Saturday, February 05, 2011

"In Unison: 20 Washington, DC Artists", presently on view at the Kreeger Museum through February 26th has been getting a lot of attention in the scant art press around the DMV.

In Unison: 20 Washington, DC Artists, is an exhibition derived from a monoprint project initiated by DC artist Sam Gilliam.

Gilliam "invited 19 established and respected painters, sculptors, printmakers, digital media and installation artists working in different styles, to join him in creating several print portfolios. Each made a set of five monoprints, one of which was chosen for the show by Sam Gilliam, Judy A. Greenberg, Director of The Kreeger Museum, Marsha Mateyka of the Marsha Mateyka Gallery and Claudia Rousseau, art critic and art historian."

As stated by Rousseau, “Creating a group portfolio and exhibiting together express the ideas of unity and identity that are underlying motives of the project, and which are vital to sustaining a thriving artistic community.”

Millennium Arts Salon is the exclusive sponsor of this major exhibition at the Kreeger

As far as coverage, most recently, TV Station WETA - DC in their "Around Town" segment, highlighted a film clip about the show. The clip features commentary by Corcoran School of Art Professor Janis Goodman, and artist Bill Dunlap (both of whom are in my 100 Washington, DC Artists book).

The show was also reviewed earlier in the WaPo by Kriston Capps. Read that review here

Mel Hardy, Chairman of Millennium Arts Salon has written a response commentary on the article by Kriston Capps, so read Capps' review first before you read the below response:

Kriston: Yours is a remarkable recitation of context for what you observed as the production of this sampling of a body of works of art created at GMU. What you could not have observed was the origination of vision of a major artist in Sam Gilliam, and its interplay under the sponsorship of a local arts-advocacy and arts-community building organization in Millennium Arts Salon, the fiscal convener of the exhibition.

Your attribution of the "patronage" of Kandinsky and Klee is a wonderful gift from you as an established art critic to each of the "In Unison" artists hanging at the Kreeger. It is lost on no one that Judy Greenberg's willingness to accept this exhibition represents a major advance in the careers of many of the artists.

In this, perhaps you may have missed the point with your focus on "looking back" to the restrictions imposed on innovation and creativity by our local Washington artists, by a less-than-assertive Washington cultural infrastructure. Your highlighting the preponderance of African American artists in the exhibition dismisses completely the sponsor's and project team's structured framework for persons across the spectrum of cultural, ethnic, aesthetic, experience, gender, and age identities to experiment with artistic and aesthetic dialogue whilst in the process of creation of works.

You could not have known Sondra Arkin's frustration with running her typical encaustics through a press only to work with the master printmakers to innovate in finding process to present her beautiful details. You could not have known the truly vanguard applications of tools by Akili Ron Anderson in the creation of his works, and for which each of the five "small paintings" he created are tour de force works of art.

To what many observers of this important exhibition, perhaps like yourself, might immediately attach to recent historical reference, "looking back" in your
parlance, you may miss the prospective references to our national need for modeling how Americans, regardless of station, cultural, or ethnic identity, can find ways to interact in the spirit of innovation, in the finding of new ways to re-calibrate our national dialogue for building a sense a national identity, an American culture.

The project team was lead by: Sam Gilliam in identifying the artists who would inspire a new Washington signature in collaborative creativity; Juanita Hardy of Millennium Arts Salon who initiated and funded the enterprise; Helen Frederick and Susan Goldman who "mastered" the printmaking and counseled many of the artists in innovation; Claudia Rousseau, who provided art historical and critical context; and Judy Greenberg, who housed this new vision of the American experiment with American inter-culturalism.

Of course, none of this is possible without the creatives themselves, and we are all grateful that the artists would lend themselves to this highly managed strategy. It is refreshing to read your review of the exhibition, Kriston, as your "backward looking" perspective provides that essential balance that fuels those of us in the creative classes to look forward to our leadership in the better America that is to come.

Joel D’Orazio

Joel D’OrazioArt chairs, sculpture and abstract painting by architect turned painter/sculptor Joel D’Orazio. New as a Zenith Gallery artist, D’Orazio will be featured in a solo show, Listen to Me, at the Gallery at 1111 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, curated by Zenith Gallery.

The show opens on February 7 and will remain on display through May 13, with a “Meet the Artist” Reception on Wednesday, March 2, 5:30pm to 8:00pm.