Saturday, July 30, 2005

Mid Year Report

As much as I bitch about lack of dedicated art buyers and collectors in the DC area (especially considering the huge amount of wealth in our region), I was surprised to find out when the fair Catriona recently told me that so far this is our best year ever, and that we've already sold more artwork by the end of July than all of last year.

But I am still amazed at the large percentage of non-Washingtonians buying art from us: New York, LA, Floridians, Irish and Brits!


Waste newsprint space on this?

Directory Assistance

Let me start by saying that the first thing that I usually read when I open my copy of the City Paper is Chris Shott's most excellent "Show & Tell" column. It is usually witty and interesting, and in fact I have contributed to some of them in the past.

But at the risk of pissing off Chris, I think that this week's Directory Assistance (scroll down) piece in "Show & Tell" is much ado about nothing.

Taking one artist's complaint about the WPA/C's Artist's Directory creating a "tiered membership", with more "services going to those who pay for them," is giving an audience to a complaint that is simply economically ridiculous!

It costs $70 to get into the Artist's Directory. In my opinion, that is an excellent adverstising and marketing opportunity for the buck. To expect that your $45 annual WPA/C membership will also cover the cost of printing and distributing the book is immensely naive.

And those directories move!

We sell them (they also get stolen quite often) at our galleries (we turn all proceeds over to the WPA/C) and they sell well, and in the past visiting Sotheby's personnel have acquired them as reference materials. And I know of several artists who have had their exposure in the book create further opportunities (including myself).

Chris writes that "members who failed to come up with the extra cash for the forthcoming 2006 edition of the WPA\C artist directory are missing out on more than just seeing their names, contact info, and sample works in print," referencing the fact that the WPA/C’s latest exhibition, titled "Turning the Page: Artists Selected From the 2006 WPA\C Artist Directory," only looked at those artists who had purchased a page in the book.


The WPA/C also maintains a slide registry. Many of the WPA/C past exhibitions have have their birth in this registry. And yet a lot of member artists do not have any slides in it.

My point is that inclusion in the slide registry and inclusion in the Artist's Directory is open to all artist members; it costs an additional $70 to get into the directory, but that's an economic non-debatable issue.

The alternative would be to raise the annual fee to $115 a year and open the directory to everyone. Were this to happen I suspect that a wail of complaints (more than one solitary voice) would be raised, from artists who do not wish to add the additional expense just to be in the book.

And on a final point, Chris writes:

Yet paying for a page in the directory doesn’t exactly grant you a great shot at showing your work at "Turning the Page." The series, presently curated by WPA\C Project Manager Ingrid Nuss and summer intern Ding Ren, will showcase only nine artists out of about 375 who paid for a listing, or 2.4 percent.
Well, that's what happens when one has a curated show - it is after all a "selection process."

All inclusive shows abound in our area, such as Wall Mountables and Artomatic.

And guess what? A lonely artist voice here and there also routinely complain about those shows, usually the small financial cost associated with them, or requirement to help with gallery sitting, etc.

The WPA/C has had some valid hiccups in the past, but in this case though, this squeaky wheel shouldn't have received any WCP grease.

Wall Mountables at DCAC

Around this town, anytime that you have an open show (meaning a show without a juror or curator), the critics tend to immediately savage it. This seems to be a predictable critical analysis somewhat unique to our area's visual arts and artists as viewed by most of our area critics.

Once a year, the District of Columbia Arts Center (DCAC), through a show called "Wall Mountables," allows any and all artists to hang anything they want, so long as it fits within a two square foot space. That exhibition opened last night to a huge crowd, and hangs at DCAC until September 4, 2005.

And in my opinion, after having seen several years' worth of "Wall Mountables," and after having participated in several of them myself, and after having purchased art in some of them, this is the best "Wall Mountables" so far.

The show is hung salon-style, as every precious inch of wall space has been claimed by artists. A prize, for best use of the space, was awarded on opening night by DCAC Executive Director B. Stanley as selected by several "Best Use of Space" jurors: Michael O'Sullivan, one of the the WaPo's art critics, DCAC Board members Philip Barlow and Marc Cohen and someone else whose name I cannot recall.

The winner was the fair Kathryn Cornelius, who's riding a hot streak recently, including receiving lots of attention for her video piece in the Warehouse's "Seven" show. Cornelius intelligently employed her two foot square by installing a glass-encased swing gate, inside which she created an installation of written words on a collection of matchbooks.

The buzz artist of the night was Ben Tolman, whose superbly weird little paintings and drawings were selling like hot cakes (I bought three of them). Tolman, who recently graduated from the Corcoran, and who has an impressive piece included in the Warehouse's "Seven" show, is represented by a dozen or so small paintings and drawings, which although showing a tremendous influence by the works of the equally odd Robert Crumb, nonetheless show young Mr. Tolman's own unique views and creative hand at work in his weird world of three breasted women, space aliens and sad girls.

Clown by Todd GardnerI also quite liked Todd Gardner's series of works focused on clowns; really odd and somewhat scary clowns - more like a Stephen King version (such as in his masterpiece It) than a Red Skelton kind of clown.

Gardner's works are frenetic and full of information, and in his own clown infested world, almost make sense in some oddly familiar way, cleverly dragging us into these intimate-sized works that then bring the viewer into Gardner's Stephenkinguesque macabre clownland.

I also liked Natalie Marcy's resin and plaster wall sculptures.

They are (I assume) dipped images of Natalie's face; there are three of them in the exhibition.Natalie Marcy's artwork

In the sculptures in the show, Marcy has employed the same multiple portrait approach, to deliver interesting, if slightly surreal, imagery, as if we're looking at the artist's face from an underwater perspective.

Kristin Freeman, who is DCAC's departing gallery manager, also has several handsome mixed media drawings in the show. And the fair Candace Keegan has several of her sexy portraits on exhibit, drawing the usual attention from everyone.

Peter Gordon has a singularly brilliant painting in the exhibition titled "Easy Does It." It is one of those clear paintings with an unexpectedly mundane subject (a salt and pepper shaker) that delivers a good lesson in what a good painter can do to keep the "ancient medium" alive and fresh.

Study this painting and you'll soon discover, in the elegant way in which Gordon has handled the paint, what a dab of white can do to create the illusion of light and a third dimension on the confines of a two dimensional canvas. No matter how many times I see this painting trick effectively accomplished, it still takes my breath away. That is why a thousand years from now, art galleries all over the universe will still sell paintings.

There's also one of those beautifully fragile laminated plywood wall sculptures by Nancy Samson Reynolds that are sensual and minimalist. It stands out both visually and figuratively.

Work by Anna Edholm DavisOn the same wall as Nancy's sculpture there are four mixed media pieces by Anna V. Davis, whose recent show at Gallery Neptune was quite good.

The works are colorful and visually attractive and also demand closer attention, as one discovers the craft of Davis' hands at work.

Initially giving the appearance of a very complex mosaic, we are fooled by Davis into thinking that her work is just sort of a square pointillist genre of painting.

Bring your nose closer to the work, and discover that in addition to painting, Davis has secured thousands of tiny paper pieces, to in effect create a mixed media of collaged paper and paint, to in reality created a paper mosaic of her unusually contemporary figurative work.

It is colorful and intelligent (and obviously enormously time consuming), and marries the ancient tradition of inlaid mosaic work, with a new fresh interpretation and look.

My final mention goes to a really nice photograph by Jennifer Dorsey, titled "Diversity in Monotony." It is one of those photographs that stands out by its clarity and starkness, although I wondered how it would look about ten times larger than the two foot space given to it.

Go see this show and buy some artwork.