Monday, April 30, 2007

ArtDC delivers more than expected

By the time I finish writing this multi-faceted review and opinion piece on the capital's first international fine arts fair, it will all be over and done, and tired gallerists and dealers and their assistants may be still in the process of tearing down exhibits, bubble-wrapping work to be delivered to new owners or shipped back to galleries, or perhaps to the next fair, and figuring out their next step.

View of artDC
Some will have made a lot of money, others will wonder how they will pay bills incurred in attending this fair, others will still be working the phones trying to close last minute deals. But overall, I suspect that most of them will come back next year.

Because I have a very deep interest in what artDC was doing, can do and will do for the region - both as an art critic and as an art dealer and as an artist - I spent a lot of time at the fair, really trying to peel the onion and look inside it from all three perspectives.

I saw the beginning of what I think is something good for the regional visual arts. It is silly and unfair to compare (as some have done) artDC to Art Basel as Art Basel is now. Perhaps a fairer comparison (no pun intended) would be to compare artDC 2007 to Art Basel 1969 or 1970. And even that may be a little unfair to both Art Basel and artDC, as the latter is perhaps more sophisticated and better presented, than Basel was in those early days of artfairdom.

Like anything done in a group, there were some excellent galleries, some bad choices, and the vast number of galleries were quite adequate for DC's first art fair. The fact that the organizers were able to bring dealers from Europe, Latin America and Asia, speaks volumes for their hard work in selling Washington, DC as a viable art market.

The money certainly is here, although as anyone who's ever tried to sell a piece of art in the area knows, the collectors themselves are far and few in between, and a significant number of the 125,000 millionaires who according to Census figures live in the Greater Washington, DC region do not generally buy artwork with the same zest and zeal that they obtain mini mansions in Potomac and ride around in huge SUVs or expensive weekend motorcycles.

Why? Because to a certain extent, many of them lack the "formation" (as a Communist would say) to really understand, appreciate and know the difference between a "picture" and a work of art.

It's not that they are stupid or uncultured - after all, most of them are first generation, self made men and women, often from blue collar backgrounds, who worked their way up the food chain and made themselves what they are today.

Savvy businessmen, too many sharp lawyers, brilliant computer geeks, enviable technocrats - and all with little, if any, exposure to the arts, and more importantly, exposure to the availability of the arts.

Walk down M Street in Georgetown, or King Street in Alexandria, or Bethesda Row in Bethesda and you'll find many example of stores that successfully market, display and sell very expensive "pictures." They are usually located where most "real" galleries can't afford the rent - the prime real estate for business, right around the corner from Benetton, or Banana Republic, etc. They sell "pictures."

"Pictures" by movie stars, or musicians, or Spanish/Italian or Russian surnamed "painters" delivering "hand-embellished" Giclee canvasses with pretty pictures of Impressionistic women, or large wine glasses with cigars, or women with floppy hats, or Surrealistic landscapes... or Kincaid.

They are not cheap either; and these stores are doing gangbusters. So someone is buying these "pictures."

Why?

Because the buyers think it's fine art and they do not know any better.

Why?

Because they were not exposed to art in their upbringing. Not because their parents were bad, uncultured people, but because their parents were hard-working stiffs who worried about the rent, the electric bill, the food bill and paying for junior's college so that junior could get a Computer Science degree and go on and invent AOL.

And in college, junior probably was not exposed to art other than the two or three peripheral courses that he needed to get his electives; certainly not to buying art, or even aware that art was for sale.

And then junior works hard and becomes a millionaire, and now has disposable income out the yingyang, and looks around for expensive toys, because as George Carlin is fond of saying, we all love to collect "stuff."

And he sees ads for expensive cars, expensive furniture, expensive cigars, and he reads tons of reviews for the latest trendy restaurants, etc. But he's never really made aware that there's also art out there, for our local media has a spectacular sense of apathy towards the visual arts in our area. The Washington Post is the only major American newspaper that has a freelancer deliver around 25 reviews a year to cover an entire year of DC area gallery shows, and they allow their chief art critic to review only museum shows. Very little attention is placed upon our art galleries by the newspapers, certainly not commensurate with the amount of print space that they give theatre, music, dance, fashion, etc.

So junior doesn't know that the DC area has a really good and creative visual arts scene.

Thus when junior takes a stroll through the city's main shopping streets, he doesn't know about the side streets where the galleries are, but sees the stores passing for art galleries that sell the pretty, expensive "pictures," and then junior assumes that this "stuff" is art.

And he drops a ton of money for a pretty "picture." It happens all the time, otherwise these stores would go out of business.

But instead it is the art galleries that go out of business: Veerhoff (after 125 years), Numark, eklektikos, Fusebox.

Every once in a while, junior - usually by accident - discovers a reputable art gallery, and sometimes a real collector is then born. It has happened to me, as a dealer, many, many times. But for every one of those, thousands of others remain on the dark side, or worse still, think that they have to go to New York to find contemporary art.

And this is where an art fair like artDC makes its first impact upon our region.

Because the organizers clearly hired a sharp, savvy PR firm, the fair received a substantial amount of publicity, and it was clear from the numbers of people who attended the fair, that somehow the word got to junior, and a lot of juniors and juniorettes visited artDC 2007.

And hopefully the seed was planted in some of them and it will germinate so that they begin to learn the difference between what they have been buying and what else is out there, and more importantly: what else is in the DC area.

I am not sure if artDC has a way to gather the financial success or failure of the gallerists who took a chance with this first fair. They will answer that question in 2008. Those who return next year will be an indication of those who did well in 2007.

From my own observations, some of the local galleries were doing well. By Friday morning Curator's Office had already sold several large pieces, and while I spent the day doing the video review (will post soon), several dealers told me that they were also doing well. As you will see in the video, I even helped to close a $12,000 sale for a Catalan gallery from Giron, Spain. And on Saturday I witnessed a Miami gallery closing a sale for over $200,000 big ones.

Like any art fair, not everyone was doing well. A British gallery had not broken the ice by late Saturday evening; I hope that they did well on Sunday, which I am told had the largest crowds of the fair, which was expecting around 10,000 visitors in total.

And in addition to getting the word about art to junior, artDC also made sure that all of DC's precious and few art collectors also came to the fair. I saw most of them there on Thursday night, and many returned on Friday and Saturday.

On Thursday night a major ubercollector with a building named after him picked up his 9th Tim Tate piece at the fair. He was but one of many of the area's ubercollectors who was acquiring work at artDC. He is one savvy collector by the way, as he now owns one of Tate's seminal works that marry video and glass.

So the organizers got people to come to the fair. I must admit that I was hugely skeptical that this was going to happen, and even told them months ago that it would take a small miracle to get crowds to come, and pay, to see a visual arts event in our area.

I was wrong and they did a superb job; keep that PR firm!

So what about the art itself? What did junior and the area's ubercollectors get to see, and buy?

The diversity of the artwork was as I expected it would be. Anyone who has been to major art fairs would know this. There was art to satisfy nearly every imaginable taste, and attempts to cover all trends in both the primary and secondary art markets, although there was the usual limited number of sculptures.

Sculptures are difficult and expensive to ship.

Some have commented on the lack of "cutting edge" artwork at the fair. I'm not really sure what this means, although I suspect that in this case the comment was birthed because the writer either (a) skipped the new media section (I helped to jury that) and that silly but interesting "perpetual art machine," or (b) became visually overloaded at his/her first art fair. Next year artDC 2008 should invite the artists from Dorkbot DC to join in the new media salon.

But let's assume that there was very little art in someone's personal sense of what is "cutting edge." Let's also assume that you are a gallerist in Spain, or the Republic of Korea, or China, or Viet Nam, and that you are planning to attend DC's first ever art fair.

