Billy Friebele in Washington Post

Sometimes, it’s hard to discern how a piece of art was made. For example, the abstract circular drawings in “Current Recorder,” Billy Friebele’s show at Hamil­tonian Gallery. Why are their spindly lines punctuated by round blotches of color? The answer is close at hand: The device that created the drawings sits in the center of the gallery. Constructed from found objects, which include the shopping cart that supports it, the recorder is a wind- or fan-powered automatic art-making machine. Multi-colored Sharpie pens dangle from the rotating device, sketching circles on paper when they’re in motion and allowing ink to seep into the paper when they’re not. Friebele writes that the work “gives visibility to flux and ephemerality,” invoking a very loose translation of a line from Heraclitus, the pre-Socratic philosopher. But the drawings are also lovely on their own terms, and the recorder is a nifty repurposing of urban detritus. Where Heraclitus extolled the universe’s randomness, “Current Recorder” makes the case for a little human intervention.

Washington’s best art gallery shows of 2012

Using photographs and video, this local artist focused on windows, skylights and peepholes. Exhibited in a darkened room and illuminated by pinpoint spotlights, her small, glossy photos showed luminous details from such notable structures as Rembrandt’s house and the Great Wall of China. These were supplemented by two video-performance pieces that depicted people inside small areas of light, offering mini-narratives of entrapment and potential escape. features Matthew Mann

Matthew Mann was born in Kansas City, Missouri and lives and works in Washington, D.C. He received his MFA from American University in 2002. Recent exhibitions include “Good and Dead” at Penn State Harrisburg, “Four Ring Circus” at Gross McCleaf Gallery in Philadelphia, and “The Cinecitta Chapel” at Flashpoint Gallery in Washington DC.  Mann is currently a Fellow at Hamiltonian Artists.

Artist’s Statement:

“Fiction, myth, and contradiction within the history of images and image making is most relevant to the paintings that I make. I want to amplify the illogical in images and exploit their shifting meanings and contexts. My paintings have always been concerned with the intersection of pictorial strategies and visual perception, and the process of borrowing and antagonizing the logic of images -from filmic techniques, to cartoons, to painting- is a way to inhabit the mediation of visual experience and muddle pictorial hierarchies. My theory goes that, by this method I can delay linearity enough to open a pathway between viewers and the paintings, enabling them to imagine within the paintings rather than be prescribed meaning and concepts.”—Matthew Mann

Heritage Aesthetic gets Editor's Pick in Washington Post

Friday, September 21, 2012

Amy Boone-McCreesh’s appreciation of art’s material nature was on view in “The Sum of the Parts,” a fine group exhibition that the Baltimore artist curated earlier this year at Maryland Art Place. That appreciation should show even more when the artist’s solo show “Heritage Aesthetic” opens at Hamiltonian Gallery.

The exhibition of cut-paper, fabric and found-object sculpture showcases Boone-McCreesh’s interest in aesthetic globalism, drawing from influences as diverse as Native American tribal ornamentation and Middle Eastern decorative motifs.

Boone McCreesh’s exhibition opens Saturday with a reception from 7 to 9 p.m.

new. (now). 2012 featured in Washington Post

The latest crop of young artists selected for the Hamiltonian Gallery’s annual fellowships introduce themselves with “new. (now).” — a show whose title resists being used in a conventionally punctuated sentence. The six participants, all recent MFAs, offer videos, collages, photographs and a fake historical marker denoting where a guy lost his virginity. Did I mention these artists are young?

[royalslider id="2"]

The tyranny of fashion is one theme: Milana Braslavsky photographs women with handbags over their heads, and Annette Isham shoots the travels of one amazonian in absurdly towering platform shoes. Process is also big: Billy Friebele makes video-derived “drawings” of paths walked through cities, while Jerry Truong shows both a large abstract patterned pencil drawing and a video of an artist (presumably him, and apparently naked) who’s executing such a drawing. And then there’s Timothy Thompson, the historical-marker parodist. He also contributed “Twist to Open,” a cast-iron twist-top manhole cover. It’s silly, but likably so.

(an excerpt from

Open Lab Magazine interviews Amy Boone-McCreesh

You state that you take inspiration from multi-cultural funerary celebrations. What are your favorite funerary traditions? I am more interested in the Aesthetics and the visual aspects of the celebrations than the traditions themselves. In our own Western culture I really enjoy looking at floral funerary arrangements, things like wreaths and other forms made entirely from flowers or ribbon. I have also spent a lot of time looking at Mexican traditions such as The Day of the Dead and Mexican Altar pieces. Altar pieces in general, past and present, are really interesting to me. I like the idea that these often ornate and very beautiful objects are made to serve a purpose beyond that of art. I pull from celebrations beyond just funerary, the main draw for me is the idea of non-artists creating extremely impressive and beautiful work for a reason that is larger than them. It feels very sincere to me and I believe that human beings have an innate desire to “decorate” as a means of serving all different life functions. Whether it is meant to commemorate, to show social hierarchy etc. I also believe this is why Design exists. I am currently looking at African and American Indian dress, Chinese New Year, and decorations for all holidays. A lot of these things stem from long-standing traditions that adapt or change over time to suit our contemporary lives. I am now adapting them for a contemporary art context.

