Friday, March 11, 2005

DCist First Friday Walkthrough

By Cyndi Spain
DCist Arts Editor

DCist headed out on Friday with F. Lennox Campello of DC Art News to check out the new exhibits in the Dupont Circle area galleries. We were particularly impressed by Peter Charles' new work at Irvine Contemporary Art.

sculpture by Peter CharlesA professor at Georgetown University, Charles is from the D.C. area and received his arts training at Yale and Rhode Island School of Design. His new show includes miniature houses outfitted with their own LCD televisions.

We were surprised to find out that each screen shows live television, chosen and controlled by the owner of the artwork via remote. Like those on the larger scale, the televisions dominate the houses they inhabit and can be seen from outside the home by the all-too familiar and enticing blue glow.

The exhibit of abstractions by Andrea Way at the Marsha Mateyka Gallery was also well worth the visit. This show is Way's fourth solo exhibition at the gallery. Her meticulous work - created through an intense process of dropping colored inks into blobs of water on a level surface or by dripping colored water onto the paper - is evidence of
her patience and attention to Zen practice.
Never happen but anyways by Molly Springfield
We were also pleased to see the exhibit of Molly Springfield's art at JET Artworks, located at Elizabeth Roberts' old space at 2108 R Street. Springfield, a superbly talented painter, last wowed area visual art lovers a couple of years ago with a spectacular show at the Arts Club.

Her work combines the technical wizardry of trompe l'oeil ("fool the eye") painting and drawing with intelligent compositions based on collected objects, notes, and word imagery. We really enjoyed the way the exhibit continued from one floor to the next through the text written directly onto the wall.

First Friday Walk Through

Last Friday, DCist Arts Editor Cyndi Spain and I visited a few of the Dupont Circle area galleries, which were having their usual First Friday extended hours.

We started our visits at Washington Printmakers Gallery where Rosemary Cooley's hangs until March 27, 2005. As with the vast majority of the gallery's cooperative members, Cooley is a master printmaker, with elegant dual-themed prints, usually associated in some form with fish or marine imagery.
Ovelman's Snow Queen
Next we walked a few steps on Connecticut Avenue to Conner Contemporary, where Leigh Conner, as usual, greeted us with a bright smile in her even brighter gallery (Leigh paints the gallery with a fresh coat of white before every opening).

Conner is showcasing Joe Ovelman's "Snow Queen" series, which are also framed in white and brightly lit, lending them a sequential, out-of-sequence film look as the images of a drag queen's antics (Ovelman) in the snow in a New York park, develop before our eyes.

17 StrangersIn the back room, Conner has also arranged Ovelman's earlier "17 Strangers," where the photographer has caused himself to be photographed from the back of his head view, as he gives oral pleasure to 17 strangers that he met in a park.

LC: "So Joe, we noticed that all the men that you are giving a blow job to are wearing the same coat."

JO: [Somewhat agitated, but barely whispering] "Yes?"

LC: "Is that important? I mean, what is the relationship or story behind that jacket?"

JO: [Very quietly] "It's very important."
Ovelman is a very young, very shy, and very brave photographer, with a clear vision of where he wants to take his work, and as usual Conner Contemporary proves why they're not only one of the best galleries in the area, but certainly one of the most courageous as well.

We followed the crowds that were now beginning to form and gathered at Irvine Contemporary Art where Prof. Irvine has assembled one of the first great surprises of the night: A really memorable exhibition showcasing the marriage of technology and intelligent thought to create really interesting work (by the way, check out this really good photo of the gallery by Fur Cafe).

On exhibit at Irvine Contemporary Art are the interactive sculptures of Peter Charles, who is a is Professor of Art at Georgetown University.sculpture by Charles

When I was a kid, my family was one of the first families in my neighborhood with a TV, and every night, around 8PM people from around the neighborhood, would gather in our living room to watch TV. Additionally, there were always a few neighborhood street ruffians who would watch the TV from the outside, through our windows.

Charles has constructed these clever small, house-like sculptures, and inside each one is a real mini-TV screen, actually working and with an antenna, so that the finished sculpture smartly marries the technology of the mini TVs with the creativity of the sculpture, and the interactivity of the user (each sculpture comes with a remote). It is a very good exhibition and an intelligent show. Also, Prof. Irvine told me that he intends to switch from a four week show format to a six week show format in the near future.

While at Irvine we ran into Kristen Hileman, the talented Assistant Curator for Contemporary Art at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, who introduced us to the fair Rachel Coker, who is the assistant to Hirshhorn Chief Curator Kerry Brougher, who wasn't there. It is great to see our local museum curators visiting our galleries.

Bravo Hileman and Coker!

Walked to R Street, and by now the crowds are definitely larger as we make our way into Marsha Mateyka's narrow doorway to see the new works by District powerhouse artist Andrea Way.

In her fourth solo exhibition at the Marsha Mateyka Gallery, Andrea Way returns to working on paper in the intricate detailed beautiful abstractions for which she has made herself a name as one of our area's best abstract painters.

Nebular Hypothesis by Andrea WayBut unlike her past work, Way is now creating, deliberate, controlled work, as opposed to the beautiful and luminous paintings that became her trademark in the 90s. In these new works, a controlled artist emerges, and the results are almost Moorish, Arabesque mosaics of colors and lines and works that easily fit into the most modern of postmodern collections as well as on the wall of the Alhambra at its height. I was totally enamored and seduced by her new works, and this show ranks as one of the best I've seen so far this year.

