Saturday, October 02, 2004

Last night I went gallery hopping around Dupont Circle and managed to catch a few shows, drink some free cheap white wine and nibble on some cookies.

Jane Bowles by Judith RichelieuI started at Gallery 10, a terrific cooperative, artist-run gallery. The current exhibit is by Judith Richelieu, a former librarian at the Library of Congress.

She has 25 portraits of women artists, writers, etc. as part of a series called "Eligy." Richelieu complements them with carved wood saints that accompany the portraits. I overheard the artist discuss the fact that she "wasn't a portrait artist," which I found a little odd in terms of her current exhibition.

I'm not really sure what to think of the portraits. Richeliu obviously works from published photographs (nothing wrong with that), but every single one of her portraits is done in the same odd, unsual grayish skin tone for all the women, as if they all share a shark somewhere in their family tree.

It is a bit disorienting, but perhaps Richelieu wants to use the common gray skin color as a unifying force. My favorite piece was the portrait of Spanish artist Remedios Varos. The works are on exhibition until October 30.

Up the street, Kathleen Ewing Gallery has photographs by contemporary Native American artists Zig Jackson, Victor Masayesva, Jr. and Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie. Michael O'Sullivan wrote about this exhibition:

"For Indian art with a bit of an edge (something you won't find at the new museum, by the way), try Kathleen Ewing Gallery's "Contemporary Native American Art." Along with the photographs of Victor Masayesva Jr. and Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie, the show includes several selections from some of photographer Zig Jackson's more pointed black-and-white pictures, including his shots of tourists taking snapshots of Indians in full regalia, which turn the exploitative gaze back on the exploiter, and his conceptual series featuring the artist in feathered headdress and sunglasses posing in front of a customized sign demarking "Zig's Indian Reservation," which happens to be wherever the artist sees fit to stand."
The exhibition closes October 9.

Marsha Mateyka yet again has an exhibition from the Gene Davis estate. See them here, and you can see some recent results of Gene Davis' auctions at Sotheby's here.

Elizabeth Roberts Gallery is having its farewell show, as the gallery is closing at the end of this show as ELizabeth is moving to the Bay Area. On exhibition are works by Alice Oh. Her paintings are derived from the behavior and morphology of infected blood cells as seen under the microscope and are fascinating to study how nature and art align to deliver some very interesting results. I am sure that Ms. Roberts is hoping NOT to get the same sort of cosa nostra goodbye review that Jessica Dawson gave the Sally Troyer gallery when it closed.

Below the Elizabeth Roberts Gallery things were going gangbusters for The Studio Gallery; several sales took place in the few minutes that I was there. The current exhibition is "Works on Paper" by Phyllis Jayne Evans.

The Studio Gallery is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year - this is a spectacular achievement and in "gallery years" something rare and noteworthy, as most galleries close within a year of opening and a hardy few survive past four or five years.

I then visited Fondo del Sol, fully aware that once I said hello to Marc Zuver it could possibly be another week before I'd leave. Fondo del Sol is one of the cultural jewels of our city, and the current exhibition(s) do not disappoint. Zuver has curated a fascinating grouping of works under a exhibit titled "In Search of Lost Iberia," where he submits a theory that the peoples of ancient Iberia and ancient Georgia (the former Soviet republic, not the Southern state) share a common name, bloodlines and history in a distant past. There are some striking works of art by Alejandro Arostegui, Rogelio Lopez Marin ("Gory"), Vladimir Kandelaki and Mumumka Mikeladze.

Of these, Kandelaki's works stand out by their sheer complexity and by the powerful ant-Soviet and pro-Georgian messages they delivered when first created in the 1980s. They are courageous works that represented the brutal Soviet repression of the Georgian people and the decay of Soviet Communism.

And if you want to see one of the most powerful exhibitions around the theme of Native Americans (in fact so powerful that you'll never see anything like it in the new National Museum of the American Indian), then go see Michael Auld's installation "Surviving Genocide: Remembering Anacaona."

For the last several years Michael Auld has been researching and documenting the indigenous people of the Caribbean; some, such as the Tainos, were thought to be extinct, until "discovered" by Auld, in small mountain pockets of people.

When I first saw Auld's works a few years ago, what stuck in my mind was an extraordinary wooden sculpture of Itiba Cahubaba, the legendary Earth mother of Taino legend. This stunning piece depicted the Earth mother giving birth simultaneously to two sets of twins, who became the fathers of mankind. This was a gripping piece not only because of its artistic value, but more importantly because it marked the rebirth of Taino culture after nearly 500 years of being nearly forgotten, erased and virtually destroyed.

Auld's current exhibition adds another powerful installation based on a sculpture of Anacaona, the famous Taino queen who was the wife of one of the five caciques of Hispaniola and one of the first recorded Native American characters met by the Spaniards when they first landed on that unfortunate island. She was subsequently murdered by the Conquistadors, whom she had invited to her village.

In Auld's installation, a life-sized cherry wood sculpture of Anacaona sits in a cohoba trance in a traditional bohio (house) made from sixteen carved large lizards and snakes. The queen is adorned with conch jewelry and feathers, and delivers a stern message to contemporary viewers. It left me feeling uncomfortable and thinking that at one point Father Bartolome de las Casas estimated that there were six million Tainos in the Caribbean when the Spaniards first arrived.

Bruno PerilloWhen I managed to escape Zuver's animated discussion I headed over to Irvine Contemporary Art, which has a spectacular exhibition by one of the most talented young painters that I have seen in years: Bruno Perillo.

The Brooklyn-based Perillo brings a superbly talented brush to the revived genre of painting. He was recently reviewed by Michael O'Sullivan in the Post who wrote that Perillo has "witty, conceptual works that allude to both highbrow and lowbrow culture." O'Sullivan nailed it, and the show has nearly sold out, reviving my hope that Washingtonians are discovering that they can actually buy art here in the city!

Next I went to the Washington Printmaker's Gallery, where Jen Watson gave me a quick tour of the main show (monoprints by Christine Giammichele) and the always strong group show in the back gallery by the gallery's member artists.

My last stop was at Conner Contemporary where Avish Khebrehzadeh's show has also sold very well. The show was reviewed by Dawson here and by Cudlin here, but I think that it was this article on art collectors Tony and Heather Podesta that drove the collectors to one of the best galleries in the city.

Keep coming back.

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