Arts & Entertainment

Northern Virginia Art Beat

A listing of new openings, exhibitions and opportunities to show art.

Metamorphosis: The Blessing and the Curse

Falls Church resident Karen Swenholt is the Clark Street Theatre artist in residence, and has her sculptural exhibition “Metamorphosis: the Blessing and the Curse” on display in the lobby. The work can been seen during show times, or by appointment (703-405-6255). The current production of Equus runs through November 26. “Peter Shaffer’s classic play about a psychiatrist’s exploration into the disturbed mind of a teenager who has committed a shocking and seemingly inexplicable act of violence.” Show times are Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Washington Shakespeare Company’s Clark Street Playhouse, 601 S. Clark St., Crystal City (Arlington). For more information and directions call (703) 418-4808, or see www.washingtonshakespeare.org.   

 

‘Architects Fired’

Opening reception Friday November 17, and running through December 15 at Cross Mackenzie Ceramic Arts. Fourteen of Washington’s best architects were given 12 pounds of clay to do with as they pleased, and then kiln fired. The results make up this show of sculpture, vessel, and model. It’s all about them and the clay. No codes, cost, or client restraints. Should be fun to see the results. Cross Mackenzie Ceramic Arts. 1054 31st (Canal Square, off street courtyard address, across from Sea Catch restaurant), Washington, D.C. (202) 333-7970 or see www.crossmackenzieceramicarts.com.  

 

‘Holiday Gallery’

Falls Church Arts has opened it’s ‘Holiday Gallery’ in Falls Church Art and Frame, 111 Park Ave., Falls Church. No, it’s not too soon to buy Christmas presents, but if you’re a last minute Santa it will be open through Saturday, December 23. Hours are Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday noon to 4 p.m.

 

The Société Anonyme: Modernism for America & El Lissitzky: Futurist Portfolios

Through January 21, 2007 at the Phillips Collection. This show needs a review like super models need a dating agency to meet rock stars. OK, OK, here goes. It’s an astounding, jaw dropping collection of early 20th century modernist art. It’s pointless to quibble with this stuff. These folks defined modern art, and thus the standard by which all that followed were judged. In their day, these were among the coolest cats on the planet.

It’s important to remember what brought all this about, and why this period of time was such fertile artistic soil. Simply put, the camera. Since the dawn of time artists were the visual recorders of their age, chained to some form of representationalism. Artistic skill was largely judged according to how realistic those representations were. For some people this academy definition of ‘art’ still holds sway.

With the popularization of photography, artists were suddenly set free to chart their own course. What lay in front of them was a vast abstract void to be explored and conquered. These folks are the artistic equivalents of Columbus, Mercury to Apollo 11 astronauts, Edison, etc. They didn’t push the envelope, they obliterated it, and formed a whole new, greatly expanded envelope for those that followed. There is something to the notion of being in the right place at the right time, but you still need the spine to forge into the unknown. There’s no vertebrae shortage here.

Today we see the utter ubiquity of digital photography forcing art photographers into a sort of fuzzy focus abstraction. It’s a similar mien, but the territory is well trod by now. The artists in this show were the ones who invented the mouse trap, all you can do now is refine and expand on it. With help from Duchamp, and Man Ray the Société Anonyme was formed in 1920 by Katherine Dreier in New York City. In 1941 Dreire donated the collection to it’s current custodians, the Yale University Art Gallery. Shows of this caliber are normally cobbled together from far flung locations. It’s fairly sobering to realize this was once a single collection. Some of which was in Dreier’s estate and donated to the Phillips Collection in 1953, thus brought back together in this venue.

Surprises for me were the works by Erika Giovanna Klein, Jean Arp’s wife Sofia, and a sculpture by Man Ray. Those were but a few of almost 160 works on display. It’s literally an embarrassment of riches. Best of show? Almost all of them.

The Société Anonyme works seamlessly transition into 19 El Lissitzky lithographs, circa 1923. Question of the day, is it even possible to have a bad El Lissitzky show? Thousand year Russian Art History review… plodding Tsarist traditionalism, followed by revolution, followed by plodding goose-stepping propaganda (and really bad photo retouching after communist big wigs get ‘rubbed out’). The revolution brought a brief period of true artistic freedom that is mostly known through the work of three or four geniuses, Lissitzky being one of the big fish. Lissitzky shows are fairly rare, and not to be missed.

With so much geometric abstraction at hand, I’m dumbfounded as to why there is no Reitveld furniture here His sideboard would look great in this company. The Red Blue chair would also fit right in, though it’s a tad over exposed at this date. One has to wonder what Katherine Dreier’s taste in furniture was.

Do we have to beg? Go see the show already. Phillips Collection, 1600 21st Street NW, Washington, DC. Museum Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Sunday Noon to 7 p.m . (202) 387-2151, or see www.phillipscollection.org Admission $12 for adults, $10 for students and seniors.

 

The Northern Virginia Art Beat is compiled by Kevin Mellema. To e-mail submissions, send them to [email protected].