Saturday, October 17, 2009

Needling Jessica Back

Today I picked up my copy of the Gazette and was pleased to see a huge review by Jordan Edwards of Andrew Wodzianski's Abra Cadaver exhibition at Fraser Gallery. That's the only way that I get any news these days about the gallery that I used to co-own for ten years from 1996-2006.

At the Fraser Gallery in Bethesda, a collection of Androids will fill the space until Nov. 14. The mixed media pieces are not new — they first appeared at the Warehouse Gallery in fall 2006 — but this is his first solo exhibition of the illustrations at Fraser. Nine have not been on display anywhere before.

The series is inspired by Tomy's Mighty Men & Monster Maker, a late '70s and '80s toy that allowed children to create rubbings of creatures using interchangeable plates and a box of crayons. Spin-offs included cartoon characters and fashion models. Wodzianski received the original as a gift at age 4 and became fascinated with the differences between the girl and boy versions. He has purchased nearly 40 sets and uses rubbings as starting points for hand-drawn figures that he colors, cuts out and mounts on scrapbook paper.
And here's the gem in the show:
Raised in rural Pennsylvania and educated at the Maryland Institute College of Art, Wodzianski teaches at the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) and has been represented by the Fraser Gallery since 2001.

The D.C. resident has had a few bruises along the way. After his first solo show at the gallery in 2003, Washington Post art critic Jessica Dawson brought down the hammer. He subsequently immortalized her in an illustration called, "Jessica, This May Sting a Little."

"He was completely devastated by the review," gallery owner Catriona Fraser recalls. "So he's done this little homage to [Dawson], but it's nothing like it could have been. He could have been a lot harsher."

Wodzianski shook it off and no longer views Dawson as a dream-crusher. The critic gave him a more favorable review last summer.

"You learn to wear bad reviews like a badge of honor," he says. "I think her writings have become increasingly sophisticated, and I'm beginning to agree with her more often than not."

Jessica Dawson

"Jessica, This May Sting a Little"
Mixed Media, 10" x 8", 2009 by Andrew Wodzianski

Read the review here.

This is what Jessica wrote about Andrew six years ago. There's no art critic like time, and time has proven Dawson to be spectacularly wrong when she mimics the traditional art critic mantra and writes:
Anyone in the art world will tell you: Realism has been done. Remember those cave painters back in 15,000 B.C.? Could those guys render a bison or what?

... only a near-cosmic alignment of skill and innovation will capture the attention of an art world entranced by its own progress.
She then tears Andrew a new one:
Not surprisingly, I guess, one branch of contemporary figurative painters, the ones not quite so talented or clever, have transformed attention-seeking into an art.

... Wodzianski's scenarios are fine camp. But is the artist in on the joke?
Read Dawson's six year old review here.

By the way, I agree with Andrew in the sense that I also think that Dawson's reviews and writing have improved substantially in the ten years or so that she has been freelancing for the Washington Post, ever since that day when Ferdinand Protzman quit as the galleries' critic in a dispute over assignments.

The writing of the young Dawson to the more mature Dawson has mellowed out quite a bit and she's no longer the flame thrower that she used to be from her days in the City Paper to her move to the Post. I've been harsh on Dawson's writing many times in the past, but have also praised her writing when we align in ideas and opinions. And she has clearly become a better writer in the last few years.

And better educated. By the way, the book that Jessica is holding (AH 245) is a GWU course titled "Seminar in European Art of the Nineteenth Century." "Collectors and their Collections," restricted to graduate students and taught by Prof. Robinson.

"Abra Cadaver" runs through Nov. 14 at the Fraser Gallery in Bethesda.


Andrew said...

Thank you for mentioning the Gazette article. One point of correction; the GW 245 course is restricted to graduate students. Taught by Prof. Robinson, its titled "Collectors and their Collections."


Lenny said...

Hi Andrew...

Here ( they say it is the other one?


andrew said...

Now thats odd. I was working from GW's 2009 course catalog. Not surprising that an Ivory Tower would have conflicting data...