If you have done fairs in Miami, or New York, or Madrid, or London, then you know those places well enough, and know what sells there. You are -- after all -- a commercial gallery in the business of selling art. And if you are an independent, fine arts gallery, the business of selling art also comes coupled with a hard-to-define aesthetic ethic to also present work that helps to establish the gallery's reputation as a fine arts dealer - otherwise you're selling "pictures."

But you know very little about Washington, DC.

And so you do a little Googling, call a few people, read a few online blurbs, and try to gather some intelligence on the DC art market.

Good luck with that.

And so, as you prepare to buy airline tickets for you and your staff, and get hotel reservations for you and your staff, and hire a holding company in DC for the artwork that you're shipping from Korea, or Spain or China ahead of time, and pay for the crating and shipping, etc., and deal with American customs, you want to make sure that whatever you ship to DC is a mixture of your heavy hitters for sales or museum acquisitions, coupled with work that delivers an artistic continuity to your gallery's presence on the world scene.

This is not easy to foretell for a new market.

And some foreign and national galleries did well, and others probably failed miserably; but they all learned something. Same thing for the regional galleries. At around $8,000 for a booth, by the time that you add up all the expenses of staff salary, etc., even the locals had to sell at least $20,000 worth of art at the fair just to break even.

The artwork they and others brought included some of the best examples of Latin American masters that I've ever seen outside of the Miami fairs or perhaps ARCO. It included most major names like Matta, Lam, Pelaez, Portecarrero, Fini, Orozco, Mendieta, Rivera, Sequeiros, Botero, etc.

Work by Fernando Botero
They also brought a boatload of the super hot Chinese market that some DC area art galleries (such as Irvine Contemporary Art) are also tapping into.

ArtDC probably brought the first mass exposure to the region of this vibrant Chinese art. "Another Look: New Art From Shanghai," a pavilion of 12 artists from the Shanghai area, was a coup for whoever planned it, as it displayed a dozen artists that curator Liu Jian told me would give a wide range of examples of artistic diversity in Shanghai, rather than the stereotypical view of Chinese art that we're already getting from the Western viewpoint.

They also brought young European talent to the fair. I particularly liked The Steps Gallery's (from Bristol, England) stable of recent British MFAs; artists such as painter Juliet Rose, sculptor Kuldeep Malhi and others.

I also liked one of Galeria Giart's (from Giron, Spain) young painters, Xavi Vilaro's hyper-realistic massive paintings. The Europeans also brought plenty of the big, dead guns, and if Picasso, or Dali and a dozen other in-the-style-of Surrealists was your thing, then you were happy.

The North Americans also did well. Chicago's Aldo Castillo Gallery brought Carolina Sardi's "Snowing Over Miami" installation and it was a hit at the fair, as was Toronto's Artcore brave sculptures such as "3 Men Standing" by Steve Gibson. Have we ever seen nude older men in a public place in DC recently?

Dr. Alida Anderson in front of Steve Gibson's 3 Men Standing
Miami's Hardcore Art & Contemporary Space had a superb sculptural installation by Hiroshi Ohashi (which sold almost immediately) as well as some provocative videos by various artists. Miami's Cernuda Arte brought the heaviest of the Cuban heavy hitters, with vintage works in the hundreds of thousands by Amelia Pelaez, Wifredo Lam, and others (there was a lot of Cuban art in the fair by the way).

Sculpture by Hiroshi Ohashi
And to no one's surprise, the regional galleries more than held their own and in some cases excelled above the competition. Graham Caldwell's piece at G Fine Art probably had the best spot at the fair and was by far the best sculptural installation in artDC.

View of Parish Gallery
Parish Gallery delivered in their specialty: contemporary and vintage art by African-American artists and truly stood out because of it.

Philadelphia's private dealer Dolan/Maxwell also stood out with their strong grouping of vintage Philly artists. Baltimore's Goya Contemporary had a superb mix of blue chip artists (such as a really unique Keith Haring) together with brilliant work by emerging and mid career artists like Liliana Porter and Timothy App, as well as some breathtaking works by Madeleine Keesing.
By Joachim Knill
Migration from Charlottesville seemed to be doing well at the fair, and had several huge Polaroids by Swiss installation-photographer-wizard Joachim Knill which were some of my favorites in the whole fair, and Douz and Mille more than held their own in the New Media area which truly had a very cool range of video projections and installations.
Etsuko Ichikawa
Randall Scott Gallery also showed well, especially the burned glass abstractions of Etsuko Ichikawa, which are reminiscent of the gunpowder pieces of Cai Guo-Qiang, but Ichikawa is developing her own method involving the use of molten glass that makes Cai's seem like childwork in comparison. Also notable were the imaginary teen worlds of photographer Julia Fullerton-Batten, and the gorgeous mixed media pieces by Cara Ober, which were my wife's favorites in the entire event.

Like any large art fair, there was also gimmicky stuff that bordered on kitsch and wall decor, such as the resinated Chinese poster-like work, and the large icons of JFK and Jackie made out of tiny photographs to resemble the op-art that Dali painted by hand in the 60s and they also were almost a copy of the process that Inga Frick did by hand cutting and pasting (before one could do this in PhotoShop) in the 80s and 90s.

But overall there was a glorious and typical visual overload of a lot of different art all in one huge location, which by the way, was superbly planned and very ample in size, with wide walking avenues between the booths, and not the usual congested halls that seem to characterize most art fairs. Visitors could walk and see a lot of different art that they'd rarely get to see in one place.

And this is where an art fair like artDC makes its second impact upon our region.

Another unexpected windfall from the fair was the exposure of DC area artists to other galleries. On Friday I was part of introducing the work of a well-known DC area artist to a British gallery who is very interested in his work.

Also on Friday, while doing a video interview with a Spanish gallery, the owner discussed that she was very interested in exploring the local artists and seeing if she could find some artists to bring back to Spain. By Sunday I had connected her with a couple of artists that I felt fit into her artistic focus, and she had chosen to bring back works by one local artist.

And other than those two personal anecdotes, I am sure that it happened with other galleries and artists. I am also aware of a major gallery with galleries in two US cities which hooked up with Tim Tate.

And thus it seems like the fair managed to help establish a connection between area artists and out-of-area galleries. I am sure that it worked the other way as well, and I'd be curious to hear from DC area galleries who picked up new artists that they "discovered" at the fair.

And these connections is where an art fair like artDC makes its third impact upon our region.

I believe that the artDC folks have signed a three year contract with the Convention Center, so it appears that they're in this for the long haul. And I believe that now is the time for quick thinking artists and curators and business-savvy dealers to start planning what they're going to do around and with artDC 2008.

A shout to the Scope and Bridge and AAF and other art fair moguls: Let's get some peripheral fairs going next year!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Local coverage of artDC

Yesterday I popped into the press office over at artDC and checked out the wall of press coverage about the fair so far.

It's clear that the fair's PR staff has done a super job getting the word out, and the press has generally responded quite well, especially the art bloggers.

The three major local newspapers have also done quite well, with the Washington Post -- no surprise here -- essentially ignoring the fair in the Style section (Style's editor Deborah Heard just doesn't get that she continues the decline started by her predecessor Eugene Robinson), while covering it nicely in the Weekend section and via online bits here and there.

The Washington Times delivered a spectacular, multi-page, multi color orgy of images in covering the fair (on Saturday), which I also can't find on their sucky website, because although I can find the story, the link is bogus (Update: Here's the valid link).

In the City Paper, my good friend Kriston Capps wrote a piece which curiously questioned the fair's business practices in dealing with non-profits, rather than discussing the art itself (impossible to do ahead of time) or the effect of the fair on the region. In the end (I think) it actually came out in favor of the fair organizers' interest in ensuring that the area's non-profits had a presence (there are 22 of them at artDC) at the fair, which as the article points out, is something most other art fair organizers don't care about.