How did you get involved in such tactile materials for your sculptures?

Throughout my Undergraduate years I was always simultaneously working on 2-D and 3-D at the same time. I didn’t feel an affinity for non-malleable materials such as wood or metal and was also looking at a lot of female artists working in the 1960’s-80’s. I started working with a lot of fabric and non-art materials because they felt more organic and allowed for connections back to my drawings and paintings. Most of the fabric I use is second-hand because I like that it already has a human history and the found objects and other materials are usually collected from thrift stores or other people for the same reason. The transformative abilities of unconventional materials are more appealing to me in that it allows for some mystery, yet still acts as an opening for viewers because often times these materials are accessible and recognizable.

What comes first - the drawings or the sculptures, or is the answer to this question just as ambiguous as the chicken and the egg?

I think drawing probably came first because as a younger person drawing materials are more readily available but as soon as I went to art school and started working with my hands, I felt that it satisfied me in a different way. Currently, I am always working on both, back and forth. They inform each other in ways that are deliberate but also sometimes surprising. I will sometimes draw sculptural forms that I have made or I find repetitive acts of mark making creeping into my 3-D processes. Now that I have started to work more towards installation, the idea of a grander composition is starting to take place where these lines are blurred all together.

Could you tell us a little bit about the thought process behind “Into the Void” and “Solitary Circle of Nothing?”

Both of these pieces were done at different times but served similar purposes. I think artists sometimes feel the need to return to the basics or reign in their vocabulary as a means of keeping everything in check. This is my way of returning to a simpler form and reducing the visual static that can sometimes get very busy. My work usually reaches a point where it is on the verge of being very maximal or too celebratory, which I sometimes worry could be viewed as becoming too superficial. I think there is a misconception that if work is too pretty or too happy it has less artistic value, and that sometimes infiltrates my work. I usually straddle the line between going over the top and trying to contain the work, these are both examples of pulling back to contain the work. By throwing out color and choosing to use grey and black, it allows me to shift my focus to things like form and texture. Even though I arrived at these pieces through a sort of self-imposed exercise they still act in a very similar way as other more colorful pieces. When installing these pieces with the rest of my work, they can act either as focal points, neutrals, or visual resting points, depending on the context. They also satisfy a desire to explore the darker side of decoration and ritual.

What are your thoughts on the ritualistic aspects of funerary traditions?

For me, the rituals themselves hold less value than the fact that a group of human beings have come together in one accord and expressed a need to satisfy something in a visual way. I am in awe of the capacity humans have for creation and why we feel the need to do it to mark important moments in a life, culture, and the world in general. Ceremonies and rituals, both happy and commemorative, tend to hold the most visual impact and that is why I think I always return to them as a resource.

Do these thoughts on ritual have any impact on your practices of research and art-making?

I think there are undeniable rituals that I, and probably many other artists, have within our studio practice. I don’t actively perform any kind of rituals that are essential to my work but the overall acknowledgement of tradition is present. I think in research I try to reference other cultures in a respectful way that is celebratory and praises the visual and aesthetic side of a culture without becoming too political and omitting commentary on any specific religion, geographic location, etc. The use second-hand fabrics and found objects that are somewhat recognizable makes the work more accessible to the very people that I am taking inspiration from. It would seem unfair to me if I were to create very esoteric and exclusive work, considering that I am drawing from non-art places. I want to celebrate what humans are capable of producing. I would like my work to become its own culture or its own world that celebrates a wide variety of human creation past and present.

What upcoming projects and shows do we have to look forward to?

I was recently named a Hamiltonian Fellow at the Hamiltonian Gallery in Washington DC. In August there will be an exhibit introducing all of the new fellows and following this will be a focus show, where I will have the opportunity to exhibit a new body of work. I am very excited about what the next step will be for my work and my career. I am also doing a storefront window installation for Station North Arts District in Baltimore, organized by MICA to celebrate their 10 year anniversary. The displays will go up in late August and early September and my installation will be in the windows of Pearson’s Florist on North Avenue.

Sarah Knobel Reviews Tropical Obstructions, Joshua Wade Smith's exhibition

Walking through Joshua Wade Smith’s, Tropical Obsructions, seems like it would be similar towalking into Smith's studio. One will see an array of home-made objects like walking sticks, a nerf bat, colored rocks tied onto concrete slabs with bungee cords and drawings that have a similar feel as da Vinci's invention drawings.

