Saturday, November 13, 2010

Wanna go to an open studio(s) tomorrow?

Red Dirt Open Studios

Tiny masterpieces in Alexandria

We all stopped by the Torpedo Factory last weekend, mostly wanting to check out the Ofrenda: Art for the Dead exhibition. This was an exhibition of local artists' shrines, altars, paintings, photography, music, dancing, magic and spoken word based on the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Mexican tradition.

In the process we also discovered some tiny masterpieces in the current exhibitions at the Art League Gallery and the always interesting Target Gallery.

At Target, and through Nov. 21st is "5 x 5 Exposed," which is an exhibition of small photographic works (in a tiny 5 x 5 inches format) by 46 artists from around the country, Iceland and Australia. The show was juried by the amazing Kathleen Ewing, considered by most of us to be one of the most influential persons on the planet when it comes to photography. She writes that:

"At a time when in some circles of the photography art world bigger is better, it is fascinating to view the remarkable range of photographs which have been produced to fit the relatively small dimension of 5 x 5 inches. The photographers in this exhibition have accepted the challenge of a limited format within which they have succeeded in expressing their personal vision. Not only did they print small; they let their imagination create small images.

I found an unanticipated diversity of subject matter in the photographs submitted for this exhibition. It was a refreshing experience to view images where size is irrelevant and content is paramount. By the very nature of their intimate scale, the visitors to this exhibition will need to get up close and personal to fully experience the creativity of these artists and the magic of the photographic process."
Ann Dinwiddie MaddenI agree, and it was refreshing to see the anti-thesis of Teutonic-sized photography, most of which follows the Dali maxim of "if you can't paint well, then paint big." You can view the selected photographs here.

I particularly liked Missouri's Ann Dinwiddie Madden piece titled Fishing, one of those Seinfeldian photographs about nothing that seem to capture a lot in the image.

That is until we get drawn closer and closer into the tiny image and discover the man to the right and the reason for the title.

Joseph MougelI also liked all of California's Therese Brown's tea toned cyanotypes on fabric and the pinhole C-print as well as Florida's Joseph Mougle's purposefully and vastly overexposed series.

Even in this tiny format and in spite of the urban subject, Mougel's entries almost show like modern icons. The exaggerated contrast delivers an unexpected elevation of the subject from the mundane to some sort of unexpected sublimation of almost saint-like status.

The major surprise to me was to find five very elegant architectural photos by the DMV's own Deb Jansen, a fiber artist who now shows remarkable facility with the camera as well.

Overall, this is quite a satisfying show and well worth the trip to Old Town Alexandria. If you are a fan of the early Sally Mann, you will also like Iceland's Agnieszka Sosnowska's very strong entries. If you liked Joyce Tenneson's most recent work with dead flowers you will love North Carolina's Joel Leeb's intelligent exploration of this subject.

Ohio's Savitri Maya Sedlacek's work falls in the fan of Chan Chao's portrait work category, as Sedlacek offers a strong and powerful selection of portraits of India's Kolkota School children.

Sky Bergman Japanese subway seriesAnd since I've let the Washington Post's erudite chief art critic Blake Gopnik influence my words in the above couple of paragraphs, I think that Gopnik would approve of California's Sky Bergman's series on Japanese subways. They offer an intimate view of the denizens of the subway, capture their boredom, or attempts to pass the time, but always in a manner that seems to make the act of taking their photo illicit somehow. Only the lady to the right of the dude checking for reception in his cell phone seems to have caught Sky in the act.

My absolute favorite in the show? Virginia's Hugh Jones Vie de Boheme, a gorgeous nude which is illustrated by words projected onto the body. If you know my own work, then you know why I would love that tiny, sexy image with writing on the body. The unachievable and fantasized critic objectivity flies out the window with this photo; well done Hugh!

Next: Tiny successes at the Art League Gallery.

Kostabi Documentary

His career collapsed after the art market went bust in 1990; in 1993 his publicist and close friend, Andrew Behrman, was convicted of conspiracy to defraud after selling fake paintings bearing Mr. Kostabi’s signature. That incident raises an intriguing question: What is the difference between an original and a forgery, if the original wasn’t executed by the artist whose name was signed to the canvas but by a crew of factory workers? Mr. Kostabi had already placed ads selling “original forgeries by the world’s greatest con artist.”
Read the NYT's review of the new documentary on Mark Kostabi here.