Gopnik on artDC

I saw Blake Gopnik and his lovely and talented wife (painter Lucy Hogg) at artDC last Friday. Today the Post's Chief Art Critic writes a small blurb about the fair, but it's what he writes about the capital area galleries in today's Sunday Arts (I was unable to find the piece online Update: Here's thelink) that caught my eye:

"It's hard, trying to run a commercial gallery in Washington. Try to get the attention of art lovers and you're competing with the city's great museums, which are better places to see art than any gallery could ever be. Try to get the money of art collectors and you're competing with New York, where there's more art to see. In an attempt to remedy the situation, many local galleries, as well as some from farther off, are participating in this weekend's ArtDC..."
Gopnik goes on discussing the fair, but in this paragraph Blake has shown his first crack in the armor that has essentially protected most of him from being interested in the region's art galleries and artists, and also shows a clear understanding of the difficulty of running the business of an art gallery in the region.

I hereby take back 50% of all the negative things I've written and said about this man's writtings.

Maybe 25%... OK, OK... 50%

Saturday, April 28, 2007

ArtDC Quicklook

I've spent the last three days over at artDC, although yesterday was a visit to create a video review of the show which will be posted as soon as Jeanie is done with the editing.

My first impression of the fair as a whole has been very positive, and I will expand on it later. But generally, artDC has brought a breath of fresh air, fresh art, fresh collectors and fresh opportunities for both DC area art galleries and DC area artists.

Almost three solid days at the fair, and interviewing dozens of gallerists, and meeting and chatting with dozens of DC area art collectors and artists, have given me a deep insight into the fair (and its effects on the area), that I think will reveal some surprising (and unexpected) benefits to the region that go past just having the capital region's first international arts fair.

As a dealer, and as a critic, and as an artist, and as an experienced art fair goer (my first art fair visit took place while I was living in Europe in the early 1980s), I think that I bring a set of multilevel experienced eyes that other area writers (so far) have not had time to develop because of age, or lack of fair-going experience, or zero business acumen, and even snarky personal agendas.

If you are an artist, a gallerist, an art collector, or just a person interested in seeing the beginning of something good and positive for our reginal arts scene, go and visit the fair tomorrow, it's last day.

I will have a full review shortly.

Update: Excellent review of the fair by Mark over at Ionarts. Read it here.

Waaaay behind

If you've emailed me in the last couple of days, I'm not ignoring you, it's just that I've been floating between artDC and the Warehouse the last two days and haven't had time for email... have at least 200 in the inbox and a gazillion in the spam checker.

I'll get to them by Monday.

Wanna go to a DC opening tonite?

Right across the street from artDC (which is being held at the DC Convention Center), the Warehouse Gallery is hosting a show of local artists called “No Representation” from April 26 to May 12, 2007. I've already seen it (twice) and it looks great.

The show, curated by Molly Ruppert, Sondra N. Arkin, Ellyn Weiss and Phillipa P.B. Hughes, will include all media and has two rules only: all of the art is by local artists and all the work is abstract. Artists in the show are artists include: Sondra N. Arkin, J. Belmar, Mark Cameron Boyd, Renee Butler, Tory Cowles, Laurel Farrin, Michael Gessner, Janis Goodman, Pat Goslee, Tom Green, Eve Hennessa, Kristin Holder, Brece Honeycutt, Becky Jones, Joanne Kent, Adrian Loving + Ayodamola Okunseinde (Dissident Display), Aubrie Mema, Elizabeth Morisette, Emily Piccirillo, Lynn Putney, Marina Reiter, Nooni Reatig, Chris Tousimis, Dan Treado, Andres Tremols, CC Vess, Gail Vollrath, Anita Walsh, Rex Weil and Ellyn Weiss.

The opening is Saturday, April 28 starting at 6 pm.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Artsy Prepuce

In case you don't know, a prepuce is an old word for foreskin. The most famous prepuce in the world is the Holy Prepuce, and maybe, as of last night, the most famous prepuce (at least in Washington, DC) hanging in an art gallery now hangs at the "Supple" exhibition in the Warehouse Galleries, as last night Adrian Parsons self circumcised himself in front of a rapt audience. He then hung the foreskin on the gallery wall.


Performance artist Adrian Parsons with his foreskin hanging on the wall
Adrian with his foreskin hanging on the wall

At the start... yesterday I attended the gala opening for artDC, and the place was packed with dealers, collectors, press and artsy folks.

I left pretty late and pretty tired (I had risen at 4AM in the morning as I had an early morning appointment in Annapolis).

And so I unfortunately decided to head to bed, rather than head on over to Warehouse across the street.

It was there, at the opening of "Supple," that Parsons may have become the world's first arts mohel.

But tonight, after spending the whole day at artDC, around 10PM I did go to see "Supple" and also "No Representation" at Warehouse, and while there we ran into Parsons, who gave me a walking tour of "Supple" and he described the whole self-circumcision performance for me.

Below is a video of the self-circumcision - all normal warnings apply:





Video of Adrian Parsons' Shrapnel Performance
Update: YouTube has removed the video, but the CP has it here


If you can handle it, check out the photographs of the performance and the self-circumcision here.

Reviews of Supple, No Representation, and artDC coming soon. The men go: Ouch!

Wanna go to a Baltimore opening tonight?

The Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) highlights eight first-year students in MICA’s graphic design master of fine arts (M.F.A.) program in conjunction with the Graphic Design MFA Thesis Exhibition. First-Year Graphic Design MFA Exhibition provides a glimpse into the work of emerging artists and graduate students in the College’s graduate programs. The exhibition takes place in Bunting Center’s Pinkard Gallery at 1401 Mount Royal Avenue, with an opening reception on Friday, April 27, 5–7 p.m.

The eight students showcasing their works are Kim Bentley, Viviana Cordova, John Corrigan, Hyun Soo Lim, Gregory May, Kelley McIntyre, April Osmanof, and Yue Tuo. The exhibition goes through May 2, 2007.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Wanna go to a Bethesda opening tomorrow?

On Friday, April 27th from 6-9pm, Heineman Myers Gallery in Bethesda, MD has an opening reception for “Colorfieldremix: Saturated.”

This will also be an artist party and Zoe Myers is encouranging colorful attire and she promises that "colorful cocktails will be served."

Numbers

Mid Atlantic Art News is now averaging over 21,000 visits a week. This is a re-affirmation of the interest in the visual arts in the region.

And, according to this map, the visitors are coming from all over the world.

Thank you.

Reliable Sourcing

The WaPo's Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts, who pen the Reliable Source column for the WaPo, discuss art casualties of Artomatic's 3500-person opening reception.

Read it here.

CBS does Artomatic

DC's Channel 9 went to see Artomatic and this is what they videotaped.

The video includes interviews with artists Dana Ellyn, Matt Seesow, the amazing Frank Warren from PostSecret, George Koch, and Tim Tate.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Is she busy or what?

"Barely emerging" DC area artist Kathryn Cornelius may be in the process of graduating to "emerging."

Kathryn Cornelius
She has a live performance on the opening night of artDC, this Thursday at 8pm as part of the Curator's Office presence at the fair. Cornelius writes:

I am especially excited about this performance because it involved a lot of participation of multiple parties as a portion of its conceptual underpinnings, which has been an interesting way to work... I am grateful for all those individuals and organizations that have been a part of this piece -- thank you!
Then she has some photographs in a show at the Palazzo delle Arti in Naples, Italy. The exhibition is called Eroi! come noi...? (Heroes! like us ...?) and runs April 5 thru June 27, 2007. Curated by Julia Draganovic of The Chelsea Museum in New York, the exhibition includes artists Charlotte Ginsborg, Marco Giovani, Ilya Kabakov, Tom Sanford, and Hu Yang among others.

Also, this spring she will have a video work displayed in a group video show at Galerie Anita Beckers in Germany.

Buy a Cornelius this weekend - do not wait any longer.

Supple

Future of Warehouse Theatre and Galleries Uncertain

Via Wonkette I learned last nigt that the future of the Warehouse Galleries and Theatre in DC is suddenly quite uncertain.