The gallery space is small, however, Smith intentionally fills it with various objects and sculptures. These objects are all residues of Smith's performances that are done alone in his studio. The performances focus on the obsession of creating and arranging mundane objects but more so they mirror society's obsession with the athletic sport competition and the heroic defeat of the adventurer's sport. In his new work, Smith deals directly with image accessibility in the digital age. He questions the idea of the sublime through images of bodies of water, sunsets, and beach horizons. Smith uses multiple methods to analyze such concepts.

The most obvious and well established is the sculpture, Dusk to Dawn. This sculpture is a table and a 360-degree ladder that allows him to physically traverse an image of a horizon. To be a part of the work one must be able to demonstrate the strength to climb around it. Although it seems like an absurd task, it references the actions we take on our elliptical, simulated rock climbing, or our stationary bikes. When I look at this piece, I can't help but to parallel it to the commercials I see for the new Le Tour de France indoor cycle that that allows it's user to experience mimicked terrain and imagery of this famous race.

Using materials that are easily attainable, he arranges them to mimic the forms found in his digital images of the sunset, the beach horizon, the distant island and floating devices on water. This revelation is not always immediate, the more time spent with this work the more I see and understand how Smith is imitating these idyllic landscapes. As an example, Smith uses a piece of concrete slab from a construction site that holds up temporary fences. When this slab is put on it's side the holes begin to reference observation binoculars that if one looks through their vision becomes isolated. What you can see is what seems to be an island landscape created by walking canes and the objects in the distance.

My favorite piece is Itinerate, a sculpture made out of a small suitcase that holds a plexi- mounted scene of a beach horizon. Inside this imagery shapes are physically cut out to reveal soft velvet interior. On the ground we see these objects; concrete replicas that one may see while on the shore, such as seashells. It becomes clear that this case is for preserving these replicated objects. The title, Itinerate, refers to a professional duty of a preacher or a sales person whose task it is to travel from place to place. Smith has created a kit for reaching the sublime, as if it is almost necessary to have this product with you to obtain this experience that we want to consume through the imagery.

What is striking about Smith's work is the duality of the home-made and the cold-slick surface that is present in all of his new work. This quality makes the viewer grasp that these are objects that we see and use in our regular routines that we tend to purchase not create. Overall, there is an abundant amount of content in Smith's work. I highly suggest people to not only go to this show, but also spend time with it. The more you explore, the more you will find.

Ryan Hoover reviews Jenny Mullins' latest series, "Gold for the Price of Silver"

With her new series of paintings entitled “Gold for the Price of Silver,” Jenny Mullins explores the beauty and decay of the comfortable American life. In Stag, the namesake lies on the ground pierced with parking reflectors as arrows, his stomach torn open spilling a cornucopia of flowers and detritus. Empty Chinese takeout boxes, a banana peel, that old Nokia phone you have in a drawer somewhere, and an empty can of organic soda (avoiding the obvious CocaCola), and a dead rat, all mingle with a cascade of air fresheners, peonies, and lilies. Whether real or fake, the flowers are rendered beautifully- as is the spilling trash. Terror and disgust are handled so deftly by Mullins, that our experience of them here is actually quite lovely. This is not a shortcoming. It is, in some ways, a more accurate representation of her subject. Moreover, this subtle treatment is what saves the work from being the standard didactic indictment of the privileged gallery goer. With such work, the viewer is typically repelled, or at best (or worse?), taken for a brief cathartic moment of “caring.” Here we are not just given those clichés. The images linger with you, not because they are abject, but because they are beautiful; we want to spend time with them, and will invite those images back to our mind to consider them further.

Most unsettling in the image is the stag’s expression. It is one of suffering, but there is also a trace of shame. Though violent, at least there is some dignity in being killed by a wolf, as in the Antoine-Louis Barye sculpture referenced here. This death by suburbia is embarrassing.

We are again confronted with animals in Royal Pine and Morning Fresh, each a portrait of a wolf with titles taken from the air freshener hanging from each of their necks. Hung on opposing walls, one wolf ferociously bears his teeth, the other lays placidly, seemingly content with domesticated life. The wolves are objects of our consideration and perhaps victims of our lifestyle, but they are also characters that we may project ourselves into. There is an easy disdain for the demure animal, and we can instead fantasize for a moment that we are instead that strong, snarling wolf - sincere and pine fresh.



Folds and Trembling: a review of Sarah Knobel’s Recover

Self-identity, the ways in which it is arrived at, its anxieties and the navigation of the social pressures exacted upon women are key subjects of Sarah Knobel’s show Recover. The work charts this internal investigation through the documentation and reimagining of the act of folding 999 paper cranes through video, animation, photography, and installation. Traditionally, 1000 cranes are made by a bride and groom to signify their commitment and patience through the repetitive folding. By making one less, Knobel undermines the commitment to the endeavor and thus questions the relevance and implications of self-actualization through appropriated strategies of self-discovery in an intensely mediated culture.  

