Continuing on the mini-reviews posted last week...
5) Stout and Mills @ Hemphill Fine Arts
First, a decision: Hemphill is easily the most elegant gallery in DC. This is undeniable. With each visit to their new space I am more certain than ever that Hemphill understands lighting and presentation on par with any major museum. Such a belief is clearly evident in Hemphill's current shows of Renee Stout and Joseph Mills artwork (an example of Mills work - not in the show - is above). Renee Stout makes serious, sophisticated work. However, I didn't care too much for it. I saw it as a more mature approach to the hodge-podge thrown together installation art trend. I know Stout is above most installation artists currently being hyped today. But the objects she uses and displays would be interesting without her (speaking specifically about her use of found objects). On the other hand, you have Joseph Mills. Mills transforms his materials into something completely new, beautiful and elegant. He takes discarded materials, manipulates them as collages, shines 'em up and throws them on the wall. Hung on a dark wall with lush spotlights, Mills constructions of materials that on their own are practically worthless, appear to be priceless. That's the difference I saw in the two artists' work: one's work looked the same, the other looked brand new and full of importance. As a whole, it's a beautiful show that's worth a serious look.
6) Kendall Buster @ Fusebox
Buster's installation at Fusebox is a knockout. When you walk through the front door you are presented with a gallery-transforming blue installation. At first glance it appears to be a fluid, organic tarp that reconfigures gallery's "ceiling." It starts off high and twists and curles it's way down to the back of the gallery. To get to the back you must bend and duck the tarp. While doing so, you'll notice the incredible craftsmanship used to install the piece. This alone is impressive. But, the best is to come next. When you finally reach the back, straighten your back and turn 180 degrees, you are finally let in on the joke. What appeared to be a solid tarp is actually a "ceiling" made up of dozens of small blue tents that are sewn together. What you first saw was just the flat undersides of the tents. From the back you are able to see an undulating countryside of one or two-person tents. Each tent looks like a bubble. The tents follow the same undulation that you had just experienced from beneath. However, it's a totally different experience. What was flat, sleek and sterile, now comes to life. It's a complete transformation. When you walk back underneath the blueness above you, you can't help but think that is above, what you can't see.
The piece made me think of all the things in the world that are easily seen. Yet, we don't always know what lies beyond. Sometimes there are rewards to be found, other times there's nothing. But taking the time and making the effort to see what is obscured is always the right idea. In this case, Buster rewarded me with a fantastic experience.
7) Jason Zimmerman @ Transformer
Zimmerman's work at Transformer is weak. I can't put it any simpler than that. The video of never ending police chases is cute. After 15 seconds I got the point. Yet it kept going and going. So what? It's cute, like I said, but the Wiley Coyote cartoons of yesteryear were so much more interesting. This video made me think its creation was inevitable. It's a product of today and it was inevitable that some young artist thinking they are being creative and maybe even edgy would create this. For all I know, it probably has been done. I imagine there's a version in NY, another in LA, another in the mid-west somewhere. The video isn't truly creative. It's an exercise, student work at best. But what's worse are the "artist books" also on display. If the video was boring, the books are completely vapid. Their subject matters are stale. They don't entice the viewer to really study them. There's nothing to learn from them (well, there is one that will appeal to you perverts out there!). I'm not familiar with any other works by Zimmerman but here's hoping they are better. Something had to encourage Transformer to hand over the gallery for such a lackluster showing. I wonder what it was...
8) Julee Holcombe and Mary Coble @ Conner Contemporary
Holcombe (above) first caught my attention in last year's version of the annual Academy show at Conner Contemporary (I wrote about it here). Her piece, "Babel Revisited," knocked my socks off. Remembering it, I was eagerly anticipating her solo debut at Conner. What I saw disappointed me. Not in terms of the quality, but in terms of the subject matter. The work is beautiful and presented quite well. I couldn't help but notice that. However, I felt the work was inaccessable. Several people that I've discussed the work with have talked about the allusions to significant, historical paintings. If you don't recognize those allusions, you're left out of a significant part of the work. Without this knowledge, the work is nice. But without that little something (an inside joke of sorts) the work falls flat. I don't enjoy art that requires a certain understanding to "get" it. There shouldn't be pre-requisites for art viewing. To me, it seems like a bit of a crutch to grab onto something so successful and established. Who knows... since I obviously didn't get the references and have to trust others that they're there, maybe I just don't understand the work period. Regardless, I know I enjoyed "Babel Revisited" solely on the visual merits of the work alone. This show, not so much.
I've discussed the Coble performance here before. What I got to see at the gallery were the many blood prints of the etched names. These weren't visually interesting at all, but such is the problem of documenting a performance. They were just red names printed backwards on paper. Not much to talk about really. As for the performance itself, Kriston at Grammar.Police covered it pretty well here. Check it out.
OK, I've got four more reviews that will have to come later this week. Please be patient!