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Photo of Gaia work in P Street alley by PoPville flickr user a digital cure

Ed. Note: Sadly, this will be Beth’s last contribution as she is moving on to an internship at SAAM (Smithsonian American Art Museum.) Congrats Beth and thanks for all your great recommendations! If anyone is interested in covering the museum scene for PoP please send an email to princeofpetworth(@)gmail

Art After Dark: Street
If you missed last week’s gallery parties, you’ll have another chance to check out contemporary art to the tune of electro pop tomorrow night at the Art Museum of the Americas’ second annual Art After Dark. The event, which is themed “street,” will include video and performance art by local artists, including Billy Friebele and Kristina Bilonick, as well as music by Screen Vinyl Image, DJ Smudge and multi-talented violinist/hipster overlord Matthew Hemerlein. Oh, and there will be food trucks. And an iPad raffle.
Where: Art Museum of the Americas (Metro: Farragut West)
When: Sept. 1 from 8 p.m. to midnight.
How Much: Tickets are $25 in advance; $30 at the door. Includes open bar and entry to the after-party at L2 Lounge on Cady’s Alley.

Gaia: New Works
Irvine Contemporary may be on the move, but that hasn’t stopped the gallery from organizing a full fall exhibition schedule. First up is this show of new works by Baltimore/Brooklyn-based street artist Gaia to be hosted by the Montserrat House (9th and V Streets NW). Known for his black-and-white drawings wheat pasted on buildings around Washington, Baltimore and New York, Gaia will focus in this show on the history of cities and the environment. In conjunction with the exhibition, he will be installing public murals in “symbolic locations” around the city.
Where: Montserrat House (Metro: U Street-Cardozo)
When: Sept. 9 to 17. Opening reception on Sept. 9 from 6 to 8 p.m.
How Much: Free

Ellington Robinson: In Quest of The Sun
D.C.-based painter Ellington Robinson tackles migrations, both physical and socioeconomic, in this upcoming solo show at Project 4. The elements of his highly structured, three-dimensional collages are anything but random: found objects, such as cassette tapes, vinyl records and travel documents, reference his childhood in a musical household and his move from Washington to St. Croix. But the works also address more universal themes of ancestry, collective memory and social mobility.
Where: Project 4 Gallery (Metro: U Street-Cardozo)
When: Sept. 9 to Oct. 15. Opening reception Sept. 9 from 6:30 to 9 p.m.
How Much: Free

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Sebastian Martorana’s marble Impressions (2009) are on view this week at Irvine Contemporary. Image courtesy Irvine Contemporary. Copyright Sebastian Martorana.

Pattern: Three Generations of Shape and Color
This is your last week to catch a small but vibrant exhibition of three generations of color-field painting at the Carroll Square Gallery. The show positions a 1967 work by Thomas Downing, of the ubiquitous Washington Color School, in the midst of divergent works by two contemporary painters: celebrated local artist Tom Green and Baltimore-based emerging artist Linling Lu. These two begin with the flat color and symmetry of their hard-edge predecessors, but go on to weave in decorative elements — Green through evocative, minimalist glyphs and Lu in one highly geometric portrait.
Where: Carroll Square Gallery (Metro: Metro Center or Gallery Place-Chinatown)
When: Until Aug. 26.
How Much: Free

“Artist Tribute 2” Grand Finale Block Party
This Thursday Irvine Contemporary wraps up the final exhibition at their Logan Circle space with a bang. Works on view include Shepard Fairey’s Flag series, a homage to Jasper Johns, and Sebastian Martorana’s clever marble monuments to fleeting everyday moments (above). Music will be provided by local DJs Yoko K and Will Eastman. While Director Martin Irvine has yet to announce a new permanent space for his gallery, two fall exhibitions are already planned for the Montserrat House at 9th and U St. NW.
Where: Irvine Contemporary (Metro: Dupont Circle)
When: Aug. 25 at 6 p.m.
How Much: Free

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Roger Brown, Natural Bridge, 1971, oil, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the S.W. and B.M. Koffler Foundation.

As I toured the new exhibition of Chicago art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, our own city’s modern art legacy was what first came to mind. That legacy tends to revolve around the Washington Color School of the 1960s. Whether you love them or hate them, the color field painters that populate local museums succeeded in engaging with the postwar behemoth of Abstract Expressionism. They didn’t so much pioneer a Washington movement as they did push the boundaries of one born in New York. What is most satisfying about Made in Chicago: The Koffler Collection is the extent to which its artists flout such linearity.