The success of Recover can be attributed to Knobel’s impeccable craft as well as the associative freedom that she grants the viewer. For instance, Knobel pairs the folding of paper cranes with the self-portrait, an in doing so creates a narrative about how the two are vehicles for self-actualization. The delicate color scheme of her video pieces and the fragility of the origami paper feminize Recover without forsaking the universality of the show’s line of inquiry.


Knobel uses cuteness, with its connotations of femininity, helplessness, and overall aesthetic indeterminacy, as a pique. This is best exemplified in The Falling Cranes, a video triptych that features a shimmering record player with a pink aura in the center monitor, superimposed hands feverishly making paper cranes on the left monitor, and the awkward stop-motion flight of the paper cranes on the right. Despite its initial appearance, the record player darkens the mood of the piece through visual incongruities. On a continuous loop, the record rotates in alternating directions, and its menacing command to “begin” initiates the action in the flanking panels.[4]  As a result questions of completeness and purpose emerge. These quandaries are especially poignant given that the practice of folding origami is customarily used as a meditative activity as a means to achieve enlightenment through “doing”. This can also be read as a broader indictment of the notion of gaining personal enlightenment through any equally insular activity. The disembodied voice and hands also call the artist and viewer’s location into question despite indications of an interior domestic space.


The theme of location and self-identification is also addressed in the ensemble of three photographs from a series called Cover. [5] The photographs show bust length self-portraits that conceal portions of the human figure behind fragments of origami paper. In one photograph -a back view- the Knobel is covered in paper, revealing only her upper arms and hair. In another, the background and figure are covered in a sea of patterns, leaving only the faintest outline of the Knobel’s profile visible. For an artist who frequently uses herself as the main subject in her artwork, this is a major shift. This erasure of the self deepens the work and shifts the conversation in an interesting new direction, directly addressing notions of identity and personhood. By masking herself through the paper covering, Knobel separates herself from the work and allows the viewer to take her place. That said, Knobel has painted colored shapes into the bed of patterns, in a way re-announcing herself in the quietest way possible. The photographic suite is complemented by a video piece in which origami fragments gradually overtake the artists body. Disparate pieces of patterned origami paper begin to creep up the length of Knobel’s body from her feet to her head, and once completely covered, she is enveloped by a pastel violet and pink halo- a visual that implies that the artist’s enlightenment is achieved when she (and, perhaps more broadly, the “self”) disappears completely.


The biggest surprise in Recover is the installation Unfolded, a knee-high plinth illuminated by pink and yellow fluorescent lights. On top of this structure sits a stack of all 999 unfolded pieces of origami paper with their creases still visible. These are the remnants of Knobel’s animated cranes from the Flying Cranes video that Sarah painstakingly made. By placing these relics on an illuminated plinth, the paper is transformed into a relic; the only physical remnant from the project. These pieces of paper thus serve as an intermediary between the tangible world and the world that Knobel created in Recover. Just as the word “recover” suggests concealment (to cover again) and rediscovery.





Jenny Mullins and Sarah Knobel get Editors' Pick in Washington Post's Going Out Guide

Poetic artworks can get under your skinBy Michael O'Sullivan Friday, April 6, 2012

Hamiltonian Gallery's latest exhibition, a tightly focused spotlight on up-and-comers Jenny Mullins and Sarah Knobel, is all about surface. But it's what lies beneath that's more interesting in this thoughtful pairing.

Knobel explores the idea of superficiality in "Recover," which includes a group of photos, video animations and an installation. The punning title alludes both to self-help and the notion of a second skin, in images that show the artist's body, both bare and covered with tiny scraps of paper.

The scraps come from origami cranes, which in Japanese culture symbolize hope for the future. The ritual of folding 1,000 paper cranes - which Knobel has almost literally done - is a kind of performance art as well as a kind of prayer.

My absolute favorite piece of hers, therefore, is simultaneously the simplest and the most profound. Called "Unfolded," it's an installation of 999 scraps of paper - exactly one less than the requisite 1,000 - that have been folded into cranes and then carefully unfolded. Stacked in five neat piles in one corner of the gallery, they're a potent metaphor for a wish that has come tantalizingly close to fulfillment but has been deliberately left undone. They represent the trappings - and the pitfalls - of spirituality without spirit.

Mullins's approach is more traditional but no less poetic. A talented draftsman, she renders nature - a stag, two wolves and several flowers - in a series of meticulous pencil drawings that contrast her subjects' outward beauty with a disturbing sense of decay. "Royal Pine" and "Morning Fresh," for instance, feature pictures of wolves - the kind you see on hipster T-shirts - on which the artist has hung real car air fresheners, like dog tags. Also, flies have landed on the wolves' haunches, just as they have on Mullins's flowers.

