Friday, February 11, 2005

Openings Tonight
drawing by Javier Gil

We have an opening tonight at Fraser Gallery Bethesda. It is part of the Bethesda Art Walk, now featuring free guided tours.

Our show is an exhibition of drawings by Adam Bradley (picture coming later of a spectacular assemblage that pushes drawing definitions), Richard Dana, Malik Lloyd, Michael Costello, Katie Kaufman, Kris Kuksi, Javier Gil and Andrew Devlin.

Openings are from 6-9PM. See ya there!

The Reviews

Jeffry Cudlin reviews Ian Whitmore at Fusebox and makes some interesting points in a very good review. Over at grammar.police Kriston offers a second intelligent review of Whitmore. I always find it interesting to see two different people converge one one artist, often just to see how art criticism is clearly such a human (subjective) product.

Whitmore is a very good painter, and I first came across his work in 2003, when he was one of the artists in "Strictly Painting IV." I wrote a review of that show for the now defunct glossy DC One magazine. Here's an early look at Whitmore from that review, published in June 2003:

"According to some tired minds, with little left to say but to repeat slogans, painting is dead. Luckily for the rest of us, most artists missed that fax.

And a very good painting show at the McLean Project for the Arts focuses that very nice non-profit space on painting. The show is called "Strictly Painting IV" and has been an ongoing tradition at MPA and one of the few remaining all-painting shows in the region, especially now that the Corcoran’s Biennial (which used to be a painting show) is all over the place.

This biennial juried exhibition attempts to survey painting in the mid-Atlantic region, and the works selected seeks to present a broad view of area painters and explore the styles of the region's painters. In the past, sometimes this goal has failed miserably. The exhibition was juried this year by Sarah Finlay, director of Washington’s Fusebox Gallery and by Deborah McLeod, MPA’s new Director of Exhibitions. It is immediately clear that the two jurors have done an excellent job, and I think have tried to offer a diverse, "well-balanced" show – rather than focusing on a tight, unsolvent visual agenda, as Terrie Sultan (the juror for the previous version of this event) did a couple of years ago.

This year, the combination of a savvy commercial gallery owner with an experienced eye on Washington artists (prior to opening Fusebox, Finlay worked at the now defunct Baumgartner Gallery) and a new Director of Exhibitions (McLeod just came from the Peninsula Fine Arts Center near Norfolk), proves to be a good one.

The show includes some well-known area names and some new ones. Among some of the area’s better known artists selected for this show are Pat Goslee, David Jung, Jose Ruiz and Jonathan Bucci, as well as emerging young talent like Heide Trepanier, Tammy Maloney, Maggie Michael and Paloma Crousillat, all of who stand out at this show.

This is a very important show, and even so more now that the Corcoran’s Biennial has abandoned its focus on painting – not only as a refresher of what is going on in the studios of some of our area’s painters, but also as a re-affirmation that painting is alive and kicking and still king of the hill in a confused art world often thrown off tilt by a never-ending thirst by some art critics and curators for what’s "new" rather than what’s good. This is also a very unique opportunity to see fresh new works by several area artists who have rarely shown work outside of their Universities and studios, and a perfect opportunity to acquire work by young, new talent.

My favorite work was a dizzying painting by Ian Whitmore titled "Glinting," which displays virtuous brushwork and a clear understanding of composition and color. In this work, a series of figures, almost lost in a tornado of movement and color, rise from the lower left of the canvas to the upper right, and fools the eye (by the application and use of color) into seeing color and form, rather than figures, or dancers, or whatever they are. We forget that it is a representational work (and among the minority in the show), and see a painting of forms and color, almost as close to an action painting as realism can approach."
Elsewhere in the City Paper, Louis Jacobson reviews Janos Enyedi at Kathleen Ewing. I wrote a mini-review of that same show for the current issue of the Crier newspapers, and offered the following:
"Sometimes artwork is like magic.

The Kathleen Ewing Gallery, widely respected as one of the top photography galleries in the world, departs from that tradition and showcases the magical illusions that are the sculptures of Janos Enyedi.

Visitors should be warned: Prepare to be fooled when you enter the gallery and see this show. Titled "The American Industrial Landscape – Reconstructed: Power, Steel, Concrete," the exhibition consists of photographs and three-dimensional assemblages by Enyedi; and it is the assemblages that steal the show.

They will deceive you; let me say it again: be prepared to be fooled. At first sight they appear to be metal and steel, and extraordinarily heavy; but they are all actually paper. It is not just the illusionism that makes this show the best in town this month; it is that plus Enyedi’s unerring eye at capturing what at first sight appears to be boring, industrial eyesores and delivering breathtaking migrations to the realm of fine art.

Janos Enyedi is a master. Not only do I feel that his work is a brilliant reaffirmation of the power of creativity, skill and technical ability, but the man is a magician in making us hold our collective breath in seeing (for the first time in many cases) beauty where there should be none, majesty where commonness was the goal and the transformation of the ordinary into the sublime.

