landscape paintings of the Northwest.

Spectra 3 Blue by Tom Burrows at Foster WhiteNext came Foster/White Gallery, where I went to many an opening when I was an art student, and where one of my professors (Alden Mason) used to (and still does) exhibit.

Yet another very large space, Foster/White had several concurrent exhibits, including the uniquitous Dale Chihuly room.

The main exhibit was Mark Rediske, who failed to leave an impression on me.

It was however, the glowing and beautiful polymer resin works by Tom Burrows, especially a piece titled "Spectre 3 Blue," that knocked my senses with that unexpected punch to the part of the brain that falls in love with a work of art. Another Northwest artist (but from across the water in Vancouver), Burrows minimalist use of color and his technical wizardry in wedding it to polymer to create these luminous two-dimensional pieces really became a high point for the walk-through. As far as I can tell from his resume, he has never exhibited in the East Coast.

Shadow Series: Bicycle - Solo by Katina Huston

A couple more forgettable (but large) galleries later I came across the Bryan Ohno Gallery, where I spent quite a bit of time chatting with its pleasant young owner, discussing the Seattle art scene, advertising, the art market and art. On exhibit were the ink on mylar paintings of California artist Katina Huston, which were elegant, large pieces that at first tend to be seen as very abstracted pieces, until suddenly the visual clues of a bicycle appear and the theme of the works pops into focus. These works were the second pleasant surprise discovery of the walk for me.

Feet aching I backtracked my way to the Linda Hodges Gallery, another two-level gallery. On the ground floor were the odd paintings and sculptures of Brad Rude, whose super-realistic sculptures seem to take those weird Dali works that put elephants and zebras and such on stilt-like legs and distort them. Rude doesn't do that, but he does create a strange reality where animals walk on bones and sticks and other skinny things. I found the sculptures a little too past cute for me, but I thought that the paintings were quite extraordinary. This is a strange case where an obviously multi-talented artist makes a stronger impression in his two dimensional approach to the same problem. The paintings were superb, while the sculptures (many of which were sold) were just a little too Jumanji for me.sculpture by Brad Rude at Linda Hodges

The upstairs gallery had an exhibit of works by Roy de Forest, which appeared to be an awful Crumbesque amalgamation of gaudy-colored stuff with glow-in-the-dark colors and adult-playing-child works that just do not speak to my visual agenda.

One last gallery before I headed for the nearest pub to try some of the local brews, and I stepped into Gallery 110, where yet another pleasant gallery director discussed with me the two photography shows on exhibit: Cindy Bittenfield and Gary Oliveira. Gallery 110 is a cooperative gallery, and Bittenfield's photographs pay homage to her father's service in WWII, while Oliveira's photos, while technically adept, are unfortunately, because of its subject matter (stuff around a hotel room), some of the most boring images that I saw all day.

I eventually ran out of time and energy, as I wanted to visit the Greg Kucera Gallery, where an old friend of mine (Ross Palmer Beecher) exhibits. So I headed to Contour for happy hour, enjoying a couple of pints of some excellent Seattle microbrew and a plate of Calamari.

A beautiful city, great art, great beer and great Calamari; life is good.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Corcoran Biennial Reviews

Thinking About Art has a first hand candid review of the Biennial and J.T. and I agree on two of the top three picks as the best of the Biennial.

Blake Gopnik has another one that makes my top picks, in a somewhat surprising (to me) review by Gopnik.

I wrote my review on the flight here, but will have to wait till I get back to DC and to my computer to finish it, as I don't have the images, etc.

I'll tip my hand by saying that I think that photography stole this Biennial.


Dr. Claudia Rousseau reviews Elaine Langerman and Willie Marlowe at Gallery Neptune.

DCist Arts Agenda

DCist Tuesday Arts Agenda is here.

Seattle first impressions

the obligatory shot of the Space NeedleSpent Tuesday visiting my old alma matter (University of Washington School of Art, Class of 1981) and hoofing it around fifteen or so downtown Seattle art galleries and the Seattle Art Museum (SAM).

More on them later, let's just say that I am dumbfounded at the huge size of most Seattle art galleries (cheaper rent I discovered), the depth and breadth of its art scene, some of the common complaints that we share, and the wealth of its local art collecting scene (red dots everywhere).

And I've been rediscovering what an absolutely beautiful place this city is; today was a bright, sunny day (well, they do get them here once in a while) and the Olympics and Mount Rainier were out in full splendor.

the Olympics as seen from UW's Red Square

More later...

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Walter Hopps

Walter Hopps, a legendary name in the art world and a person who left a deep footprint upon our art scene, died last Sunday.

Update: The WaPo's Paul Richard pens a very eloquent, first-person piece about Hopps here.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Gig Harbor Gallery Walk Through

My daughter Elise lives in picturesque Gig Harbor, a beautiful waterfront small town about 45 minutes from Seattle, and yesterday I walked through its waterfront business district to see what the locals offer in the form of art.