A couple of years ago I curated "Seven" for the WPA/C and it took place in seven of the eight gallery spaces that Warehouse hosts in the buildings built and owned by the Ruppert family for many, many decades. In the process I got to know its owners, Molly and Paul Ruppert, quite well.

Molly Ruppert is an independent, feisty, hardworking person with a kind, open heart that nonetheless is able to integrate business and kindness with a sharp art savvy personality and an indefatigable sense of community. Together with Paul, they are a hands-on business model that make up the main workforce at Warehouse, be it as bar tenders, waiters, gallerist or theatre managers (they do have an excellent chef!). And yet, the Warehouse is not a money-making operation.

But she and Paul and their buildings are an asset and an important part of the cultural tapestry that makes up the Greater Washington, DC area art scene.

While I was curating "Seven," Molly and I discussed the surrounding neighborhood, and the important cultural contribution that I felt Warehouse had added by retaining a little cultural DNA for a neighborhood that was almost swallowed whole by the huge Washington Convention Center.

Not that I think that the Convention Center is a bad thing; in fact it is a great asset economically to Washington and to the neighborhood, but a neighborhood also needs places like Warehouse to remain alive, and not just become another soul-less block of cookie cutter businesses and franchises.

In discussing the surrounding buildings, Molly confided in me that she was bleak about the future of her property, and that she had already turned down several offers from developers to buy her family buildings. However, she suspected that once these developers got the ear of the city administrators, she would be forced out of the neighborhood.

"How can they force you out?", I asked.

She answered by telling me that she suspected that at some point the city would double or triple her property taxes, effectively making it financially impossible for Ruppert to continue her business model or even ownership of the spaces.

And it is brutally ironic that at the same time that we're all congratulating Molly Ruppert's sense of community for stepping up and saving J.T. Kirkland's "Supple" project, we get the news that Warehouse property taxes for next year are increasing over 500%!

A 500% property tax hike is an obscene tax hike no matter who or what for, but especially in a city such as Washington, DC, which owes so much of its revitalization to private industry and to hard-working small businesses like the Warehouse.

I am not sure what "we" can all do, but I have a few ideas, and the first one is for organizations such as the Washington Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and the Cultural Alliance of Greater DC, and other such cultural organizations and entities of the capital region to step up and use whatever contacts or networks they have to make sure that (as I suspect), in the same way that some developer got the "ear" of some city politician, that these organizations in turn get the "ear" of some political allies (or even get Hizzoner's ear) to ensure that this obscene tax hike gets reviewed and reduced or eliminated, and Warehouse afforded a chance to remain in place as one of DC's leading cultural icons.

Update: Jessica Gould of the WCP already had stepped up to the plate and had a great posting on this issue yesterday here.

ArtDC opens tomorrow

The capital's first major international fine arts fair opens tomorrow at the Washington Convention Center. Not that you'd know it by the coverage that our local newspapers have given it so far, but this is the biggest thing that has happened to the visual arts around here in a long time, maybe ever.

The opening night festivities will benefit the Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington. Considering the boost that the Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington is getting from this visual arts event, I sincerely hope that (a) more visual arts organizations and galleries join the CAGW and (b) that CAWG increases what they do to boost the visibility of DC area visual arts.

Thursday, April 26, 2007
Washington Convention Center, Hall E
800 Mount Vernon Place, NW, Washington DC

5:30-7:30, Drinks and Hors d' Oeuvres - Tickets are $100
7:30-9:30, Cash Bar - Tickets are $30
For tickets call 312-587-8124 or email jrabion@dc-artfair.com

On Friday, April 27 the fair is free and open to the public, after that: April 28-30, $12; $5 for seniors and students. 11 a.m.-7 p.m. April 27-29, and 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Call 866-727-7953 or visit this website for details.

Since on Friday the fair is free, there's absolutely no excuse for not getting into an orgy of art this Friday.

First drop by and spend a couple of hours at artDC, then swing by the Warehouse Gallery across the street, have a beer or a cup of coffee and say hi to Molly Ruppert, then take the Metro over to Crystal City and visit Artomatic, which has a ton of parties and music events going on till 1AM. And ferchristsakes: buy some art somewhere along the line!

See ya there!

Wanna go to a DC opening tonight?

With an exhibition titled "Inside/Out", Washington artist, Raye Leith, unveils a group of portraits of well-known figures grouped with Washington insiders and power players.

Her series, part of a New York project of 100 portraits she recently embarked on, includes larger than life figures such as John Lennon and Albert Einstein as well as such Washington players as Septime Webre (Director of the Washington Ballet), Valerie Plame (exposed CIA operative), President of the United States George W. Bush, and Mayor of Washington, D.C., Adrian Fenty.

Inside/Out opens on April 25th and runs through May 20th, 2007 at Knew Gallery in Georgetown.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

JS Adams' Artomatic Top 10 Picks

DC area artist JS Adams writes:

Not being able to participate in this year's Artomatic, it was strangely freeing to view it all from a different perspective as an outsider. As ever, a handful stood out among the roughhewn and ordinary. For me, specifically:
Photographers: Phil Nesmith's ferrotypes, the in-camera collages of Erin Antognoli and selections from the Past Presence series by Joanna Knox

John Adams' sublime site-specific wall drawing; and the conceptual reinterpretations of urban street scenes/movement by Jessi Moore.

Glass artist Tim Tate for his mini/multi-media reliquary, Expectations Denied.

Kudos to the group of eighth floor artists – who through either sweeping grand gesture or intimate engagement – hold your attention amidst an otherwise vast and cold exhibition space: Rob Lindsay – who, forgive the pun, takes printmaking to new levels; amazing anthropologic-inspired ceramics by Novie Trump; Veronica Szalus' skewered newsprint totems; and Keith Stanley's elegant ikebana.

What continues to please me most about Artomatic is the discovery of new artists, plus seeing evocative and innovate, new directions from favorites.

I always knew that he was a dork

DC area uberartist Tim Tate (who just had a record-breaking sales weekend at an art fair this last weekend) will be speaking at Dorkbot DC tonight (Tuesday, April 24, 7-9 PM). This meeting will be held at the Lapis Auditorium of the Artomatic Space (6th Floor, 2121 Crystal Drive, Arlington, VA).

Other speakers will include circuit bending audio artist Peter Blasser, and Second Life virtual world architect Jack Whitsitt.

By the way, if there's one reason to visit AOM, it is the amazing marriage of science and art that the Dorkbot DC artists have at Artomatic.

The WPA\C Experimental Media Series - ColorFieldremix

You just can't catch your breath this month if you love the visual arts and live in the DC region!

As part of the Colorfield.remix events going on around DC, Richard Chartier has curated a show for the WPA/C that has been described to me as "different --- new work, and a lot of sound and media... it is amazing, I previewed it yesterday. Richard has found work that incorporates a fresh look at color and sound."

Done through the WPA\C’s Experimental Media Series, this project challenged artists to reinterpret the Color Field artists with experimental video, sound and performance pieces, and Richard Chartier curated the one opening Wednesday, April 25, 2007 7:00 – 9:00 pm at the Corcoran Gallery of Art's Armand Hammer Auditorium (free and open to the public), and Brandon Morse on Wednesday, May 30, 2007 (same place and times).

Details here

Grants for DC artists

Deadline: Wednesday, May 23, 2007 at 7 pm

The Small Projects Program (SPP) offers grants up to $1,000 to individual artists and arts organizations. The program seeks to make grant funds more accessible for small-scale arts projects. Projects may include but are not limited to:

- Art presentations
- Assistance in fundraising, marketing and management
- Documentation of artistic activities through photography, brochures, portfolios and demo tapes
- Conferences, workshops or seminars that will enhance artistic and professional development.

Details here.

