Sunday, November 06, 2005

Dupont Gallery Crawl

After finding a sweet Doris Day of a parking spot at 6:15PM in the usually next-to-impossible (to find a parking spot) Dupont Circle area, I visited a few galleries on Friday night.

First on the agenda was Wayne Gonzales at Conner. One can pretty much count on Leigh Conner for two things every month: to have a bright white newly painted space and to have a solid visual art show, with loads of interesting people always hanging about. And Wayne Gonzales did not dissappoint, as his exhibition showcases a few smart, sharp paintings done in the artist's trademark pointillist-like style that's a blend of Seurat, Lichtenstein and Gonzales.

Next we skipped over to Washington Printmakers, where I was not too taken by the current exhibition by Trudi Y. Ludwig. The work, while technically adequate, did not pique my interest for more than a few minutes. It's an otherwise lackluster show in a gallery known to showcase the best printmakers in our area.

Irvine Contemporary Art was the next stop, where I ran into Kristen Hileman from the Hirshhorn, and a pack of recent VCU graduates, including the fair and talented Alessandra Torres, who is currently working out of Brooklyn after her recent graduation from VCU. On exhibit were the elegant mixed media abstractions of Christine Kesler. I also had a chance to meet Irvine's new director, Heather Russell, who's already doing great things for this two-year-old gallery; congratulations to Prof. Irvine on his 2nd anniversary.

At Irvine I also ran into Kriston Capps, who pens Grammar Police, and Capps gave me a heads up on the show at JET Artworks, which he had quite liked.

I skipped a couple of galleries, as it was getting close to the last half hour or so, and headed directly to JET, where I discovered that Mr. Capps was quite on mark with his assessment of Peregrine Honig's Washington, DC debut: it ended up being the best show that I saw all night; a show titled: Albocracy.

At 29, the California-born artist already boasts an impressive resume, and in her DC debut at JET, was unfortunately (and erroneously) compared in her small WaPo review (scroll down) to the "back to basics" of Marcel Dzama, but with a "femeninist bent." I disagree completely.

Opsomania by Peregrine HonigIn fact, Honig has little, if anything to do with the doodling Canadian artist, other than the fact that she also draws and colors her austere drawings, and that they both live in North America. This talented artist is both original and intelligent in her own work, which in this exhibition aligns with my latest interest: the marriage of art and text.

Honig creates a series of very delicate, sexy, and fragile drawings on paper, using a very sensual line, and sometimes a dab of watercolor. The power of the marriage of words to art come alive as she begings to title them, either in a delicate cursive, tiny writing style, or using an old typewriter to leave behind the nearly forgotten clumsy footprint of the typewriter key.

And she gives us titles like: "Opsomania. Obsession with sweet and delicacies" which depicts a delicate nude wearing nothing but shoes (which introduces an element of erotica into the drawing) and growing candies out of her body, where the sweets double visually as festering boils of gigantic proportions.

There's also Anthophobia (Fear of flowers), Ablutomania (Obsessive cleanliness), Tricophagus (Hair eater) and others in those unusual realms, including Albocracy, from which her exhibition derives its title.

Ms Honig writes:

"Albocracy – imbued with the hope of colorless rule. How quickly it flips, with the blink of one pink eye, to a white ruling class. Purity becomes purification. In the moment in between, there is a pale-skinned pink-eyed fragile beauty. White wig and glove, pearls and lace, a flawless virtue, until she is made to rule."
According to JET, this series of drawings "illustrates the flux of language and art, exploring unusual phobias, manias, and social structures. The drawings case rare fears and sexual obsessions in Honig’s highly stylized figurative work. Her small scale works on paper offer the intimacy of children’s book illustrations with unnerving themes and complex and tragic neuroses."

What Honig has done, and done surperbly well, is to flex intelligent artistic muscles to show us the immense power of art and words to deliver ideas and thoughts and fears and obsessions. And they are not be segregated as femeninist creations just because she's a woman, but artwork, period, because she's a talented and innovative artist, perhaps standing on the shoulders of great artists (certainly not Dzama), but adding to the contemporary dialogue in her own unique voice.

WaPo's rare Saturday treat

Update: I must have missed it last Thursday, but the WaPo announced that the "Galleries" column would be moving to Saturdays. I wonder is the column will also now review galleries and museums.

Jessica Dawson reviews a NYC and a Baltimore show in yesterday's WaPo. Read the review here.