Gig Harbor, WashingtonI will admit that I expected to find what one finds in Annapolis: a couple of galleries and other artsy venues selling watercolors of sailboats, sunsets and seagulls.

And I found some of those, but I also found a surprising, and obviously vibrant, local art scene.

For starters, the galleries all have a 20 page full color publication called Art Gig Harbor that puts anything that we have (actually we don't have anything similar) in the DC area to shame.

The second thing: everyone knows that the Pacific Northwest is the center of the universe for fine art glass. And even in a small town like Gig Harbor, in the smallest of galleries located inside a quaint B&B, one finds terrific selections of glass.

The third thing: Sales. In talking to the various gallerists, it is obvious that around here, people are actively buying art. In fact, since most of the art galleries are withing walking distance of each other, during my Sunday afternoon walkthrough, I kept running into the same four or five sets of people. I asked one couple if they were locals, and they answered that they were, and that they came to the galleries once a month or so to buy a piece of original art.

The first place that I visited was The Harbor Gallery, located on the waterfront and kind of the mix of various artists and framing and gifts that one expects in a touristy town.

Almost across the street there's a really nice B&B and inside as one enters there's a tiny gallery called Fire N Light, and here's the first place where one finds some first rate artwork. This is the Pacific Northwest, and this tiny gallery represents and briskly sells the work of Tim O'Niell, whose "Dory Dreams" series made from gaffer glass was an unexpected find in a genre dominated by vessels. O'Neill is the casting coordinator at nearby Pilchuck.

Down the street, Gallery Row is a co-op representing 14 artists. My favorites among these were some of the works of Barbara Patterson and Rebecca Baumgartner.

The Ebb Tide Gallery is also a co-op of 22 local artists, and a naive artist named Emilie Corbin stands out from the work that I saw.

S.C. Elliott Fine Art is probably the best looking gallery in town, in the sense that it doesn't have that cluttered, horror vaccuui sense to its presentation, and the first place that I recall seeing an abstract artist. Here the artists who stood out were W.F. Stone, Jr., some of the landscapes of Mark Farina and the Rothkoish abstracts of Laura Taylor.

Every gallery that visited (there are a few more) had original fine art glass, even the cluttered Birdnest Gallery, more of the typical framing-shop-become-art-gallery space that I had expected to find everywhere. And yet Birdnest Gallery offers a pretty decent range of original glass by an Iraqui artist named Hassan, who apparently is now a local and is currently in Iraq searching for a bride.

Overall a very pleasant and unexpected series of surprises in the art scene in this beautiful seaside town. Their art walk is called "First Saturday Art Walk" and takes place once a month on the first Saturday (duh!) of the month from 1-5PM.

There are also some great cafes and restaurants in the area, and where else can one get a double expresso for 99 cents? (At Kelly's).

My daughter will soon be moving to a new house, and thus to finish the day, I went to a place called Art & Soul Pottery and Painting Studios, one of those pottery and ceramic studios (in this case co-located inside a nice cafe) where anyone can create a piece. I made Elise a ceramic plate for a housewarming gift; my first attempt to ceramics since I finished art school!

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Airplanes, Booze and Teenage Drivers

Arrived in Seattle last night after a travel day that started horribly, got a bit better through the introduction of free alcohol and ended in an adrenaline rush.

By the way, in response to my request for anyone with Seattle area gallery knowledge, I've received three emails from local Seattlelites willing to share a beer and a walkthrough of some of the area's galleries. I went to art school here in the 80's but haven't been back here since 1993.

Anyway, I arrived at Dulles yesterday morning at 6:30AM, a little over two hours before my 8:43AM flight to Seattle, only to find the airport packed with families and kids all heading south for the spring break. Although one would figure that the airlines would have by now the a priori knowledge to predict this surge, they hadn't, and it took me nearly two hours just to check in and another 45 minutes to go through security and take the bus to the gates.

Of course I missed my flight (gate C1) and then I had to go to Customer Service (gate C22, on the other side of Northern Virginia), where there's another huge line.

While waiting in the line listening to horror stories about missing ship's movement for all the families going on cruises, I removed my new glasses to clean them, only to have them come undone, and one lens falls out and that miniscule screw disappears into the carpet of Dulles' floors.

Using the camraderie that had developed between the suffering passengers waiting in line (sort of an Airport Stockholm Syndrone, which I've dubbed Airport Stick-it-to-them Syndrome), about four or five of us got on our hands and knees to try to find that tiny screw so that I could attempt to put my glasses back together.

And through a miracle of someone in tune with quantum mechanics, the screw was found and glasses repaired by someone with a lot more finger dexterity than I.