In the flower pictures, the flies are also studded with real rhinestones, to garish (and probably unnecessary) effect.

There's an element of vanitas symbolism in Mullins's show, which is called "Gold for the Price of Silver" and which the artist has described as a critique of American consumerism and excess. That old art-historical trick - seen most often in still lifes of the 16th and 17th centuries - uses pictures of live flowers and the bounty of the harvest to hint at their opposites: death and scarcity.

It's essentially the same trick that monologuist Mike Daisey used in his theatrical show "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs." In that show, which returns to Woolly Mammoth this summer for a brief remounting, Daisey contrasted our love for Apple's gorgeous devices with thoughts about how they're made.

Mullins's work never feels didactic or scolding. There's no tone of schoolmarmish superiority here. If she wants us to contemplate the rot that hides behind the beautiful things we crave, it's only because she craves them, too.

By Michael O'Sullivan Friday, April 6, 2012The centerpiece of Jenny Mullins's "Gold for the Price of Silver" - the title comes from what she calls a "repurposed" Kings of Convenience song - is a large drawing of a wounded stag whose guts have spilled out to reveal a cascade of items. Trash, carryout containers and a cellphone commingle with an eruption of colorful flowers.The details, which are beautifully rendered, come from sculptures of stags by the 19th-century French artist Antoine-Louis Barye, who is famous for his bronze animals in torment. Ten arrowlike reflective traffic markers stick out of the animal's flesh, turning him into a kind of furry martyr.

The message is powerful but hard to put into words. Does the stag represent the tortured artist? Society? Despoiled nature? An ideal of beauty?

Mullins's visual associations don't have a one-to-one correspondence. She works intuitively, teasing multiple meanings out of a thicket of signifiers. The piece is both tragic and kind of funny.

The contradictions are deliberate. Mullins, who found most of the contents of the stag's intestines lying on her studio floor, is simultaneously aware of the environmental impact of her actions and powerless to stop it. "I drive an SUV," she says, "because I can't afford a Prius."

Washington Post Reviews Joyce Yu-Jean Lee's Show "Passages"

Most of the “Travelogue” photographs in Joyce Yu-Jean Lee’s “Passages” were also made in Europe, but the shots feature neither open spaces nor abundant light. Exhibited in a dark, curtained room at Hamiltonian Gallery, and illuminated by pinpoint spotlights, the small glossy images focus on windows, skylights and peepholes. The pictures are sometimes art- or architecture-historical, featuring details of such buildings as Rembrandt’s house in Amsterdam or the Daniel Libeskind-designed Jewish Museum in Berlin. When Lee photographs the Great Wall of China (her one non-European subject), she presents a tightly circumscribed view, not the usual attempt to represent the structure’s vastness. Although some of the structures she photographs are one of a kind, Lee strips them to basic elements: shape, opening, light. The result is ominous yet enticing. The tight apertures suggest both entrapment and escape, much as they balance darkness and light. These are postcards from some sort of edge.

The contrast is apparently one of Lee’s concerns. Behind another curtain are two video/performance pieces, “Last Light” and “First Light.” In the former, projected on two walls, a man and a woman react differently when a block of light appears and then expands, crowding them. It’s less compelling than “First Light,” which is projected on the floor. In this seven-minute loop, a woman is contained inside a circle of light. She looks up, as if trapped in a hole, searching for a way out. It’s an elementary mime exercise, but the downward perspective makes the sequence unusually powerful. Will the woman escape? Is the circle of light a prison window or an escape hatch? Unlike most video-art pieces, “First Light” packs sufficient drama to make such questions interesting.

Joshua Smith Reviews Passages Exhibit

On ‘Passages’Passing, passing through, in a passage----the idea of transit and the seclusion and abstraction of moments begin when one passes through a simple grey curtain in Joyce Yu Jean Lee’s new exhibition of photography and video. The installation of the barrier might serve two purposes:  one to seclude the work from the well-lit walls of the gallery’s traditional white cube; the other to transport the viewer into a more traditionally Cinematic space.

The work included in the exhibition features six face-mounted photographs culled from Joyce Yu Jean Lee’s travels abroad throughout Europe and Asia, as well as two more recent videos, all from 2012. The videos incorporate the gallery’s structure as illuminated surfaces, projecting into corners and onto floors, while continuing to explore painterly compositions of isolated figures juxtaposed to ambiguous, or neutral, spaces.

Her Spartan presentation reveals Lee, a multi-media artist at a crossroads in her work, as she continues to find her footing in contemporary picture making.  The challenge was compounded by a Spring and Summer abroad on a travel grant, first on a Grand Tour of Europe, and then to China where she was immersed in a cultural/creative field that bore little similarity to the structures of exchange dominant here in the States. For much of last year, Lee was in transit, passing through unfamiliar spaces, perpetually shifting between known subjects and uncanny contexts.