The exhibition is inconspicuous, taking up three small galleries at the south end of the museum’s second floor. Its namesakes are Samuel and Blanche Koffler, Chicago collectors whose foundation donated a portion of their contemporary holdings to the Smithsonian in 1979, back when SAAM was known as the National Collection of Fine Arts. While the majority of the 26 works are paintings from 1960 to 1980, they are wildly different — both from one another and from the kind of abstraction being churned out elsewhere in the United States at the time.

This is in part thanks to Chicago artists’ affinity for experimental art brut that simultaneously draws on art history and snubs it. Half a century ago, such artists formed informal groups with awesomely ’60s-tinged names like “The Hairy Who” and “The Non-Plussed Some” and championed various brands of representational art that were unrestrained by the heavy theory of painterly abstraction. Several of the artists on view shared an interest in popular culture and graphic arts. Others were influenced by the abundance of Surrealist works in Chicago collections.

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Theodore Halkin, Homage to Archimboldo, 1970, oil, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the S.W. and B.M. Koffler Foundation. On view this weekend at the SAAM.

Portraiture Now: Asian American Portraits of Encounter
Featuring works by seven artists from Asia or of Asian descent, this will be the first Smithsonian exhibition to focus on contemporary Asian American portraiture. According to the NPG press release, the art on view aims to both counter existing stereotypes about the Asian American experience and offer a more nuanced exploration of transnational identity. Portraits of Encounter was co-organized by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program.
Where: National Portrait Gallery (Metro: Gallery Place-Chinatown or Metro Center)
When: Aug. 12 to Oct. 14.
How Much: Free

Paint, Canvas, Walls, People
A minimalist exhibition of work by Thomas Canavan and Arijit Das closes this weekend at the Lamont Bishop Gallery. While both artists hang their art on the gallery walls, they are more interested in conceptual experiments than the final product. With his blank canvases accompanied by text, Canavan asks viewers to meditate on their own expectations for a painting. Das takes a more personal and expressive approach by painting abstract compositions that appear both meticulous and unplanned. The two artists team up in Sorry, Sol, an amusing take on the wall drawings of Sol LeWitt.
Where: Lamont Bishop Gallery (Metro: Mt. Vernon Square or Shaw-Howard Univ.)
When: Until Aug. 13. Closing reception on Aug. 13 from 8 to 11 p.m. including live painting by Das and other artists.
How Much: Free

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Artist Will Ryman’s assistants install his rose blossom sculptures on the Phillips Collection lawn. Photo by Beth Shook.

Will Ryman’s Roses: 58th Street
Five of Will Ryman’s monumental rose blossoms have been plucked from their home on Park Avenue in New York and relocated to the Phillips Collection. Installed at the corner of 21st and Q Streets NW, the roses’ pink petals and neon stems clash pleasantly with the red brick of the Duncan Phillips House. The sculptures will be on view on the lawn through the end of the year in celebration of the museum’s 90th anniversary.
Where: The Phillips Collection lawn (Metro: Dupont Circle)
When: Until Jan. 5, 2012.
How Much: Free

5th Annual East of the River
This year, the annual juried exhibition of art from Wards 7 and 8 will include work by six local artists: Marlon Norman, Jon Malis, Jonathan Edwards, Deborah Terry, Danielle Scruggs and Lark Catoe-Emerson. The judges, including Federal Reserve Board Fine Arts Program Director Stephen Bennett Phillips, will choose a Best in Show to be announced at the opening reception on Friday.
Where: Honfleur Gallery (Metro: Anacostia)
When: Aug. 5 to Sept. 16. Opening reception on Aug. 5 at 7 p.m.
How Much: Free

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Michael D. Crossett, District AM Delivery, mixed media on canvas, 30″ x 40″. Image courtesy Gallery Plan B.