Eventually I make my way to a Customer Service Representative, actually feeling a bit sorry for the hell that these people must catch on a daily basis. I tell her so, and she smiles and tells me how her throat is already sore from talking, and so I hand her a stick of gum, which will have a huge payoff for me later.

As she listens to my story, she taps into her keyboard and with the intensity of a doctor peering into an X-ray, and spends at least ten minutes tapping and searching.

"Mmmm," she says, sounding more and more like my medical analogy.

"What is it Doc, uh I mean miss?" says the patient worried.

"Well.... want the good news first or the bad news first"?


"Bad news first," says I bravely.

"The only available flight doesn't leave until 5:45PM, but the good news is that they have one seat left."

Seven hour wait.

"I'll take it," I respond.

I thanked her and ticket in hand I now proceed to finish a couple of books, write a huge review of the Corcoran Biennial (which I had intended to do this week anyway, but I forgot the catalog at home, so unless the Corcoran can FEDEX me one here at my hotel, it will have to wait until I get back for publication) and eat crap food all day.

When finally the boarding takes place, to my surprise I discover that my sore-throated angel has upgraded my cheap seat to first class on a cross country, non-stop flight.

A bottle and a half of a good Sonoma Merlot later, I arrived, tired and boozy, to a gray, rainy and fresh-smelling Washington state night, where my daughter Elise picked me up and immediately revived me thanks to the wonders of the adrenaline charge caused by being driven at night, in the rain, by a 17 year-old-driver.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Airborne today

Somewhat emotionally and physically stressed, I am heading West to spend a week in Seattle for some much-needed rest and relaxation in America's cleanest (and wettest) city, where people don't tan but they rust.

I will keep posting and may even deliver a Seattle gallery walkthrough. If anyone from Seattle reads this BLOG, and would like to email me some info: I'll buy you a beer!

On the flight there I am reading The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Friday Round-up

In the WaPo, O'Sullivan reviews High Fiber at the Renwick and also Andrea Way at Mateyka.

Principle Gallery in Old Town Alexandria has an opening tonight from 6:30-9PM.

In Georgetown, Addison/Ripley has Patricia Tobbacco Forrester' opening tonight from 6-8PM.

And a few blocks away, the five Canal Square Galleries have their joint openings/extended hours from 6-9PM tonight as well.

I received a really solid kick to the side of my jaw last night in Martial Arts class, so it really hurts to open my mouth (yeah, yeah...), so if I sound funny or am not too vocal tonight, now you know why!

See ya there!


Cancer StampI've just found out that our own Ethel Kessler of Bethesda, Maryland designed the stamp "Fund the Cure" to help fund breast cancer research.

The usual 37 cents for an ordinary stamp instead costs 40 cents for this stamp.

But the additional three cents goes to breast cancer research. To date, the stamp has raised more than $34 million for breast cancer research.

Is that super cool or what?

Opportunities for Artists

Mary's Center for Maternal and Child Care Annual Art Exhibition
Deadline: April 29, 2005

For the fifth straight year, Mary's Center for Maternal and Child Care is hosting its annual art exhibition, featuring the works of local, national, and international artists. They are seeking paintings, photographs, sculpture, textiles, pottery, jewelry, and more for the 2005 Kalorama Artists' Fair, to be held at Mary's Center at 2333 Ontario Road in Adams Morgan from Friday, May 6 through Saturday, May 7, 2005. There is no charge to participate.

This non-juried show includes an Opening Reception for artists, friends, family, and the public. All works are for sale, and proceeds will go to artists and Mary's Center (health care, social services, and education for low-income DC families).

If you are interested in participating, please call Lisa at (202)-483-8319, ext. 226 or send an email to her here.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Opportunity for Photographers

The Washington School of Photography presents the Third Annual Mid-Atlantic Regional Photography show.

Slides are due April 8, entry is $25 for four entries. Photographers must reside in: DC, MD, PA, VA, DE, or WV. Cash prizes will be presented.

Entry forms can be found here or with SASE to:

4850 Rugby Avenue
Bethesda, MD 20814

Art Job

The Washington District of Columbia Jewish Community Center is looking for a Gallery Director for the Ann Loeb Bronfman Gallery (a 600 square foot space in an urban Jewish Community Center).

The Gallery Director will curate three to four shows annually, work collaboratively with other arts professionals to bring related public programming and classes, oversee fundraising, oversee all administrative aspects of the gallery, and develop a long-term exhibition plan. Previous gallery experience required. Knowledge and understanding of Jewish traditions and history preferred. Position start date is April 15th, 2005.

This is a full-time position that includes benefits and free gym membership.

Email resume and cover letter describing experience to or fax 202-518-9420. No phone calls.

