New Works: Anne Chan and Michael Dax Iacovone

Hamiltonian Gallery presented the new works by Hamiltonian Fellows Anne Chan and Michael Dax Iacovone. Although starkly different in their conclusions, both Chan and Iacovone observe and explore systems in which we move through familiar spaces. Drawing on the Situationists’ philosophy of drifting through urban space, Dax Iacovone creates large-scale photographs of city intersections, to which he arrives by a random operation–a roll of the dice. Two images, one taken upright, one inverted, comprise each photograph and mark each point of crossing using Iacovone’s navigational equations. In changing the purpose and documentation of his “stroll,” Iacovone shifts the understanding and awareness of our common, pedestrian spaces.

Ms. Chan meticulously and obsessively assembles installations using office products to reference the minutia of corporate culture, daily commutes, and mundane tasks. By implementing repetition and a limited depth of field, Chan creates architectural spaces where one cannot imagine an end to the infinite twists in the walls and turns in the roads. By placing an incalculable number of staples in her installation, Chan cleverly illustrates psychological confinement that results from the realization that we're one among millions.

This exhibition will run until December 5. In conjuction with FotoWeek DC, Hamiltonian Gallery also hosted a panel discussion with Iacovone and Ms. Chan, moderated by renowned photographer Frank Day, last November 13 at

New Works: Anne Chan and Michael Dax Iacovone


At Project 4, a delicate show of flower power

By Jessica DawsonSpecial to The Washington Post Friday, December 4, 2009


Laurel Lukaszewski's latest exhibition at Project 4 looks like two shows in one. The first is a meditation on the fleeting beauty of nature. The other, an ungainly ode to pasta.

The exhibition starts off right. Walk in and you're looking at hundreds of delicate porcelain cherry blossoms installed along the wall in gentle waves. Your eyes drift upward toward the gallery's second floor loft, where the blossoms sprout along the top floor. Called "Sakura," the piece embraces the space like gorgeous 3-D wallpaper.

Spend time admiring the work's haute-couture-like intricacy: Blossoms fashioned from cream-colored porcelain are affixed, one by one, to the wall by means of delicate copper wire; the installation looks as if it took ages. Here, the orange blush of copper illuminates the channel between wall and flower, subtly warming an otherwise sepulchral palette.

Lukaszewski says that her piece consists of 3,020 blossoms -- one for each of the cherry trees that Japan gave to the United States in 1912 (following a disastrous shipment of 2,000 insect-infested trees two years earlier). With that political gesture as her inspiration, Lukaszewski creates a literal monument to diplomacy. Her porcelain blossoms have the solemnity of a grave marker, yet their attention to detail suggests a deliberation bordering on optimism.

Walk deeper into the gallery and you'll encounter a curtain made from interlocking porcelain ribbons shaped -- I hate to say it -- like flat noodles. Though the work's construction intrigues (small segments interlock and hang from one another) the work nevertheless feels like a misplaced shower curtain.

The conceit Lukaszewski establishes with "Sakura" -- art that surrounds us, rather than art parceled out as a discrete object -- is disturbed by the self-conscious objectness of that curtain. Something similar happens out back, on the gallery's rear porch, where a pile of similarly shaped porcelain gathered in a corner feels too much like outsize fettuccine awaiting sauce.

Follow the stairs to the second level and the rest of "Sakura" unfolds. Here, our eyes move up, down, around and over the balcony to take a vertiginous look down toward the gallery entrance. Lukaszewski creates a visual path that our eyes can't help but chase, on and on and on.

Upstairs in a rear gallery, a snaking pile of porcelain leaves, each delicate and crinkly and fairly begging for our touch, suggests a requiem to nature and the passage of time. Called "Ghost," the work exudes a visceral deadness in its leaves. It proves the perfect pendant for "Sakura": Both are silent and voluble at the same time.