Local Color
The new exhibition at Gallery Plan B, which opens tonight, offers refreshing visions of Washington’s more quotidian scenery. Several contemporary artists tackle the city’s rowhouses, monuments and news boxes in their own distinctive mediums, from digital photography to printmaking to photorealistic oil painting. While some of the results fall flat, others, like Stephen Stichter’s handmade woodblock prints, serve as loving tributes to local moments and spaces we may take for granted.
Where: Gallery Plan B (Metro: Dupont Circle or U Street-Cardozo)
When: July 28 to Aug. 28. Opening reception with the artists on July 28 from 6 to 8 p.m.
How Much: Free

Asia After Dark: 1001 Nights
Experience the convergence of ancient Islamic arts with the contemporary Arab world this evening at the Freer. Works from the ongoing exhibition Arts of the Islamic World will be on view. You can also enjoy performances, specialty cocktails and Arab cuisine to the tune of Egyptian DJ Turbo Tabla. (If you’re seeking a more reflective encounter with Quranic calligraphy and Middle Eastern ceramics, I suggest you visit during regular hours.) This event is ages 21+.
Where: Freer Gallery of Art (Metro: Smithsonian or L’Enfant Plaza)
When: July 28 from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m.
How Much: $22 in advance and $25 at the door (cash only) for non-members; $18 in advance and $20 at the door for Silk Road Society members. A ticket includes one free drink.

Annie Albagli, Greetings From Paradise
Silver Spring-based artist Annie Albagli brings her enchanting screen prints to Pleasant Plains in this exploration of “personal paradise.” Albagli’s works, particularly those from her Pyramid series, are expressive, multilayered pseudo-landscapes, populated by ambiguous organic forms and geometry. The exhibition will include a site-specific window installation and will prompt visitors to share their own conception of paradise.
Where: Pleasant Plains Workshop (Metro: Columbia Heights or Metrobus: 70/71)
When: July 29 to Aug. 27. Opening reception on July 29 from 6 to 9 p.m.
How Much: Free

you make me nostalgic for a place I’ve never known and Trace
Organized by artist Janell Olah and local curator/Phillips Collection educator Amanda Jirón-Murphy, you make me nostalgic is one of two new exhibitions at Flashpoint that aim to fully exploit and reorient the gallery space. Olah’s installation diverts the gallery’s electricity, air flow and ducts to bring to life her glowing, tree-like vinyl constructions. Interspersed with her work and populating not only the gallery, but also its hallways and offices, will be artist Nicole Herbert’s multimedia conceptual play on the overlooked features of an interior, like cables, outlets and windows.
Where: Flashpoint (Metro: Gallery Place-Chinatown or Metro Center)
When: July 30 to Aug. 27. Opening reception on July 30 from 6 to 8 p.m.
How Much: Free

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Stendhal No. 1, Corcoran Gallery, 2011, by Kerry Skarbakka on view this weekend at Irvine Contemporary. Image courtesy Irvine Contemporary. Copyright Kerry Skarbakka.

An Evening With Mary Lynn Kotz
Local art history author Mary Lynn Kotz will speak at the JCC art gallery this Thursday in conjunction with the gallery’s ongoing exhibition Blueprints. The show focuses on the Cyanotypes (cyan-colored photographic prints) of José Betancourt and Susan Weil, the latter of whom studied and collaborated with Robert Rauschenberg in the 1950s. Kotz, who has written extensively on Rauschenberg, will discuss the two artists’ relationship.
Where: The Ann Loeb Bronfman Gallery at the DC JCC (Metro: Dupont Circle)
When: July 21 at 7 p.m. Reception to follow lecture.
How Much: $5 for the public; free for members and students. Tickets can be purchased online.

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The Science + Fiction gallery at “Possible Worlds.” Photo by Beth Shook.

Mexican art has a complicated history with Surrealism. For decades, diverse bodies of work were pigeonholed with labels like “fantastic” and pointed to as evidence for some inherent “magical” or “marvelous” quality of the region. Thankfully, Possible Worlds: Photography and Fiction in Mexican Contemporary Art, the new exhibition at the Art Museum of the Americas, subverts such expectations by focusing on the universality of myth and imagined worlds.

The exhibition, which runs through August, is about challenging the limits of photography, and how a documentary medium can portray imagination much in the same way painting and sculpture do. Works by nine artists are organized thematically, with each of the museum’s five galleries assigned a theme: Fables + Myths, Science + Fiction, Erasure, Apocalypse and Ordinary Worlds. The structure allows the viewer to draw contrasts between individual artists while still recognizing their broader shared interests. Unfortunately, the classifications occasionally oversimplify the artists’ narratives and obscure some of the questions they raise. Katya Brailovsky’s grainy, high-contrast color prints of isolated characters may deal with the existential drama that the Science + Fiction wall text alludes to, but the link with the theme as a whole seems tenuous.

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Detail from Daniela Edburg, La tormenta, 2010, Digital print. On view this week at the Art Museum of the Americas. Image courtesy the AMA.