From the sublime to the BLOGsphere, and we ran into J.T. Kirkland and Bren; Kirkland told me not to miss Molly Springfied's debut at JET Artworks (Duh!). Props to Kirkland for visiting the shows, as he routinely does; if you're going to write about Washington art, you got to go see Washington art!

The next surprise of the night came at Alex Gallery.

Jackson Pollock at AlexOn exhibition at the main gallery is a set (from a private collection) of small (around 8x10 or 11x14 inches) paintings by Jackson Pollock from 1950 and 1951. These paintings are a Pollock I never knew; an unlikely and unusual "small" Pollock, working in canvasses so small and intimate that his large signature (oddly enough signed in gaudy silver or gold pen) often takes half or a third of the bottom of the paintings, causing a bit of distractive damage to the actual paintings.

And these small Pollocks are like miniatures of the massive Pollocks that we all love or hate. But they are all painted with the paint so diluted and thin, almost like 90% turpentine and 10% paint... so "thin" in fact, that if Saint Clement ever saw them, it could have been the springboard for his famous "painting should be thin" nonsense that gave birth to the Washington Color School.

And guess what else is hidden amongst these tiny Pollocks? A drip painting that offers us a representational Pollock, using his formulaic drip paint method, to deliver a small painting of a tree.

But the surprises don't end there! Go to the back of the gallery, and we discover a Keith Haring from the period when Haring was an art school student. It is a painting of a bird, as one sees in most Florida and Annapolis galleries; and yet, there's a certain visual smell of Haring already there.

And for probably the first and only time in the Universe, Haring shares the back gallery with several small Norman Rockwell watercolors and sketches. It is yet another proof of the veracity and tenacity of Chaos theory.

And old Norman manages to deliver a few surprises of his own.

Only Nixon could go to China and only Rockwell could document in his artwork the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, as we all discovered in the huge mega hit Rockwell retrospective that swept the nation a few years ago. But I have never seen a nude by Rockwell.nude sketch by Norman Rockwell

And in the Rockwell exhibit back there, we discovered a small watercolor sketch, where several women (all nude) do the Can Can a-la-Rockettes, and as the Brits say, are showing their "bits." Bawdy Old Norm!

We then headed to see Molly Springfield's long awaited debut at JET Artworks, where we met Erin (who is the "E" in "JET" - her husband and her business partner are the "J" and the "T").

And Molly Springfield did not disappoint! In fact, this is painting like no few painters can deliver or have painted before; the closest that I can up with is Richter, but there's no Richter that looks like a Springfield; she's creating new illusionism by taking trompe l'oeil to a new road.

How to explain?

Let's start by saying that a couple of years ago I reviewed Springfield when she exhibited at the Arts Club. This is a different, more profound Springfield.

Springfield new work is supposed to be all about "notes."

Words passed on paper between furtive hands in High School; perhaps a love note, or a cheat crib for Algebra. We never know, because Springfield has cleverly hitched her formidable painting skills to the latest war wagon in the painting dialogue: the marriage of abstraction with realism.Please don't show this note to anyone by Molly Springfield

But Springfield brings this dialogue to a sensual whisper. These are hyperealistic paintings that deny us the ultimate voyeurism: to be able to read the notes. In fact, the folded papers can, at the right aspect, become muted abstractions, suddenly popping into maddening realism, but never yielding their ultimate secrets.

Much like their creator, they are delicate, waif-like works, softly speaking visual words into our senses, denying categorization, and also offering an intelligent beauty that restores that maligned adjective to its proper context when describing art. This is without a doubt one of the best painting shows of the year.

Bravo Springfield!

Warning Cyndi that we were about to enter a time warp, in the sense that once Marc Zuver got a hold of us, it may be hours before we escaped his loquacious and warm personality, we entered Fondo del Sol, but the hard-working Zuver wasn't there (he's in New York).

So we walked downstairs to the Studio Gallery, and found that the talented Michael Janis has joined that artists' cooperative and has a few pieces on display. They are very good work, already showing the imprimatura of the Washington Glass School. Janis is definitely a sculptor to keep your eyes on.

Cyndi had to leave, and as 8PM was approaching, I headed for a quick visit to Kathleen Ewing and then to Gallery 10 for a quick peek at the latest work of Mary Virginia Langston.

Overall, the crowds were quite large, and I came away quite impressed by new discoveries offered to me by two masters and two new emerging would-be masters.

The best thing for art is more art.

The Friday Openings

No lame excuses tonight... time to go see an art show!

Second Fridays belong to Bethesda, where the Bethesda Art Walk takes place, now with two separate free guided tours.

These are the Bethesda art venues that participate. Most of the artists are present, openings are catered and it is all free - 6-9pm.courtesy Zenith

Elsewhere, if you want to stay in the District, then Zenith has an opening honoring the 25th anniversary of neon art (congrats Margery!). From 6-8pm.

Across the street, Touchstone also has an opening of Sonya A. Lawyer's photographs from 6-8:30pm.Untitled No.2 by April Wilkins

We will host the Bethesda International Photography Competition, juried and curated by Connie Imboden and featuring the work of 27 photographers from around the nation and the world.

Imboden will do a gallery talk at 7pm and then award the competition's cash and exhibition prizes.

See ya there!