For more info:

DC Jewish Community Center
Joshua Ford, Washington DCJCC
1529 16th Street NW
Washington, DC 20036
f: 202.518.9420 or

The Thursday Reviews

The WaPo's Jessica Dawson does her 3rd Thursday mini-review thing today in the Style section.

In the WCP, Louis Jacobson's review of Joe Ovelman at Conner Contemporary brings intelligent humor to the review.

Also in the City Paper, Mark Jenkins looks at The Art of Memory/ The Memory of Art at the Goethe-Institut’s Gallery.

Secrets in the WaPo

Frank Warren, whose Post A Secret project at Art-O-Matic was a huge success, is highlighted today in the WaPo's Metro section.

Send Frank your secrets here.

Gallery Openings

Tonight is the 3rd Thursday gallery crawl around the 7th street corridor. From 6-8PM in most places. Especially interesting seems Carolina Sardi: Over/Under, curated by Rody Douzoglou at Flashpoint. Also Numark Gallery has Shimon Attie: The History of Another, which is well-worth the visit tonight.

Tomorrow, it's the turn of the Canal Square Galleries in Georgetown, as we will all have our new shows opening or extended hours and the openings will be catered by our Canal neighbor, the Sea Catch Restaurant. Elsewhere in Georgetown, Addison Ripley will have the wonderfully busy watercolors of Patricia Tobacco Forrester.

Especially interesting in the Canal Square Galleries is MOCA's Erotic Art Show, a jumble of dozens of artists exploring the moist avenues of erotica.

We will have the brilliant photographs of Lida Moser. This is probably our most important photography show of the year.

Opening tomorrow night and through April 13, 2005, our Fraser Gallery in Georgetown will be hosting the first ever Washington, DC solo exhibition of legendary American photographer Lida Moser, who now lives in retirement in nearby Rockville, Maryland.

This 85-year-old photographer is not only one of the most respected American photographers of the 20th century, but also a pioneer in the field of photojournalism. Her photography is currently in the middle of a revival and rediscovery, and has sold as high as $4,000 in recent Christie's auctions and continues to be collected by both museums and private collectors worldwide. In a career spanning nearly 60 years, Moser has produced a body of works consisting of thousands of photographs and photographic assemblages that defy categorization and genre or label assignment.

Additionally, Canadian television is currently in the process of filming a documentary about her life; the second in the last few years, and Moser’s work is now in the collection of many museums worldwide.

A well-known figure in the New York art scene of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s,a portrait of Lida Moser by American painter Alice Neel hangs in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. Neel painted a total of four Moser portraits over her lifetime, and I believe that one of them will be included in the National Museum of Women in the Arts' "Alice Neel's Women" coming to Washington, DC this October.

Man Sitting Across Berenice Abbott's Studio in 1948 by Lida Moser

Lida Moser's photographic career started as a student and studio assistant in 1947 in Berenice Abbott's studio in New York City, where she became an active member of the New York Photo League. She then worked for Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Look and many other magazines throughout the next few decades, and traveled extensively throughout the United States, Canada and Europe.

In 1950 Vogue, and (and subsequently Look magazine) assigned Lida Moser to carry out an illustrated report on Canada, from one ocean to another. When she arrived at the Windsor station in Montreal, in June of that same year, she met by chance, Paul Gouin, then a Cultural Advisor to Duplessis government. This chance meeting led Moser to change her all-Canada assignment for one centered around Quebec.
Quebec Children, Gaspe Pen, Valley of The Matapedia, Quebec, Canada by Lida Moser
Armed with her camera and guided by the research done by the Abbot Felix-Antoine Savard, the folklorist Luc Lacourcière and accompanied by Paul Gouin, Lida Moser then discovers and photographs a traditional Quebec, which was still little touched by modern civilization and the coming urbanization of the region. Decades later, a major exhibition of those photographs at the McCord Museum of Canadian History became the museum’s most popular exhibit ever.

Construction of Exxon Building, 6th Avenue and 50th Street, New York City by Lida Moser c.1971She has also authored and been part of many books and publications on and about photography. She also wrote a series of "Camera View" articles on photography for The New York Times between 1974-81. Her work has been exhibited in many museums worldwide and is in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London, the National Archives, Ottawa, the National Galleries of Scotland, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC, the Library of Congress, Les Archives Nationales du Quebec, Corcoran Gallery, Phillips Collection and many others. Moser was an active member of the Photo League and the New York School.

The Photo League was the seminal birth of American documentary photography. It was a group that was at times at school, an association and even a social club. Disbanded in 1951, the League promoted photojournalism with an aesthetic consciousness that reaches street photography to this day.

This will be her first solo exhibition in Washington, DC and it will run from March 18 through April 13, 2005.

An opening reception for Ms. Moser will be held tomorrow night, Friday, March 18, 2005 from 6-9PM as part of the third Friday openings in Georgetown. The reception is free and open to the public.

See ya there!