The gallery is located at 1609 Connecticut Avenue, NW and this show hangs until February 26. Concurrent with this gallery exhibit, Enyedi’s work is also on view in the Headquarters Gallery at the American Institute of Architects through April 8."
I visited Enyedi's studio in Virginia a few years ago, and came out of that experience totally seduced by the kind of work that when described in words sound like something on sale at Pier One, but when actually viewed, just leaves a profound visual impression; thus my reference to magic, for lack of better adjectives. For a third perspective on Enyedi, read John Blee's review in The Georgetowner. In the same paper, Gary Tischler reviews Berthe Morisot at the NMWA.

In the WaPo's Weekend section, Michael O'Sullivan reviews the Andre Kertesz retro at the National Gallery. For a second take on this show, read Thinking About Art's review of the same show. Kirkland also reviews Photo 2005 at the Ellipse Arts Center.

At the Gazette, Mary Ellen Mitchell discusses the The Meredith Springer Award Winners exhibit at the Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center in Frederick, MD.

I almost forgot: The WaPo still has not hired a second freelancer to augment Jessica Dawson's "Galleries" column, and our area's galleries are still being largely ignored by the new Style editor - and yet, last Sunday we were treated to something the WaPo doesn't do for DC area art galleries: A mixed walkthrough of New York theatre and visual art. Read it here.

Last Friday

Chris Addison and John Borden Evans, photo by Holly FossI went to a couple of openings in Georgetown. First I dropped by Addison Ripley, now and for many years one of the best galleries in our area, and where a large crowd was leaving a lot of red dots behind as they were picking up the paintings of John Borden Evans. That's Evans with gallery co-owner Chris Addison (photo by Holly Foss) on the right.

Evans' paintings depict farm animals (chickens, cows, sheep, hens) as well as ordinary landscapes. The artist likes to float between scratchy, airy paintings (mostly the landscapes) and thicker, impasto works, such as in some of the paintings of cows.

In some of these thicker paintings he has crossed a debatable line. Let me explain.

In a few of the cow paintings, Evans has built up enough paint so that the two dimensional painting crosses into a third dimension (in these cases usually the head of a cow), so that the head of the animal sticks out, making the painting become a sculptural bas relief piece.

Were Evans an abstract painter, building thick, three dimensional goops of paint on canvas (as we all did in art school to create a response to an assignment that we left to the last minute), it is considered texture, or adds dimensionality to the dialogue.

But in the already fragile art world where representational painting has to defend itself everyday, and when an artist chooses a representational subject of such plebian character as a cow, and then goops on the paint to have the cow's head stick out of the canvas, warning bells begin to ring.

And I know that this is perhaps unfair to Evans, clearly a talented and skilled painter, but the cow's heads sticking out of the two dimensional plane, is just too overpowering for me, and makes me forget the rest of the show; not a good thing.

Almost across the street from Addison Ripley, the inaugural exhibition of art at the furniture concept store called "Space" was going on, and I went in.

Space was packed!Tami and Francesca

The owners, Tami Iams and Francesca Oriolo (pictured on the left), were by the door greeting everyone as they walked in, and I noticed that some of the cream of the DC gallery-art-opening world, and strangely enough, none of the grubs (for some strange reason they didn't know about this opening) were there.

And case after case of good Champagne flowed through the night, as more and more people came in, making the viewing of the artwork quite difficult.champagne flows at Space

Oh yeah... the artwork.

The exhibition, curated by Rody Douzoglou is titled Chill, and features works by Amalia Caputo, Marc Roman and one of the most talented young DC area painters that I know: Rachel Waldron.

Of the three, Waldron steals this show.

And Waldron has reinvented herself, at least for this show.

Rachel Waldron has exhibited widely around the DC area, including at our galleries, in group shows. After she graduated from GWU, she sort of disappeared, and re-emerged recently at the Arts Club of Washington and even more recently at the re-opening of the Arlington Arts Center.

And both the work at the Arlington Arts Center and the work at Space offer us a new Waldron.

The earlier Waldron was full of color and energy and a Boschian appeal to her work.

The new Waldron retains the energy, and the power and the sense of oddity owed to Hieronymus Bosch. But she has pushed it a step forward by employing a new approach that dismisses color and marries painting and drawing.Rachel Waldron's painting

The best piece in the show is a perfect example. It is a Gulliverian work titled "All the Little Things" and it is charcoal, ink, acrylic and spray paint on paper (pictured to the right). The work is bursting with energy and movement, and that odd sense of subterranean sexuality that populates the Boschian Universe.

Waldron, clearly a gifted and technically skilled artist, marries her formidable technical skills with a tentative step into the demanding arena of the experimental artist. Her drawings/paintings are now populated by a mass produced process of spray painted, repetitive cut outs that hark of some of Sam Gilliam's most recent work. A Waldronesque bridge across the gulf of repetitive abstraction towards the shore of contemporary realism.

And it works!Waldron Spray Work

And later, Waldron (perhaps pushed by a looming deadline) relaxes and just gives us an even more basic wedding of spray painted cut-outs atop abstracted backgrounds, cleverly switching them around to create unique works from the masters.

And in the process she helps Space, at least for this exhibition, leave a strong footprint on our art scene, and re-introduces Rachel Waldron to our universe of talented artists.

Welcome back.