Funding For Professional Fine Artists And Their Families

Emergency funding from the Artists' Fellowship is available during times of emergency, disability, or bereavement. The Fellowship does not accept requests from performance artists, filmmakers, craft artists, hobbyists, commercial artists, or commercial photographers. For more information, contact:

Artists' Fellowship, Inc.
47 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10003
Tel: 646.230.9833

Colorfield openings

Below is a video of the last openings at Conner Contemporary and Marsha Mateyka Gallery in DC which are part of the whole Colorfield.remix project going on around the capital. The video starts silent, allowing viewers to revel in the works on display, and then has an interview with Ryan Carr Johnson around the end of the first silent minute.




Video courtesy of 205 Lavinia Street, Videos for Artists/Galleries/Events.

Call for Public Art in Takoma Park, MD

Deadline: Friday, May 4th, 2007

The City of Takoma Park, MD is soliciting proposals for public art. The selected work is to located on the Metropolitan Branch Trail in the City.

ELIGIBILITY: Open to all artists or artist teams

PROJECT BUDGET: $15,000 (includes but is not limited to artist fees, materials, fabrication, and installation)

DEADLINE FOR PROPOSALS: Proposals must be submitted to the City of Takoma Park's Department of Housing and Community Development, 7500 Maple Avenue, Takoma Park MD 20912, by 4:30 pm on May 4, 2007.

GENERAL DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS: The selected artwork is to be located on a green area adjacent to an off road section of the Metropolitan Branch Trail and installed at ground level. The area is an irregular shape and roughly 1400 square feet.

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: More detailed information and a copy of the Request for Proposal can be found on the City's web site at www.takomaparkmd.gov

For more info: call 301.891.7219 or email DavidS@takomagov.org

Supple exhibition is back on

Yesterday I told you that J.T. Kirkland's "Supple" exhibition had been cancelled at the last minute (it was). But now Kirkland has been offered a new space and "Supple" is back on and will open at the Warehouse Galleries this Thursday, April 26 at 7PM.

All the details here.

This whole process has been not just a valuable learning experience for Kirkland, but also another example, in its resolution, of the terrific sense of artistic community that exists in the Greater DC area, in spite of the apathy of the lamestream media.

Kudos to Molly Ruppert of Warehouse Galleries for being such a good mensch!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Busy Week

April continues to roar as a spectacularly busy art month in the Greater Washington, DC area.

Artomatic continues to attract thousands of visitors to Crystal City, Virginia. Make time to swing by AOM this week.

With an exhibition titled "Inside/Out" at Knew Gallery, Washington artist, Raye Leith, unveils a group of portraits of well-known figures grouped with Washington insiders and power players. Her series, part of a New York project of 100 portraits she recently embarked on, places larger than life figures such as John Lennon and Albert Einstein alongside such Washington players as Septime Webre (Director of the Washington Ballet), Valerie Plame (exposed CIA operative), President of the United States George W. Bush, and Mayor of Washington, D.C., Adrian Fenty. Inside/Out opens on April 25th and runs through May 20th, 2007 at Knew Gallery in Georgetown.

Also in DC, the District's major international art fair, artDC opens on Thursday at the Washington Convention Center. Several DC area galleries are participating, as well as dozens of national and international galleries. There are also loads of art talks and panels scheduled as well as a section on "New Media," part of which I helped to curate. Details here.

Colorfield.remix activities continue throughout the DC area with a variety of events scheduled, including the opening of a new show titled "ColoField remix: Saturated" at Bethesda's Heineman Myers Gallery. Zoe Myers has handpicked 19 contemporary DC area artists whose work owes a debt to the Color School. Opening reception on Friday, April 27 from 6-9PM.

Also on Friday, April 27, at 7pm, at the Cultural Institute of Mexico (2829 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009), and you need to R.S.V.P. to (202) 728-1675 or icm@instituteofmexicodc.org, is "Directions: DC Contemporary Latino Art," curated by DC area artist Irene Clouthier and my good friend Laura Roulet, a DC-area based independent curator. Selected artists include Roxana Bravo, Irene Clouthier, Coronado, Edgar Endress, Muriel Hasbun, Gabriel Martinez, Tomás Rivas, José Ruiz, Catalina Torres and Ricardo Zapata. Feature presentation: “Bola Suriana”, playing music from Michoacán, Mexico. Through June 15, 2007.


In Bethesda, on Friday, April 27th from 6-9pm, Heineman Myers Gallery in Bethesda, MD has an opening reception for “Colorfieldremix: Saturated.” This will also be an artist party and Zoe Myers is encouranging colorful attire and she promises that "colorful cocktails will be served."

Right across the street from artDC (which is being held at the DC Convention Center, the Warehouse Gallery is hosting a show of local artists called “No Representation” from April 26 to May 12, 2007. The show, curated by Molly Ruppert, Sondra N. Arkin, Ellyn Weiss and Phillipa P.B. Hughes, will include all media and has two rules only: all of the art is by local artists and all the work is abstract. Artists in the show are artists include: Sondra N. Arkin, J. Belmar, Mark Cameron Boyd, Renee Butler, Tory Cowles, Laurel Farrin, Michael Gessner, Janis Goodman, Pat Goslee, Tom Green, Eve Hennessa, Kristin Holder, Brece Honeycutt, Becky Jones, Joanne Kent, Adrian Loving + Ayodamola Okunseinde (Dissident Display), Aubrie Mema, Elizabeth Morisette, Emily Piccirillo, Lynn Putney, Marina Reiter, Nooni Reatig, Chris Tousimis, Dan Treado, Andres Tremols, CC Vess, Gail Vollrath, Anita Walsh, Rex Weil and Ellyn Weiss. The opening is Saturday, April 28 starting at 6 pm.

Bummer

If like me, your plans this week included attending the J.T. Kirkland-organized "Supple" exhibition in DC, last night Kirkland informed me that the show, which he has been working so hard to make happen and which was supposed to open this week, has been cancelled.

Details here.

Update: Looks like JT may have found another space not too far from the original space. More later...

Opportunity for artists

Deadline: May 4, 2007

The Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (CHAW), a 35 year-old nonprofit multi-disciplinary arts education organization, is joining the School Libraries Project to solicit and select artists to design and produce murals in eight public school libraries on Capitol Hill. This exciting opportunity will take place in the summer of 2007. The approximate size of each of the murals is 10 ft. x 10 ft. Up to $2500 honoraria provided, pending funding.

For more information, please visit this website or contact Moira Connolly at moira@chaw.org or call her at (202) 547-6839.

Selection Process & Deadlines
Artists must submit original design proposals to the Selection Committee by May 4, 2007. Please submit the following:

1) Design proposal on an 8.5 x 11 inch piece of paper. Artists may submit up to three designs per school library.

2) A slide sheet or digital photo CD of former completed projects (if available).

3) Completed submission form.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

New Shows Open at the Katzen this week

Several important shows open AU's Katzen on Tuesday, and several more open the first week in May. The openings receptions to celebrate the AU Museum’s spring season and all these new shows, will be on Saturday, May 5, from 6 to 9 p.m, kicking off at 5 pm with a gallery talk on the American prints by Baltimore curator Jay Fisher. All shows will be open for viewing during the reception, so save May 5th on your art calendar..

On view starting Tuesday:

"Resolutions: New Art from Northern Ireland," is a 49-piece, multi-media show introducing 21 artists who are part of an extraordinary cultural resurgence in a region long plagued by violence, religious strife and social upheaval, opens Tuesday, April 24, at the American University Museum at the Katzen. This centerpiece of the "Rediscover Northern Ireland" program, was curated by Museum Director Jack Rasmussen. Through Sunday, July 29, 2007.

