Friday, January 17, 2020

The curious case of the new Space Forms uniforms

I don't know which Einstein designed this uniform, but I’m pretty sure that camouflaged uniforms will not work in space... cough... cough...

New Space Force Uniform from Twitter

Washingtonian on art galleries

"Why DC Needs Art Galleries" is the title of this excellent article in DMV area glossy Washingtonian. The article is by Ian Bourland, who is assistant professor of contemporary art history at Georgetown University and an art critic for a range of international publications.
The past year was a good one for DC’s contemporary-art-gallery scene. It saw the opening of three new spaces. Ryan Dattilo, an attorney and collector from New York, launched the pop-up De Novo Gallery in Union Market, while Todd Von Ammon, a well-known dealer who previously worked at New York’s Team Gallery, debuted Von Ammon Co. in Cady’s Alley. And in October, a collective of mid-career Washington artists opened a sprawling studio complex/exhibition space in Northeast DC, named Stable—which fits nicely with both the structure’s equine history and the group’s aim to provide a reliable node for creators.
Bourland does an excellent job of updating the current gallery around the District (not the DMV). He goes back a little too far in history (for my taste) to recount the halcyon days of the DC gallery scene:
Decades ago, before the economic turnaround transformed Washington, it seemed as though the city might be an emerging art capital. The Corcoran School of Art & Design was thriving, and DC boasted the hard-edged abstraction of the Washington Color School, anchored by now-canonical figures Morris Louis and Sam Gilliam.
I note this because... technically the zenith of the DMV gallery art scene (no pun intended with Zenith Gallery, which coincidentally represents my work) was more around the late 90s to mid 2000s, when the number of art galleries of all flavors: independently owned commercial art galleries (such as Conner, Fraser, eklektikos, Marsha Mateyka, Irvine, Davidson, Anton, Robert Brown, Heineman-Myers, Alex, Baumgartner, Alla Rogers, Veerhoff, Neptune, Aaron, Numark, G Fine Art, Hemphill, Addison-Ripley, Littleton, Parish, and others, as well as the highly survivable artists' cooperatives (Touchstone, Studio, Multiple Exposures, etc.), and the non-profits (MOCA, DC Arts Center, etc.), and all the university galleries plus all the embassy and embassy-associated galleries (Mexican Cultural Institute, Goethe, etc.).

Back in those closer to the present and true halcyon days of the DMV art scene, the number of galleries in the DMV art scene exploded, as galleries colonized areas such as Dupont Circle, Georgetown, Bethesda, Alexandria, etc. At one point there were eight galleries in Georgetown's Canal Square alone!

What happened? It's a well-known neighborhood revitalization model: when rents are cheap, galleries and restaurants and other small businesses move in. Then the neighborhood becomes a visit point for the illuminati, and soon the area's attractiveness begins to improve, as do real estate prices.  Within a couple of decades, the franchise stores begin to move in, and a decade later the galleries and small businesses are gone, unable to afford the new rent realities. Bourland is familiar with this model as he writes:
...this is the now-familiar story of gentrification as it has played out all over the country. Artists flock to areas with low rents—say, Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood or San Francisco’s Mission District—and spearhead a dramatic transformation. Starbucks and Citibank follow, along with rising costs that push artists and experimental spaces farther to the periphery.
What else happened and what is still happening (and I've been bitching about for decades)? The DMV media completely ignores and treats with immense apathy the DMV art scene. I used to complain in the 90s about the press coverage of the local art scene. Little did I realize back then that we were at that zenith in art coverage, when the WaPo had not only a weekly Galleries column which covered the DMV art galleries, but a separate column dedicated solely to area museums plus a weekly column (then written by Michael O'Sullivan) titled Arts Beat, which covered the DMV's art scene. Add to that the weekly gallery review by the Washington Times authored by Joanna Shaw-Eagle, and the Art in America or Art News coverage by Joe Shannon and others... And the multiple freebie neighborhood newspapers which regulalrly covered their area's art galleries: The Georgetowner, the various Gazette newspapers (owned then by the WaPo), Pitch Magazine, Dimensions magazine, etc.

WETA had Around Town on a weekly basis, and the then emerging local cable stations (MHZ TV for one) had regular visual art show coverage.

Bottom line: we were at that zenith as well.

Then the emergence of the art fair model provided the final kick in the balls to the brick and mortar galleries as they discovered that they could move more art, expose more artists to collectors, and even to museums via the good art fairs in one art fair than in ten years in the DMV.  A few, like Fraser and others, valiantly tried to do both for a few years, but eventually most of them closed their physical doors and went virtual all the way.

A shout out to Washingtonian for this article, and a repeat of a question that by my email count I've now asked (and sometimes received answers from apologetic editors) I've asked Washingtonian for decades: Why doesn't Washingtonian have an art review column in each issue?

And one last point: When you cross the street in many places in the DC "box" on the map, now you're either in MD or VA - that's why we call it the DMV (an acronym that I invented by the way)... when pieces are written about the city's art scene, by default it is about the DMV art scene and includes Bethesda, Alexandria, Rockville, Mt. Rainier, etc. In fact there are more artists' studios in Rockville or Alexandria or Mt. Rainier, than in all of DC!

By the way, I've asked those questions multiple times to all other DMV area monthly glossies... and there are a few.

Update: John Anderson has a great opinion here.