Arts & Entertainment

Northern Virginia Art Beat

The Washington Print Club has its biennial exhibit on the third floor of American University’s Katzen Center, comprised of approximately 110 prints thematically centered around the notion of Love, and owned by local club members.DSC_0087

Of Po-Mo & Clay

Summer 2009 Exhibitions American University Museum, at the Katzen Arts Center (4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington D.C.). The exhibitions run through August 16, except where noted. The museum is open Tuesday – Sunday, noon – 4 p.m., and is closed holidays. Admission is free. For more details, call 202-885-1300, or visit www.american.edu/museum. Note: there is metered parking under the building, which is free after 5 p.m. and on weekends.

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One of Margaret Boozer’s clay pieces at the Katzen Center’s summer exhibitions.

The Washington Print Club has its biennial exhibit on the third floor, comprised of approximately 110 prints thematically centered around the notion of Love, and owned by local club members. One could quibble with the love connection with some of the pieces, but for the most part it all holds up well. Ranging from Mel Ramos to Japanese wood block prints, there is something for everybody here. This section closes August 9.

On the second floor you’ll find the Post-Modern chairs of Gary Knox Bennet. While intending to be humorous and playful, much of the PoMo movement was as dry and serious as its intended targets. Bennet repeatedly riffs on Gerrit Rietveld’s Z-shaped Zig Zag chair. If you aren’t hip to the history, it’ll all be lost on you. The ladder back chair, which incorporates a miniature step ladder for its back support, seems the best of the lot. The flowery upholstered “Z” chair is so ridiculously far off from its origins, it’s hard not to chuckle at the sight of it.

An American Institution by now, Jules Feiffer celebrates 40 years of political cartoons on the first floor.

The current main attraction at Katzen has to be the Baltimore-Washington queen of dirt, Margaret Boozer’s “Dirt Drawings.”

Traditionally speaking, drawing is confined to graphite and charcoal renderings on paper. Today, we have a rather expansive view of what is and isn’t drawing. Today, drawing is more about the way images are made. It’s a term that connotes an immediacy and directness, with a certain understood degree of pure artistic expression. It’s in drawing that we as viewers are most often in direct connection to the artist. Painting is typically more of a plodding process, that even more damning, may in fact be imitative of the preparatory drawings that proceeded it. We can look back on Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings and see that they were drawings, with paint as the medium. Not surprisingly, his contemporary viewers struggled with how to classify his work. Today, we could toss his work in a drawing show and not give it a second thought.

Which brings us to Margaret Boozer’s work. At times her dirt drawings are indeed just that: magnificent work that undoubtedly shows direct evidence of the artist’s hand. At other times she backs off a bit, leaving the notion of dirt drawings a tad overstated. At those times the work feels more sculptural, or even painterly, which is a long-winded way of saying Boozer’s work doesn’t neatly fit into any one existing labeled box.

Boozer’s work here at Katzen is all executed directly on the floor. Using some 1,200 pounds of clay she ingeniously responded to, and interacted with the existing arched museum space. The 800-pound gorilla in the room is a 15 – 20-foot-wide mud pie that surrounds one end of the arched gallery partition. Using some 700 gallons of mud/slip smoothed to perfection. The massive wet floor dot will over the ensuing month dry out and crack. It’s easy to see a metaphoric life cycle passing by in Boozer’s work.

Other anhydrous parts of her exhibit here will ostensibly be the same at the end, as they were at the opening. While we have to applaud her working at the edges of the gallery space, and as such working in Pollock’s infinite space, we can see Boozer’s work penetrating the gallery walls and extending into the world beyond.

It takes a bit of work to get there though. A tiny lick of an arch on the back side of the partition wall seems forced until you sight down the wall and see that it’s an arch segment from the circle on the other side.

While the massive wet mud pie is hard not to like, possibly the best section of this work is a crop circle-like area surrounding and adjacent to a structural gallery post. Here we see a dry, reductive circular swipe around the post, next to several thin, wet circles.

It’s here that we are most palatably aware of the artist’s hand at work. It’s here that we seem most in tune with the creative process and inspiration. It’s here that we can most definitively define the work as drawing.

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