E8: Sculpture
Transformer’s eighth annual “Exercises for Emerging Artists” culminates in three week-long exhibitions of site-specific work by the emerging sculptors Oreen Cohen, Lindsay Rowinski and Sean Lundgren. First up is Cohen — you may recall the “sketchbook” incorporating a dead bird from her last Transformer appearance. Here her sculptures explore the link between terrain, war and collective memory by way of two contested sites: Israel and Bull Run in Virginia. Cohen’s work will be on view until July 16.
Where: Transformer (Metro: Dupont Circle or U Street-Cardozo)
When: E8 on view from July 7 to Aug. 13. Opening reception for Oreen Cohen: Running Drill on July 7 from 6 to 8 p.m.
How Much: Free

Possible Worlds: Photography and Fiction in Mexican Contemporary Art
The Mexican Cultural Institute, a cultural arm of the Embassy of Mexico, has been quite active this year in promoting the visual arts of Mexico around the city. Their latest project, which opens tomorrow evening, is a collaboration with the Art Museum of the Americas. Curated by art historian Marisol Argüelles, Possible Worlds brings together the work of nine Mexican photographers who depart from the documentary approach to explore dream worlds, myths, utopias and dystopias. The museum has begun posting short bios of the artists on their new blog.
Where: Art Museum of the Americas (Metro: Farragut West)
When: July 7 to Aug. 28. Gallery talk with curator on July 7 at 5:30 p.m. with the opening reception to follow. RSVP required.
How Much: Free

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Photo by PoPville flickr user sciascia

This week, I take a break from museum and gallery highlights to round up some recent D.C. art headlines. For this week’s exhibition openings and closings, scroll to the bottom.

> The latest addition to the Senator William A. Clark family collection at the Corcoran Gallery of Art will be an oil painting by Claude Monet that has not been displayed in public since 1925. The work, referred to as Nympheas 1907, was bequeathed by Clark’s daughter Huguette M. Clark, who passed away last month at the age of 104. The painting is part of Monet’s famed “Water Lilies” series and is estimated to be worth at least $25 million. Corcoran chairman Harry Hopper called the work “spectacular” and promised to find it a “happy home” in the museum. It’s not clear if and when Nympheas will be on view. The New York Times obituary refers to the enigmatic heiress as “the last link to New York’s Gilded Age” and is definitely worth a read.

> For the past couple of months, “Missing Person” flyers for the detained Chinese artist and political activist Ai Weiwei have become ubiquitous in some areas of the city, notably in Columbia Heights and near the Chinese Embassy in Glover Park. Now that Weiwei has been released on bail, we can be somewhat confident that his next appearance in Washington will be a happier occasion. A year from now, the Hirshhorn Museum plans to host a large retrospective titled Ai Weiwei: According to What?, which will be on tour from the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo. The exhibition will include around 25 works in different mediums executed by the artist over the past decade.

> As of yesterday, the National Building Museum has begun charging an admissions fee. Citing the negative impact of the recession on arts institutions, particularly non-profit museums, the NBD director Chase W. Rynd justified the decision as a last resort in a changing landscape. He wrote in a press release, “Those who wait too long to realize this truth or dismiss it entirely are likely to become casualties of the era.” Entrance will now cost $8 for adults and $5 for children, students and seniors. It will continue to be free for members and — during the summer — for active-duty military personnel and their families.

> The current director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art will be leaving Washington to take over as director of the Museum of Art at the Rhode Island School of Design. According to the Associated Press, John W. Smith, who has served as AAA director for five years, led a project that involved digitizing 1.5 million objects from the Archives collection. The move to RISD will take place this September.

> Speaking of departures, this news has been out for nearly a month, but it’s still worth mentioning. After five years in their space on 14th Street NW (just south of P), Irvine Contemporary is moving out at the end of the summer to an as yet unspecified new location due to “unmanageable increases in rent.” The gallery has been a dynamic force in the Logan Circle contemporary art scene, offering new exhibitions almost monthly, and it’s a shame to see them go. According to owner and director Martin Irvine, although a new space hasn’t yet been announced, future shows are being planned for temporary spaces around the U Street area. Irvine now has on view the first of two Artist Tribute Exhibitions, which also celebrate the gallery’s 10th anniversary. The shows will close on Aug. 27.

Opening: Mexico Through the Lens of National Geographic at the Mexican Cultural Institute; Mads Gamdrup: Renunciation at the Corcoran Gallery of Art; Art Deck-O: DC Playing Card Originals at Touchstone Gallery. Closing: Drawing at Marsha Mateyka Gallery.

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