Iacovone, Chan

Hamiltonian Gallery offers new work by two recipients of its modest fellowship program. Michael Dax Iacovone's video and photography document the action -- and lack thereof -- at Washington intersections using strategically placed mirrors to gain additional views. Some videos include the artist, some do not. One monitors the gallery and its entrance door in real time.

In the video "14th and U: Four Times Around," Iacovone does just that: He purposefully makes the rounds of the intersection, hash-marking the sidewalk each time he reaches a corner. Watching it, a briefly pleasurable sense of the uncanny -- gallery visitors probably would have passed the same intersection just minutes before -- gives way to the realization that this a blandly executed exercise in . . . I'm not sure exactly what, though the artist claims kinship to the situationists, a 1960s Marxist art collective. At its worst, "14th and U: Four Times Around" could pass for satire of the art world's embrace of the nominal.

It is Anne Chan's prints and sculptures, riffing as they do on cubicle culture, that are worth the visit here. The artist offers several groovy, glossy close-ups of staples -- yes, the ones that fill the Swingline -- blown up so large as to look architectural (one image mimics a colonnade; it takes a moment to register the outsize scale). These pictures are clever, but we've seen their likes before.

Turn your eyes instead to Chan's sculpture "Collective," which sits on the ground like a playful riff on the macho abstract expressionist block. Instead of making the work out of steel, as abstract expressionists did once upon a time, Chan made hers out of discarded business cards.

The artist acquired her less-than-heroic materials from her colleagues -- and former colleagues -- at the Baltimore architecture firm RTKL. (Chan is the photography coordinator there.) The firm recently reshuffled its offices; some staff members were laid off. Chan crafted "Collective" from this cache of redundant cards, the castoffs of a downsized economy.

All those paper cards reduce Chan's big, formal gesture into a visual play on economic constriction. Her house of cards reminds us how deeply we identify with our jobs and how fleeting those identifications can be -- especially in these times.

Chan's second sculpture -- if we can call it that -- waits behind a partition in the gallery's rear. Called "Assembly," it's a 14-foot-long, jewellike carpet of silver that sits on a small, raised platform. The piece isn't really a rug, but it looks a bit like one: Tiny clusters of staples, 12 or 14 or so each, stand every few inches in neat rows. There are tens of thousands of staples here, each clot glistening like silver buttons under the gallery lights. In many ways the opposite of "Collective," which uses the mundane to subvert heroic form, "Assembly" finds Chan turning the everyday into the sublime.

Dawson is a freelance writer.

Laurel Lukaszewski at Project 4, 1353 U St. NW, third floor, 202-232-4340, Wednesday-Saturday, noon-6 p.m., to Dec. 18.

Michael Dax Iacovone and Anne Chan at Hamiltonian Gallery, 1353 U St. NW, 202-332-1116, Tuesday-Saturday, noon-6 p.m., through Saturday.

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At Project 4, a delicate show of flower power


Working Through Artistic Differences on U Street

Greg Kearley of Inscape Studio will go before the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) on Thursday for review of the proposed adjoining 3- and 5-story mixed-use buildings that, pending approval, will replace the currently vacant lot at 1932 9th street NW with work and residential space for artists. Developer and property owner Paul So also developed another property nearby, "510nm" at 1353 U Street NW. Both So properties are geared towards the arts community, though the Historic Preservation Office (HPO) staff report may lead to the HPRB "censoring" some of So's artistic endeavors.

So wants his new buildings - a mixture of housing, office and studio spaces - to serve the burgeoning artist community in the U Street neighborhood. The building that will face 9th St NW is designed for four stories near the street, with a fifth-floor penthouse set back 18 feet, bringing the entire height to 58 ft, and will incorporate a mix of ground floor retail and second floor office space, the rest to serve as residential and studio space. The other building, connected via a breezeway, fronts 9 1/2 St and will be three stories to include live/work space for artists in the Hamiltonian Artists fellowship program. The first floor would have an open space for working and for the fellows to brainstorm; the other two floors are designed for discounted living space for fellows.