Also opening Tueday is "Black Masters," which is a a mini-survey of fifteen paintings and works on paper by fourteen black artists from the 19th and 20th centuries. This rare look at African-American artists is a good thing not only for the Katzen, but also for the whole DC area museum scene, which sorely lacks a proportionate curatorial look at art by African-American art and artists. Kudos to the Katzen and to Jack Rasmussen! At 5PM there will be a lecture by Sherman Edmiston, owner of the Essie Green Galleries in Harlem, New York City, and Lou Hudnell, American University School of Education. Through Sunday, May 27, 2007.

Romare Bearden, The Grey Cat, 1979, collage on board. Courtesy of the Essie Green Galleries
Also opening on the 24th is "High Fiber," a tapestry show by nationally known artists Squeak Carnwath, Enrique Chagoya, Chuck Close, Bruce Conner, Rupert Garcia, April Gornik, Hung Liu, Alan Magee, Ed Moses, Deborah Oropallo and William Wiley. Through May 13, 2007.

"Made in America," The Washington Print Club 19th Biennial also opens on April 24, and runs through Sunday, June 24, 2007. More than 100 examples of printmaking in America over the past 70 years — including works by George Bellows, Jack Boul, Jasper Johns, Faith Ringgold, Richard Tuttle and many others.

Finally, three out-sized brightly colored steel sculptures by Jules Olitzki — from the Vermont-based artist’s last major works, the Cyclops Series of 2006 — enliven the Katzen Arts Center’s plaza parallel to Massachusetts Avenue. The works, from the collection of Dr. Cyrus and Myrtle Katzen, comprise the AU museum’s contribution to the Colorfield.remix celebration going on around the District.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Circular Criticism

Seattle is the center of the fine arts glass universe, and it is appropriate that an intellectual battle of words involving the world's most famous glass artist has been going on around the blogs and newspapers of that beautiful city, so dear and near to my heart.

Circular criticism, or as the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's eloquent art critic Regina Hackett calls it "Prizes in Hypocrisy," is a very good story on two newspapers first trashing an artist on a particular point and then later taking the other viewpoint.

First she recalls (through the writing of Trevor Fairbrother's 1996 essay about the collaborative paintings of Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat) the New York Times critical drubbing of the Basquiat and Warhol art collaborations. Hackett writes:

Writing there in 1984, Vivian Raynor observed that Basquiat might turn into a substantial artist if he doesn't become an "art-world mascot." (A year later, reviewing the Basquiat-Warhol collaboration, she repeated the mascot charge and added that the jointly produced paintings were Warhol manipulations with Basquiat as the "all too willing accessory."

Wounded, Basquiat distanced himself from Warhol, who had functioned as an anchor for the younger artist. After Basquiat's death at age 27 in 1988, the same New York Times called him a "genius" who unfortunately had cooled his relationship with his mentor "partly out of fear that he was being viewed as Mr. Warhol's mascot."
Then Hackett brings to national attention the fact that the Seattle Times in 2006 wrote a three part series focused on Dale Chihuly by Sheila Farr (the Times art critic) and Susan Kelleher (in which Chihuly's work process is compared to Thomas Kinkade's) which starts like this:
If we measure an artist's importance by the number of museum exhibitions, books, articles and television appearances he has, Seattle glass guru Dale Chihuly is right up there with the greats.

His work is in the collection of most every U.S. art museum you can think of, as well as many abroad. Museum exhibitions of his work circulate continually and stacks of hefty coffee-table books praise his talents. And who hasn't seen one of those often-aired documentaries about him on PBS?

But what many don't know is that Chihuly — a Northwest icon who has built a multimillion-dollar business — generates the bulk of that exposure himself.

Most of those hugely popular exhibitions weren't organized and distributed by art museums, but by Chihuly Inc. And those books and television shows? Most of them were produced by Chihuly's publishing company, Portland Press.

All that publicity has inflated the public notion of Chihuly's status in the art world.
Kinda tips your hand as to where these articles are heading, uh?

And yet, the more you think and see the articles as a purely investigative series of articles, the less they appear to be "bloated and inconsequential," as Hackett describes them. Generally Farr and Kelleher do a pretty good job of describing and somewhat exposing an amazing business and propaganda machine, which -- other than the fact that the business empire happens to be that of an artist -- is much like any other article that investigative reporters write, and like many of those, we know from the beginning words what the conclusions will be, or in this case, what flavor they want to leave the readers with once they are finished reading the series.

If we began to read an investigative article in the Washington Times about the finances of Move.org, or in the Washington Post about the finances of the Republican National Committee, we'd all know from the beginning what the conclusions or findings will be, right?

And although Farr and Kelleher tip their hand early on, and generally leave a somewhat negative taste at the end of the series, nearly all of what they write appears to be fact, I think.

It is fact reporting from a negative, and perhaps somewhat unfair viewpoint, but facts nonetheless, and their negativity is probably because the artworld is not used to famous artists who are also astounding business wizards. And when the big, famous artist who is the most famous artist in your city sues lesser-known artists, then we have victims and victimizers.

Artists are supposed to be always the victims, not also the victimizers.

The articles are also a little naive in the sense that the writers approach Chihuly's success from that sort of ivory tower view of the artworld that so many art critics have that leads them to assume and believe that mixing business and publicity with artmaking is a bad thing. And if you're as good as the Chihulian Empire is at all those three, then you're Darth Dale as far as some art writers are concerned.

And Hackett righly points out that then the Seattle Times seems to be contradicting some of their own nuances in the Chihuly series by noting later on that this artist's work is indeed quite similar to Chihuly's.

This is sort of what happens when a WaPo movie critic trashes a film on Friday, and then a second WaPo film critic loves it on Saturday. Kinda...

Hackett has written her own excellent piece on Chihuly, not necessarily "defending" him, but presenting him from a more positive viewpoint. This piece by Hackett is the counterpoint to the articles by Farr and Kelleher.

And she does a pretty good job of presenting Chihuly in a good light, even delivering a very convincing argument why it is OK for us all to accept the fact that Chihuly actually doesn't make any of his artwork himself. And in her blog, Hackett goes a little more out on a limb when she writes:
After six months of digging, the Seattle Times produced a bloated and inconsequential three-part Chihuly series, suggesting grave wrongs were being uncovered at Chihuly Inc., maybe just over the hill of the next paragraph.

As written by Seattle Times investigative reporter Susan Kelleher and Seattle Times art critic Sheila Farr, there was nothing but smoke over that hill. My favorite headline in the tell-all wannabe series was "Chihuly Benefits from his own Philanthropy." Who doesn't?
Mmmm... I think that this is perhaps an easy pass by Hackett, for the million dollar profit reported by the Times article.

Then Hackett apparently went on a war of words with the Stranger's (a Seattle alternative newspaper) art critic Jen Graves over this interview. It all led in turn to Graves responding with this article.

It would be fair to conclude then that the art critics from Seattle's three main newspapers are now somewhat arctic to each other over the issues, allegations, facts, opinions and printed words brought forth by that walking publicity machine that is Dale Chihuly, who -- along with the savvy art aficionados of the Seattle area who are lucky enough to have art critics and newspapers who care about stuff like this -- is the only winner from this glass skirmish.

Wanna go to a Silver Spring, MD opening tonight?

Gateway’s Heliport Gallery opens "20901, 20902, 20903, 20904, 20906, 20910" tonight with a reception from 6 – 8pm.

The exhibition features over 20 Silver Spring artists and was curated by Nevin Kelly Gallery Deputy Director Julia Morelli and Gateway’s Project Manager David Fogel. The selection process was predominantly done through online submissions via ArtDC.org.

The exhibition includes work by Kanchan Balse, John Brodkin, Laurie Breen, George Carr, Andrew Cronan, Mary D. Ott, Clara Graves, Sy Gresser, Steven Hanks, Brian Hewitt, Susan Holland, Yoshiko Jaeggi, Pauline Jakobsberg, Dana Jeri Maier, Jaclyn Martin, Julie Miller, Cristina Montejo, Steven Robinson, Ellen X. Silverberg, Berta Stegmeier, Alfreda Gourdine-Southerland, Bernie Van Leer, and Michael Winger.

