Arts & Entertainment

Northern Virginia Art Beat

Capitalism Floored

Clark Fox and Ann Stoddard solo shows, at the Pass Gallery (1617 S St. NW, Washington, D.C.). The entrance is in the alley way behind the gallery. The gallery is open Tuesday and Saturday, 1 – 5 p.m., or by appointment. For more details, call 202-745-0796. artbeat2

Capital Flora

Eyes on Nature: Botanical Artists Bring Their Views to River Farm, at River Farm (7931 East Boulevard Dr., Alexandria). The event runs through Jan. 4, 2010, and the farm is open Monday – Friday, from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. For further information, call River Farm at 703-768-5700 or visit www.ahs.org/river_farm. Call River Farm for holiday closings.

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Juliet Kirby’s “Paeonia suffruticosa,” part of the Botanical Art Society of the National Capital Region’s art show at River Farm in Alexandria.

Once part of George Washington’s land holdings, the River Farm, as he renamed it, is now home to the American Horticultural Society. River Farm currently has 25 acres of, needless to say, landscaped lawns and gardens. You can read about the facility’s rather convoluted 250-year history at www.ahs.org/river_farm/history.htm, and how the original 1,800 acres were slowly whittled down to its current 25.

Fifteen members of the Botanical Art Society of the National Capital Region (BASNCR) are showing their art works here through Jan. 4.

Generally speaking, botanical artists such as these do tight renderings of the sort that would have served as scientific documentation before the advent of photography. An artist’s rendering would have been the only means of documenting what the various plant species looked like alive, and/or at various times of the year.

Locally, the work of BASNCR members can be found in the lobby display case at the Tysons-Pimmitt Regional Library (7584 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church). The library is open Monday – Wednesday, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Thursday and Friday, from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.; and Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., and Sunday, 1 – 5 p.m. For more details, call 703-790-8088.

Capitalism Floored

Clark Fox and Ann Stoddard solo shows, at the Pass Gallery (1617 S St. NW, Washington, D.C.). The entrance is in the alley way behind the gallery. The gallery is open Tuesday and Saturday, 1 – 5 p.m., or by appointment. For more details, call 202-745-0796.

Clark Fox (a.k.a. Michael Vinson Clark) is a larger than life D.C. art scene figure. One of the more over the top descriptions of Fox comes from the world famous agitprop artist Ron English in his curatorial catalogue comments from a recent Los Angeles show:

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“ORANGES” by Clark Fox, on display at Pass Gallery through October 31.

“Often referred to as the Godfather of Modern Underground Art, Clark emerged a made man in the art world of the 1960s as the youngest acknowledged member of the notorious Washington Color School. Frustrated by the restrictions of the movement, Clark developed his now signature association of pop pointillism and left of leftist politics.”

I wouldn’t have put it that way myself, but English does have a point there.

Clark Fox’s paintings are a combination of Seurat’s pointillism, Warhol’s image multiplicity (albeit obsessively so in Clark’s case) and a decidedly far-left political take on the world around him.

Most of Clark’s imagery, from dead presidents to the Planters logo character Mr. Peanut, has some capitalistic slant to it. It’s played off in a decidedly subdued fashion that would have the casual first time observer taking it all in as a reverential patriotic display. Which isn’t absent from the mix, but at the same time it’s rarely, if ever, that simple.

Even the profusion of seemingly innocuous oranges has a subtle commentary spin to it. Clark started the series in 1994 after the North American Free Trade Agreement came into effect, thereby giving the orange still life paintings a symbolic reference to international trade, and how a simple orange can mean financial survival as well as bodily sustenance for those who depend on them.

While Clark’s paintings may at times seem mass produced, they are anything but. Unlike Warhol’s work, each one of Clark’s images requires countless hours of laborious handwork to craft the dot matrix that make up the image structure.

Locally, Clark’s paintings can also be found at the Mod Arts gallery in Falls Church City, with viewings by appointment. You can reach her by e-mail at [email protected]

Ann Stoddard has her solo show on the ground floor level at Pass Gallery. The work focuses on waterboarding interrogation practices by the United States: A loose interpretation of the American flag with seven boards for stripes, and 42 shiny new galvanized metal buckets for stars, as well as video cameras, and monitors. The “flag” starts to feel rather un-American fairly quickly. Which may account for the off number of stripes and stars.

Supporting the sculptural piece are enlarged copies of heavily redacted Top Secret documents dealing with U.S. waterboarding practices. One page recounts how one detainee was kept awake for 180 hours and waterboarded 183 times. I don’t know about you, but I’d call that torture if I was the one being kept awake for seven and a half days. Seems like you’d be hallucinating, and babbling gibberish long before you got to 180 hours.

One of the hardest hitting pieces is a photo of an evidence bag containing an American flag. In most situations, we wouldn’t make much of that, but in this context it seems like pretty damning evidence indeed.