So intends to build his second development to "LEED Platinum at least" - meaning exceeding the highest green rating standards. His current building on U Street boasts a long list of green design features including recycled paper countertops (Paperstone), daylit interiors, passive solar design strategies including southern exposure for passive solar heating in winter and overhangs at southern glazing for shade in summer, green roofs and rain barrels to conserve water usage. According to So, when he and his architect (occupying the office space on the second floor of his U Street building) were planning 9th Street, they consulted with the artists about their needs and came up with the common space for the first floor so they can converse, and special features like venthilation for work rooms.

So what's the problem? The HPO staff report concluded that the three-story building on 9 1/2 St. could move forward, but the building planned for 9th St. was too large in scale compared to surrounding buildings. According to architect Greg Kearley, when the project went through staff review over a year ago, the plan was for a 5-story building on 9th street with a 6th floor penthouse, and the more diminutive adjustment seemed to be something everyone was "comfortable with."

Owner So said his "game plan" is to go before the board to find out what "they would like us to do" so that he and his architect can accommodate their findings into a new plan. Though Kearley did express concern that a smaller building might not be economically feasible, considering much of the space is already slotted for use that will not generate much income. It would stand to reason that the extra floor and those penthouse condos are key to the developer's bottom line. Any fellow can see that.

Working Through Artistic Differences on U Street


Windows into DC @ Washington Convention Center

With a small bit of fanfare, the Walter E. Washington Convention Center and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities unveiled a public art project at the Convention Center this week. This "pop-up" gallery transforms empty retail, window and display space at the Convention Center into works of art.  Windows into DC highlights 14 area artists, three of whom are based in the Shaw neighborhood, where the project is located. The artists were given a canvas of glass to produce a variety of work, which was inspired by the neighborhood and the District.

The windows and display cases are located around the outside of the Convention Center along 7th Street, through the underpass toward 9th Street, along 9th, and along N Street. The work is a temporary extension of the 120 piece permanent collection found on the inside of the Convention Center.

Half of the artists transformed a large window and glass door area in which they used a reverse painting technique, applying paint from the inside of the window. Many used black outlines to start and then layered color on top to finish the composition. Jason Clark's (aka JAS) work shows thick outlines of figures in a field of green, taking down iron fences. Cory Oberndorfer's selection is of a graphic monochromatic composition of the cathedral-like ceilings of a Metro station, in neutral yellows.

Each window is distinct and reflects the style of the individual artist, with much of the imagery drawn from the neighborhood or the city itself. One of the windows was painted by 3rd and 4th grade students from the New Community of Children's after school program. This window is fun and playful. It shows a street scape taken from the neighborhood highlighting some of its landmarks, along with intersections and the Shaw Metro stop. Located right outside of the Convention Center Metro stop, it is a good ambassador to the project.


















The painted windows are a pleasant surprise and add color and a vibrancy to areas directly outside of the Convention Center that can often feel desolate when there is little foot traffic. But because of the reflective nature of glass, it is often hard to view the selections in their entirety. None of the artisits seem to take this into account, and instead present a glass painting as one would view artwork on the wall of a gallery. The reflections can be distracting, and depending on the time of day and angle of light, can obscure a good portion of the pieces.

Under the passageway between 7th and 9th Street, artists were given a window display case to paint or hang their work. Here is where the medium diversifies and traditional painting, photography, and mixed media is showcased. The majority of work on display here has the luxury of appropriate gallery lighting, which in combination with the shelter of the passage way provides for easier viewing.

Photographer Colin Winterbottom filled his case with various black and white photographs taken from unusual and hard to get to points within the District. One such image is of a strong geometric piece from when the Convention Center was being constructed.

Michael Dax Iacovone also presents new work in an installation of his four-month-long journey throughout the District. Each walk Iacovone took is plotted on a map with either red or blue yarn. A large build up of red yarn almost dissects the map in half.

Windows into DC is a self guided exhibit and is on display 24 hours a day until March 2010. An informational brochure is available in the main lobby of the Convention Center.

Windows into DC @ Washington Convention Center