While her last solo show drew upon her time at a residency in Western Nevada, any reference to the open spaces of America’s West have been judiciously removed. Its warm palette and allusions to landscape and still-life genres are also gone.  Lee has literally cleared the gallery of light, leaving her works lit with dim, highly focused spots that trick the eye into thinking the works are back lit by some extremely slick LCD display. The cool ambiance of the projected works is decidedly urban and continues this dialogue with “pure” image. The “pure” image is one that exists without context, that both simultaneously points to the space where it is installed and yet has no sense of being anchored to that place.  If most of the images reference Renaissance light, upon which her previous work so much relied, here, have dimmed images, the effect of turning the lights out has sequestered her audience in an austere, cinematic chiaroscuro.

All of this questioning of place seems to bridge her Modern concerns for an over-arching structure within an image with the pictorial traditions of her Fine Arts training.  Gone now are the romantic flourishes of the painterly hand of the masterpiece.  The precise brushwork is now replaced by the dizzy focus of her point and shoot camera.  Like her previous solo show at Hamiltonian, the back space of the gallery containing her video work seems at first incongruent with the work just inside the curtain, but closer inspection reveals a shared interest in manipulating the audience’s understanding of the viewing experience. The videos focus on two different tactics for representing space and the figure in relationship to an abstract image, framed as it is by the viewer’s gaze, but the photographic images retain a more complex point of view, one not entirely resolved but still worth looking through.

First Light features another beam of light, a portal that structures the artist’s movements within the ovoid frame, an expanding and contracting white iris projected onto the floor of the gallery. Part of the video features a pair of feet stepping into the image.  They start off uncertainly, testing the solidity of the ground below, maneuvering in very tight quarters, the whole figure is revealed within the video to be the artist herself acknowledging the medium, testing the portal created by a cone of illumination from the digital projector above. In this work the artist is shown climbing out of the image into a dematerialized space, either into the gallery, or more likely, the digital context of video.

This sense of restrained figures in an abstract architectural space is expanded in Last Light, where two figures observe a multi-colored rectangular plane that itself inhabits the corner of the gallery. The audience is made aware of the format of the framing device and its dialogue with the conventions of cinema.  The traditional letter box of cinema-scope film and the scale of video pushes the audience’s backs to the wall, always with the desire to get a comfortable view of the whole image.

The video features two figures, a male and a female, who observe a rectangular colored light expanding and contracting in the corner.  The narrative tension is illustrated by the exaggerated expressions of the actors, both in black against a black background.  The shifting monochrome form glows and grows into the space of the actors, pushing them back to the edges of the frame.  We are reminded of our own conventions of viewing, our backs against the wall in anticipation of the cinematic journey, but we remain stuck as the film loops and continue to watch. Joyce Yu Jean Lee is featured in her video projected onto the floor called First Light.  While the artist in First Light is given a way out, we are not so lucky.  We can either leave the space or spend an eternity watching ourselves watching others, or turn our heads aside to see others watching, commenting on, or chatting  inside’ of the work. We are given the chance to peek in at others enraptured by the glowing light, flashing color, and hint of recognition of vicariously seeing ourselves up there on the screen. This social aspect of viewing art is centered on the pointing to the corner of Last Light, the modernist trope of acknowledging the architecture to acknowledge the subjects that inhabit that space. The total frame of the work is not the image but the space the image occupies, which subsumes the audience.

The true differences in these actual places is neutralized, not commented upon, by the compositional devices, but the series as a whole borrows the genre of travel photography and early Modernist cinema to make beautiful croppings of much larger, historically significant places. The defining structure of these image distills the place, filtering out the noise, odors, and irregularities of (art) travel, a verisimilitude of Lee’s life, and provides visual landmarks in a ceaseless stream of names, images, and places one encounters outside of the gallery. Where this leaves the viewer remains undefined, lulled as we are by their seductive beauty.  Where this leaves the artist is a more interesting concern as she navigates the structure of the image to leave clues to enter and extract ourselves from the artist’s frame of reference.

The show runs until March 10th.

