Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tomorrow at Strathmore

For the last few months, together with DC area art uberstars Susana Raab and Tim Tate, I have been mentoring emerging Washington, DC area artists Minna Philips, Solomon Slyce, Wilmer Wilson IV and Brittany Sims, as part of the Strathmore Fine AIR program - a very cool program which offers local visual arts talent in the DC area a mentoring hand by pairing emerging artists with established professionals in the community.

I was absolutely blown away by the talent of these four young artists, and after all the meetings, discussions, reviews and talks, they conclude their residency experience by unveiling new works in the Strathmore Fine Artists in Residence Exhibition, which opens tomorrow and runs through August 20 at the gorgeous Strathmore Mansion on Rockville Pike.

According to the Strathmore release, in describing the four artists, we learn that Minna Philips “plays with perception by recontextualizing paradoxical objects, challenging the viewer to create original and unfettered interpretations of her work. She furthers this exploration by presenting an obscure and little-known Strathmore artifact, the grotto, in an equally obscure way. Minna distances the grotto from being identifiable by photographing it from a variety of angles and perspectives, scanning the images and, finally, meticulously sketching them on velum using pencil to recreate the look of black and white photography. The images are randomly mounted in a giant, gridded window in the Mansion, alluding to the exterior campus which inspired for the work. The final assemblage appears fragmented and abstract, further veiling the identity of a structure which is already out of context with the current use of the Mansion. Strathmore’s grotto was formerly a place of worship for the nuns of St. Mary’s Academy, who used the Mansion as a convent and school under the name St. Angela Hall. Minna will also present mixed media pieces that include glass prisms installed in shadow boxes. Using special lighting and mirrors, the glass prisms will reflect and distort drawn images.

Solomon SlyceSolomon Slyce creates a dialogue about sensitive and emotionally-charged social issues through satirical photography. Seemingly benign and disarming, even comical, upon further inspection Solomon’s work incorporates nuanced themes such as interracial marriage, immigration, financial corruption in religious institutions and other themes germane to his identity as an African American male, city dweller and urban schoolteacher. He exercises supreme artistic control over his photographs to create carefully-staged environments, overseeing every detail, from costume, props and actor selection to set design. The Fine Artists in Residence Exhibition will feature existing work from his portfolio, as well as new pieces in which he addresses social issues and stereotypes by creating digital photographs in the likeness of distinctive techniques by iconic artists such as Andy Warhol, Irving Sinclair and Grant Wood.

Installation artist Wilmer Wilson IV creates site-specific sculptural works using accessible consumer goods. By making use of everyday materials in his work, he transforms everyday experiences into aesthetic ones. In the Mansion he will use more than 1,000 inflated paper bags to create a room-filling organic form. The installation will explore the implications that one oft-overlooked and mundane object can have when amassed in one place. Also included in the exhibition are photographs of his previous works, depicting paper bags pervading all aspects of his life. The images serve as documents of his non-permanent installations and also as contemplative compositions in themselves.

Environmental catastrophes inform Brittany Sims’ ominous paintings. A student at Tulane University in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina decimated the city, Brittany felt a connectedness to the devastating tornado that ravaged Joplin, Missouri in May. She appropriates photographs from newspapers and from personal Flickr pages, recreating them with acrylic paint on shower curtains, an extension of her experimental painting on different canvas materials and shapes.”

Since I had been deeply involved with these artists for a few months, I thought that I knew what was coming to the exhibition, and yet I was completely blown away when I actually got a peek sneak at the show – while delivering my own work – did I mention that the show also features work by the three mentors?

Wilmer Wilson IVWhat Wilson delivered by the intelligent use of the air from his lungs is beyond visual belief – this young man is a genius and you should all start following his work now. His marriage of the always slippery world of the great conceptual idea and the actual delivery of that idea is as close to perfection as I have ever seen in these minimalist artists who find their materials where the rest of us fail to see art – remember this name.

Slyce is a modern version of the photographer who sets up his scenes; he’s a marriage of the genius of Hollywood with the genius of such photog-stars as Cindy Sherman, etc. His images come in sets of two – his look at gambling looks at cool cheaters paired with symbols of gambling – humor, a sorely missing part of contemporary art, is part of his work, and it is Slyce’s brilliance which comes through in this difficult handshake.

Both Phillips and Sims surprise the viewer by taking the art out of the expected context – Phillips does it by her dexterous handling of vellum to almost make it seem like a photographic installation. Sims does it with an understated elegance that push what Sam Gilliam did decades ago to a new contemporary dialogue.

My kudos to both this great new program and to these four rising new stars. The opening is tomorrow from 7-9 PM.

Al vaiven de mi carreta

Classic Cuban "country music" or a "son guajiro" about the hard work involved in being a "carretero" - Interesting how the version made famous by Eliades Ochoa through the Buena Vista megahit is slightly different from the original version from the 30s.

The original is first...