Wanna go to a VA opening this afternoon?

You better hurry, because the DC area's newest art gallery, Habatat Gallery, which is located in Tyson's Corner is having an opening for ceramic artist Bennett Bean this afternoon from 12-3PM. The exhibition runs through May 22, 2007.

Bean's work can be found in many museum collections including the Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY and the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, PA.

Shannon Chester

Last Wednesday I posted my thoughts on my initial visit to Artomatic and one of the artists that I highlighted was the photography of Shannon Chester.

And now Bailey has an interesting story to tell about Chester and her work. Read it here.

Center City Gallery Night

Tonight is Center City Gallery Night in Philly from 5-8PM. The Philly City Paper will be hosting an after-party at Loie Brasserie from 8-10PM (RSVP here).

Maps, participating galleries and other associated events here.

New DC working studio

Studio 4903 is a recently-opened working studio dedicated to creating art and community, with a focus on cutting-edge contemporary jewelry and design. The Studio is located at 4903 Wisconsin Avenue, between Tenleytown and Friendship Heights, and consists of 5 jewelry artists, an architect and a clothing designer. The light-filled, open space facilitates regular shows and events.

The Studio is proud to present the first in a series of slide shows and lectures featuring contemporary jewelry artists. Anya Pinchuk and Natalya Pinchuk will discuss and present images of their work on Thursday, May 10, at 7:00pm. This free lecture is presented in conjunction with their two-person show at Jewelerswerk Galerie, opening May 11, 2007.

Katie Tuss' AOM Top 10

The fair Katie Tuss discovers what an exhausting task it is to walk through Artomatic attempting to see the whole show and at the same time pick her Top 10 choices:

1. Michael Janis -- Smart, investigative glass and found object assemblage.

2. Ming-Yi Zaleski -- I love Zaleski's yarn creations. At AOM, we see a wall-sized blond bombshell.

3. Laurel Lukaszewski -- Her stoneware and porcelain extensions are elegant on the wall and on the floor.

4. Andrew Wodzianski -- Wodzianski brings us more blonds with his illustrations of stylish female androids set against decorative backgrounds.

5. Sondra Arkin -- I love the color and texture of Arkin's encaustic paintings.

6. Dana Ellyn -- Her pint-sized graphite portraits on recycled catalogue cards work as a type of blueprint for the menagerie of people depicted in the larger, colorful character studies that fill her wall space.

7. Daniel Lobo -- A year's collection of photographs taken while following DC commuters.

8. Jenny Walton -- This AU MFA student's renderings of scars are delicate in graphite; fleshy and tactile when painted.

9. Erwin Timmer -- Timmer's thick, recycled glass protrudes, grows, morphs and even shows up as a lamp.

10. Gregory Ferrand -- Everyone is in distress in Ferrand's acrylic narratives, except that woman holding the sloth.

Wanna go to a Baltimore Opening tomorrow night?

With a reception full of artists, good wines and sushi on Saturday, April 21, 2007 from 5-9 PM, Light Street Gallery in Baltimore opens their "American Icons" exhibit, which includes images of Americana by the artists Mark Schiff, Robert McClintock, Rob Rudick, Barbara Simpson, Mark Lovett, Anna Kuczynski, Diane Knaus, Nicole Wittelsberger, Ed Towles, Irene Sylvester, Jerry Prettyman, Robert Cadwalader, R.A. Propper, Gwen Lewis, Nancy Nesvet, Dave Montgomery, Jim Condron, Stephen Hay, Patrick O'Brien, and Chip Cecil.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Wanna go to a DC opening tonight?

The very talented DC painter Sondra Arkin opens tonight at Nevin Kelly Gallery with an opening reception from 6-9pm. You best hurry, as I hear the show is already selling well even before the opening!

DC area studio space

Several folks from ArtDC.org would like to band together to start another studio. And they've found a location: 4500 square feet, exposed brick walls, big windows, heat, electric, a bathroom and more.

They envison first finding 10 founding members. They're talking about 250 square feet for each artist dividing up the room with an open atmosphere; no walls.

Then each of these 10 artists get a storage closet designed specifically for storing art materials. They will call these artists their charter members or artists in residence. They will have 24 hr access.

There are two stair wells and possible access to an industrial elevator 17 feet deep, and there's a standard ceiling height of just over 8 ft. A cost of $275 per artist plus a small fee of around $25 a month for utilities and liability insurance for the space as a whole is envisioned.

There will then be a group area with items like a press, a framing area, possibly a dark room, and a work area.

For more details contact Jesse at admin@jessecohen.com.

Wanna go to a Univ. of MD Opening tonight?

The University of Maryland’s Union Gallery has "Midpoint: Second Year MFA Candidates" at the Union Gallery opening tonight and on display through May 21, 2007.

"The exhibition presents installation, sculpture, drawing, painting and video pieces by six artists – Christian Benefiel, Mahwish Chishty, Sarada Conaway, Ellington, Aniko Makranczy and Meg Mitchell – all halfway through the University’s three-year Master of Fine Arts program.

Opening recption is Thursday, April 19, 5-7 pm. Fear the turtle.

MFA Thesis Exhibition at Katzen

You all know that I am a big fan of collecting student art (I started selling my own artwork regularly at Seattle's Pike Place Market while I was a freshman at the University of Washington School of Art), and starting on Saturday, April 21, and running through Sunday, May 27, 2007, the Katzen Arts Center has an exhibition of AU’s two-year Master of Fine Arts degree students, featuring abstract and representational painting and sculpture as well as installation art (some directly on gallery walls) by Graham Childs, Tom Debari, Ellen Ann Gallup, Rebecca Johnson, Max Kuller, Kelly Ulcak, David Waddell, Jenny Walton and Marty Weishaar.

Gould on Artomatic

The WCP's Jessica Gould has an article in today's issue of the CP highlighting some Artomatic hiccups (and it also has a cool illustration by Emily Flake).

Read the article here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Multimediale Opens tomorrow in DC

Multimediale is a four-day multimedia DC area arts festival that brings together artists from the Washington, DC region centered around the theme: Capturing the Capital!

This festival of Art, Politics, and New Media runs from April 19 - April 22, 2007.

Multimediale seeks to energize the DC arts community with new ideas about art, society and politics. Visit their Web site at www.multimedialedc.org for news and dialogue and info on city-wide events. Multimediale is organized by Randall Packer and curator Niels Van Tomme. All events are free and open to the public.

And check out the video shot by John James Anderson:


Tim Tate sculpture - uh oh. Where'd it go?

This Artomatic photo from Tracy Lee says it all...


Missing Tim Tate Sculpture from AOM - by Tracy Lee

Read Tracy Lee's thoughts on Artomatic here and also see her great images of some of the AOM artwork here.

Artomatic Rumor Department

The CP's Jessica Gould discusses the Artomatic rumor that I alluded to last week.

Informal research on the part of the Mid Atlantic Art News investigative department has failed to nail potential ubercollectors willing to admit that it is their dastardly plan to bring blue chip artists to AOM under unknown artists' names in order to see if the blue chip art gets a positive response from the public when juxtoposed with the more other-colored chip artists' work.

Our blue chip artist identification department has swept AOM attempting to identify any possibility of a super famous artist(s) being present at AOM, and although so far we have found at least one artist channeling Alexander Calder's work, the closest that we can come is two wild guesses which we will reserve until a later time.

The idea itself is quite brilliant! Start a fun rumor that even as it is blatantly nearly impossible to accomplish, it nonetheless brings home an interesting point.

artDC benefit

The opening night of the District's first major art fair, artDC, will benefit the Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington.