Ryan Hoover in Urbanite

Ryan Hoover moved to Baltimore nine years ago to earn an MFA from Maryland Institute College of Art. Previously, he earned a BFA from the University of North Carolina at Asheville, where he completed a dual major in philosophy and fine art (sculpture). He currently resides in Lauraville with his wife, the artist Lillian Bayley Hoover. Hoover notes Baltimore's thriving artistic community and his job at MICA as benefits of his life here, while “as a fellow at Hamiltonian Gallery in D.C., I've also gotten to know and appreciate the D.C. art community over the past couple of years, and I think there is a growing connection between the artists in these two cities.” According to the artist, “My artistic practice focuses upon the development of technology and its effect on the individual and society. I use my work not to simply comment on this topic, but also to actively explore these issues. As a philosophy student, I was first drawn to making sculpture because it offered so many new tools for testing ideas. To large extent I still use art to explore and better understand the world, through a process of research, making, sharing, and dialogue. Though trained in more traditional craft techniques, particularly woodworking, my work typically incorporates digital media through electronics, embedded web technologies, and computer-aided machining. Interweaving these multiple processes keeps me from being too seduced by the mode-thinking inherent to any one discipline. It also helps me to create works that I hope others will find intriguing and substantive enough to bring them to new considerations of the world around them.”

The Studio Visit: UMD

Open Studio

University of Maryland College Park, MD | by Isabel Manalo

May 29, 2010

This past May I had the pleasure of making the trip up to see the studios of six MFA candidates at the University of Maryland, College Park. Accompanied by Champneys Taylor, TSV’s video editor, we were able to peruse through the studios of these six talented graduate students as well as take in the thesis show of the 3rd year students (three out of the six).

The Art Department is housed on the south side of the expansive big-ten university campus in a fairly non-descript large red brick building that seemed to be designed from the 1970′s.

We were greeted by Jonathan Monaghan, a second year candidate whose work is already being shown at the Hamiltonian Gallery in Washington D.C. and has won a number of awards. He led us through the cavernous building pointing to various art rooms and venues along the way. We passed through a gigantic set of doors and entered into the studio area.

Jonathan Monaghan His studio is a pristine minimalist white akin to the sort one would find in a Margaret Atwood or Franz Kafka novel where there is something not entirely comforting. Impressive nonetheless, his work is inspired by things that are Gothic, Medieval, Baroque and Christian. His medium of choice is the virtual 3D world of commercial CGI (computer generated image) software. He calls his work a celebration of “Pixar and Jesus, the Virgin Mary and artificial insemination, operating tables and sacrificial altars and mythical creatures and genetic engineering….”. These images manifest into prints and computer fabricated sculpture that are slick, sexy and seamlessly put together.

Selin Balci Selin has a background in microbiology. She worked in research labs that were focused on pathogen biology. It is not surprising that her work as a first year MFA candidate is addressing microbial growth as a form of portraiture. Along her walls hang petri dishes with various stages of mold growths. “Different microbes from each person showed the uniqueness of that person’s personal history and environment. Microbial growth on each Petri dish changed from day to day, as does each person.” She’s also interested in political and economic hegemony. On her computer screen she showed us various microbes growing on the map of the world. The industrialized nations enjoyed the most growth while the lesser-industrialized ones did not. “I chose more aggressive isolates for the developed countries to reflect the current political characteristics.” The forms are beautiful and viscerally uncomfortable at the same time. I was glad they were covered.

Sarah Laing Sarah is a 3rd year candidate. We visited her studio first and then her show in the student gallery. Her work is drawing based. She’s interested in the metaphoric process of drawing through the meditative process of repetition. They may start out randomly and the marks do look like they’ve been done by someone in a trance-like state, but what comes forth are forms that make direct and specific reference to the landscape. In this case, Scotland, where she is from. “I make work about understanding my relationship to my surrounding landscape, and the butterfly effect of global events that inevitably affect my personal sphere…. I find drawing and tracing a means to filter outside information and represent shared experience.” Using mylar as her paper of choice “adds to the antithetical nature of the work: ethereal, yet synthetic.”

Joe Hoffman Joe’s sound installation is a collection of numerous found speakers connected by even more wires that all connect to a large archaic brown box on the floor. It resembled an inelegant sea creature as seen from far away and then resolved into a more intimate and rewarding experience once up close to the actual piece. Each speaker was emitting whispering voices of varying degrees. “I use sound to create fragmented distortions of familiar experiences. Found and invented sounds are composed within reassembled speaker systems.” His post-modernist approach is evident in each and every one of the appropriated tweeters and woofers that are often damaged. “As schizophrenic voices scatter around the structure each speaker trembles while taking on the character of the noise they produce. What was once familiar has been reshaped allowing for new relationships and perspectives to be formed.”

Jack Henry At first glance, his sculptures could be described as kitschy in its amalgamation of detritus, random objects and other discarded material. But as they coagulate into the totemic arboreal forms he creates, they resolve into a much more monolithic and lucid concept. He states, “Each object is reinterpreted and presented as an artifact or a natural history museum model of something pulled from the contemporary landscape.” By building something up and monumental, he seems to give honor and reverence to a decaying environment and all it temporarily holds.

