Sunday, May 06, 2007

Supple at Warehouse

Perhaps one of the biggest voids between art critics and the other side of the fine arts equation (artists, gallerists and curators), is that most art critics seem to be fond of always giving the other side advice.

This advice is generally not only wrong, but often naive to the extreme of being laughable. Such as the art blogger who once wondered online why most galleries didn't publish nice fancy catalogs with each exhibition, and recommended that gallerists did this in order to be taken seriously by art critics.

Gallerists who read this advice immediately filed it in the round file while at the same time they try to balance the gallery books using magic in order to pay all their bills on time.

So I think that it is a good thing when an art critic, or an artist tries his hand at organizing an art show from idea to exhibition, including dealing with other fellow artists and/or art critics.

And so we come to the exhibition titled "Supple" and organized by fellow DC area blogger J.T. Kirkland, who for the past few years has developed before a worldwide online audience into an artist, a writer, an opinion voice of other artists' works, a critic of exhibitions and now a first-time curator.

Currently on exhibit through May 12 at the Warehouse Gallery complex on 7th street, NW in DC, "Supple" is an interesting example not only of the curatorial process itself, but also of the evolving nature of what it takes to be a good curator.

"Supple" is an excellent exhibition, packed to the rafters with an enviable "Who's Who in DC" of a particular nuance and sense and genre of art that has a direct link back to the curator's own work in the way it looks and feels.

The fact that a first-time curator, with no previous curatorial experience under his belt, or even that deep of an exhibition record as an artist, was able to put together a really good exhibition of several of the DC area blue chip artists speaks volumes both about the curator himself, and his work ethic, and also about the power of the web.

I know that Kirkland worked his virtual and real ass off in working to put this show together. Kirkland smartly aligned the exhibition to coincide with DC's first major international art fair, and I would bet that as artDC returns in 2008, we'll see a "Supple II" return, becoming the defacto first "satellite" show to artDC. I also know that Kirkland was able to extend his online connectivity (as a well-known blogger) to reach both artists, gallerists and writers to make "Supple" take place.

As we all know, a near disaster almost took place when Supple's original landlords somehow pulled out at the last minute and caused a show cancellation almost immediately followed by an offer from the good folks at Warehouse and a new home for the show.

By the time the exhibition opened, I am sure that young Mr. Kirkland had both a few few gray hairs and also a tremendous amount of valuable new experience and insight under his belt that 90% of art critics and writers lack.

My original plan was to attend Supple's opening last week, but as I walked out of ArtDC, I was absolutely exhausted from being on my feet all day since 4AM, and thus I headed home while I waved goodbye to Tim Tate, who was heading to the opening.

The next morning at artDC, the whole place was buzzing about Adrian Parsons' circumcision at the opening. That's his foreskin in the image below, so get it out of your system and let's move on.

Adrian Parson's foreskin
Later that day I visited both Supple and the No Representation show at Warehouse (review on No Representation coming soon), and got a tour of the exhibition by Adrian Parsons.

I wanted to return on my own, and paid a second visit, a little more quiet and away from the whole sensationalist issue of Parson's penis art event, and because I wanted to give the other artists the perspective, time and effort that they deserved.

As I have noted, Kirkland did something really smart in putting his first curatorial effort together; he showcased some really talented folks who need little introduction.

People like Robin Rose, Colby Caldwell and Graham Caldwell.
Laurel Lukaszewski

He put them together with proven talent from the likes of Linn Meyers, Adam Fowler and James Huckenpahler.

And then he added some new, emerging talent such as Laurel Lukaszewski (who is emerging as the new star of Artomatic) and the forementioned Adrian Parsons.

And on a quiet visit to the show, in my opinion, the newcomer, Laurel Lukaszewski steals the show.

Her piece "Cascade" (image to the left) was created to be exhibited in this show.

It is as perfect for this earthy gallery space as a work of art can be.

Lukaszewski's piece has a hard-to-define sense of organic sensuality that seems to more often than not, find a place in porcelain in the hands of a master.

It is so fragile and so delicate that we want to blow on it to see if it moves, while at the same time being afraid that it will come crashing down.
Untitled by Graham Caldwell
Graham Caldwell's untitled piece is another one of my favorites in this exhibition. Every time that I see a new Caldwell I glow in the knowledge that the DC area is so lucky to have not one but two of the best of the new breed of glass artists who is dragging glass away from craft and firmly planting it into the fine arts.

When the history of glass in the 21st century is written, historians will discuss the profound effect on the new directions in glass, so different from each other, that the two DC glass geniuses, Tim Tate and Graham Caldwell, cast for the genre while working in the same city.

For "Supple" Caldwell has presented a piece that, much like Lukaszewski's, has a subtle sense of being organic and fragile, but unlike that porcelain work, Caldwell's glass and steel sculpture is also (and paradoxically) strong and almost moving.

I say moving in the sense that the piece reminds me of a powerful arterial work, with life giving power coursing through the delicate glass, married to the powerful steel. It is this paradox, glass and steel, fragility and strenght, life and death (part of the artery is detached from itself) that makes this an "Oh WOW" work of art and a key element of "Supple."

I am a big fan of both Linn Meyers and Adam Fowler, but for both these two talented and hard working artists I have one piece of advice: Mondrianism.

Untitled by Adam Fowler
Both Fowler and Meyer's works in Supple are superb examples of their current artistic presence; in Meyer's case another one of her delicate ink and colored pencils on Mylar, and in Fowler's case another one of his amazing (hard to find another word to describe his process) hand-cut graphite, multi-layered works on paper.

In both cases, the process to create their work is so unique, and their individual styles so singular to the artists, that a Fowler is immediately recognized as a Fowler, and so is a Meyers.

And thus the potential trap of Mondrianism, or I defined it many years ago, the danger of an artist getting stuck on a very successful process to deliver and create work, and failing to explore alternative venues once that process and its associated imagery has been exhausted.

Having said that, it's far from that point (yet) for both these artists, and their contributions to Supple also add to make Kirkland's first venture into the gray-hair-making process of curating an art show a very successful debut, making us looking forward to "Supple II."

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