Thursday, April 26, 2007
Washington Convention Center , Hall E
800 Mount Vernon Place, NW, Washington DC

5:30-7:30, Drinks and Hors d' Oeuvres - Tickets are $100
7:30-9:30, Cash Bar - Tickets are $30
For tickets call 312-587-8124 or email jrabion@dc-artfair.com

A view of Art-O-Matic after one visit

How does a writer cover an arts extravaganza of the size of AOM once the eyes and mind become numb after the 200th artist, or the 400th or the 600th?

As an art critic, I once started a review of a past AOM by complaining how much my feet hurt after my 5th or 6th visit to the show, in a futile attempt to gather as much visual information as possible in order to write a fair review of the artwork and artists.

Over the years I have discovered that it is impossible to see everything and to be fair about anyone; the sheer size and evolving nature of the show itself makes sure of the impossibility of this task. And often I see fellow writers who fall prey to this attempt to see everything at once and then gather thoughts about the artwork. But AOM is not just about the artwork.

I have visited the 2007 AOM once, and soon I will return for a second, longer visit.

Nonetheless, often first impressions are the most memorable, and thus some early thoughts on the artwork itself follow.

Like all previous Artomatics, this version of the open mass art show started in 1999 continues to evolve up the food chain of both art and business. AOM is now an official 503(c), and this location in Crystal City is by far the best one so far, as the dozens and dozens of small, well-lit offices make excellent art galleries.

The art itself, like any huge group art show (open or juried) falls into three categories: very good, very bad, and (the vast majority) adequate.

And yet, the least of the adequate original artwork, by its creative process itself, beats any mass-produced poster. AOM is a Mecca and a magnet for beginning collectors; if you can't find art that you like from such a vast and diverse group of artists, then perhaps you should stick to collecting action figures or pre-Columbian artifacts, or baseball cards framed as art.

As a gallerist, I also have visited AOM looking for new talent amongst the mind-numbing numbers of artists who come together under one roof. Over the years, together with my fellow DC area gallerists, we have plucked many artists from the ranks and files of AOM. Artists who since their first appearance at past AOMs have now joined the collections of museums and Biennials and have been picked up by galleries nationwide. Names like Tim Tate, the Dumbacher Brothers, Kelly Towles, Kathryn Cornelius, Richard Chartier and that amazing worldwide phenomenon and best-selling author Frank Warren of PostSecret fame. But AOM is not just about the emerging superstar artist.

More on that later; now let me give you a peek into the artists whose work stood out during my first look:

Maria Mandle was the first artist to make my list. I've never heard of this artist before, and thus she's "new" to me. I liked her strong graphite drawings.

Jesse CohenI've seen Jesse Cohen's photographs develop (good pun uh?) and grow through the last few years, and the cynotypes and X-rays images at AOM, where Cohen struggles with his own identity through his father's X-ray imagery, are memorable and strong, and Cohen's best work so far.

Same thing for Shannon Chester, whose work often pops up in DC area art shows. This diminutive photographer has an excellent eye for capturing a suble eroticism in unusual circumstances and locales. Check out her beautiful photographs.

Alison Sigethy has won eight gold medals as a kayaker, and probably because of her outdoor nature, the environment is very important to her. And thus it is no surprise to see this talented DC area glass artist be one of the first ones to bring glass to the new, emerging "green art" movement that recycles art into new art, as Sigethy does with her beautiful new works. Another cool "green" artist, also working with glass (trust me, glass artists have a lot of work eligible for recycling, as anyone who has dumpster-dived into the Washington Glass School broken glass and trash dumpster knows!), is Erwin Timmers, whose work I mentioned yesterday.

I also liked Joe Granski's painterly, fun and exciting work. This is also a "new" artist for me, as is Joseph Merchlinsky's work, which at first I saw as attractive, abstracted super pixalated works, until I realized in horror that they were imagery from Sept. 11 of people jumping from the WTC. Once this discovery is reveled, it is amazing to see the breathtaking reel-back reaction of the viewers high atop Crystal City, with a spectacular view of the airport and the city. It is proof again of the never-ending ability of the visual arts to deliver thoughts, agendas, ideas, history and presence as no other form of the fine arts can.
Mine by Ruth Trevarrow
Ditto for liking Ruth Trevarrow's signs, and also the no-name photographer in Gallery 6R09 on Corridor R, with a set of sensual photos of a woman's feet in the bath, turning the tap on in a series of sexy photographs that echo Frida Kahlo's "What the Water Gave Me" painting.
Stacked by Andrew Wodzianski
I also discovered some artists exploring new directions, such as Andrew Wodzianski's giant leap into a blend of his enviable figurative skills with a modernist approach to illustration as art. Note to Andrew (and fifty gazillion other artists at AOM): Put your effing prices up so that people can make an instant decision to buy when they see it or immediately know if they can afford it.

Other artists exploring or pushing new directions are Pat Goslee and Lynn Putney, both of whom share a gallery and whose work is refreshingly minimalist and (in Goslee's case) sensual in an odd way that I can never put my finger on.

Talking about separated at birth, two other artists who share a gallery and whose work really works well together is Matt Sesow and Dana Ellyn.

Playboy Bunny, PETA Protest by Susana RaabOh yeah... the image that most-likely will be the most memorable and perhaps popular, is the terrific photo by Susana Raab titled "Tofu Dog, Playboy Bunny, PETA Protest, Washington, DC", or as the no-holds barred press crowd dubbed it last Friday: "Lettuce Lady." Raab has an exceptional ability for capturing the unsual in the everyday common.

The event itself is perhaps the nation’s most powerful incarnation of what it means to be a creative community of hundreds of working creative hands all aligned to not only create artwork, but also to put together a spectacular extravaganza that re-charges the regional art scene as no museum or gallery show can.

AOM is a community of artists employing the most liberal of approaches to art that there exists: the artists are in charge, and the artists make it work, and the artists charge the city with energy and zeal. And these descendants of those brave souls who challenged the academic salons of the 19th century face the same negative eye from the traditional art critics and curators of our museums, who challenge not only the artwork itself, but also the concept of an open, non-juried, most democratic of art shows: a community of artists in charge of energizing the community at large.

And it is certainly the easiest and most comprehensive way to discover contemporary art at its deepest and also at its newest roots. This is where both the savvy collector, and the beginning collector, and the aspiring curator, and the sharp-eyed gallerist can all come to one place with a sense of discovery in mind. And the ones that I missed in the past, and who were discovered by others, are ample evidence of the subjectivity of a gargantuan group art show.

Viva AOM!

Lotta Art logo
On Saturday April 21, 2007, School 33 in Baltimore will host its annual Lotta Art Benefit.

This is the school's largest and most popular fundraising event. You are invited to attend an evening of art, food, and fun! More than 100 local artists generously donate works in all mediums and styles to benefit School 33 Art Center's exhibition and education programs.

At the event, a lottery-style drawing is held and each ticket holder brings home a work of art. Attended by more than 250 persons, Lotta Art is considered by many to be one of the most exciting and unique special events in town!

Get your tickets here or call 410.396.4641.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Opportunity for Artists

Deadline: June 8, 2007

Does Gender Still Matter? Purdue University Galleries (West Lafayette, Indiana) invite entries for a national exhibition examining the role of gender in contemporary society, including constructs of masculinity, femininity, androgyny, etc. The exhibition will be presented in the Robert L. Ringel Gallery from October 22 through December 2, 2007. Elizabeth K. Mix, contemporary art historian at Butler University, Indianapolis, the Gallery director and advisory panel will select artwork. There is no entry fee, but exhibiting artists will be responsible for shipping. All media eligible, including new and emerging technologies. Interested artists should send examples of current work (up to 10 slides or jpegs on CD; DVD for time-based media), resume, artist statement, and SASE to:

Craig Martin, Director
Purdue University Galleries
Physics Building Room 205
525 Northwestern Avenue
West Lafayette, IN 47907-2036

More info: Email cdmartin@purdue.edu, or call (765) 494-3061. Show prospectus is available for download here or by e-mail request.