Tim Horjus As with many artists who make hard edge paintings, Tim’s studio was not just made up of collections of paint, but the used masking tape from making those hard edges. This time, the tape pile was growing in a corner like a green amoeba. Using latex house paint, his large-scale paintings are divided into geometric shapes and sometimes pattern that spatially go in and out. He talked extensively about his inspiration and reference to the history of western painting and the influence formalism has on his work. Color certainly defines the space and how one maneuvers through the canvas. The experience is mesmerizing and the illusion of form and space clearly comes forth. This notion is further emphasized in one painting that evolves from the two-dimensional plane into a three dimensional sculptural growth (like the tape amoeba in his studio) where it thus distills line, shape and color into pure physical form. It is what it is.

Magnolia Laurie Featured on The Studio Visit

Magnolia9In 2010, Magnolia Laurie’s career had her frequenting Washington D.C., among other cities. It was then she was a fellow with Hamiltonian Artists and also when I first met her. A few months before, I had seen images of Laurie’s work online. I was impressed by her artist statement, which articulated a content with broader-than-average concerns. It seemed that the intended questions in her work venture outward to become ‘big’ philosophical ones about the purpose and purposelessness of life, which are imagined from outside the point of view of our species’ survival. Hence, at the Hamiltonian Gallery during an artist talk, I introduced myself to the artist and the two of us had a quick chat. A few months later, I was pleased that she accepted my offer to visit her studio in the Woodberry area of Baltimore.Magnolia Laurie is a painter who works in a variety of mediums that include installation, drawing and sculpture. She currently lives in the Baltimore neighborhood of Hampden, and teaches drawing and painting at Maryland Institute College of Art and American University. Laurie’s professional programming has been hearty to say the least. Concurrent to her continual participation inMagnolia1 fellowships and residencies, Laurie’s work was included in selected group exhibitions at New York University and Maryland Art Place. During that time she also had her first two solo shows in Brooklyn, NY, at DRWR Gallery and Causey Contemporary. As a result, two of her paintings are now part of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art’spermanent collection in Kansas City, MO. After meeting at the Baltimore Penn Station on a Monday afternoon, following the conclusion of one of Laurie’s morning classes, we went straight to the studio. Emerging from a road flanked by industrial warehouses on each side, our car entered a wide clearing with trees in the distance and nobody in sight. The studio location was filled with the kind of seclusion and quiet that’s often rewarding for studio practice. Once indoors we entered a large room that had piles of Laurie’s paintings all overMagnolia5 the place –sixteen on one wall alone. Small works were wrapped in bubble and stacked in boxes. Stacks of larger paintings sat up against the wall with one or two lying on the floor to dry. Views of other buildings came in one window; and views of trees came in through another. Against the wall sat a reclining chair with piles of books surrounding it. We both proceeded to pace around the room. Laurie talked about her process and work rhythm, taking cues from paintings on the wall that were facing us, many of them still in progress. A bit later, we both sat down to discuss the places she’s lived, the content in her work, and that which informs it.In addition to her relatively nomadic experience in the US, moving from city to city, the artist has lived in several other countries. Much of the thought put into her work’s content is sparked by her experiences abroad. During a visit to Italy, she was reacquainted with a cultural sense that she said she hadn’t felt since her time growing up in Puerto Rico. She referred to this sense as ‘a casualness with history’. Things like a walking tour on top of the centuries-old cathedral roof, or the sight of a city dweller’s small shack touching the back of an ancient amphitheater, were some of her examples.Laurie noted while living in Zurich, the distinct  and often socially minded intentionality that permeates the way things are designed there. ”It is so contrary to what we’ve been accustomed to in the United States, in terms of safety guidelines, codes and precautions,” she says. A parallel influence came to Laurie during a more recent stint in Turkey, when she saw temporary, makeshift structures that people had assembled out of recycled materials and various scraps. Laurie’s Magnolia3imagery includes environments–sometimes arctic, sometimes desert, and structures which, in the paintings, occasionally appear to be wrapped in coded flags (at times the same ones historically used by ships in distress). They convincingly stem from her perspective on the environment and cyclical nature of our habitat. These representations are imbued with a sense of impermanence.During the visit, I mentioned to Laurie what I am most taken with. Her paintings appear to be quite aware of dialogue occurring in contemporary art, yet at the same time detached from our own times with an existentialist mood. I was most impressed with her compositions that mesh together abstraction (marks “for marks’ sake”) with marks that represent Magnolia4concrete symbols or rudimentary forms/objects. Each work seems to be a different image, a different moment, despite the fact that she starts and builds up numerous pieces simultaneously. They are demonstrative of a well developed sensitivity to painting.She also reads a lot, and creates titles for her works that are starkly poetic. In answer to the question of what she is most content with at this point, she said she was happy that pieces of her work could have themselves singled out by a curator for museum acquisition. After all, and due to her continuing practice of balancing teaching with artist production and networking, I am confident there is much more to look forward to, by way of Laurie’s poignant