Adam Ryder reviews Naoko Wowsugi in phtograph magazine

WOWSUGIINSTALL I first encountered the photographs of Naoko Wowsugi in Washington, D.C.’s Hamiltonian Gallery early this fall. (Full disclosure, we were both included in a group show, new. now.) The work, Thank You For Teaching Me English, is bright, even loud – not unlike Wowsugi herself. Born to Korean parents in Japan, Wowsugi emigrated here to study at the Kansas City Art Institute and went on to earn her MFA in photography at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2011. Wowsugi admits freely that her English is not as perfect as she might like and has tackled the process of mastering it head-on with her newest series. Thank You For Teaching Me English depicts members of the artist’s social circle who have taught her memorable words, photographed while speaking these words aloud to the camera. While this work is well conceived and executed, it is also surprisingly funny. The humor in these images stems most of all from the confluence of Wowsugi’s visual language and installational decisions played against the expressions of her sitters. Each of her subjects has been caught uttering his or her assigned word in medias res, giving them expressions of befuddlement and surprise.  Wowsugi has photographed her sitters in a fashion consistent with the commercial photo studios one might find in shopping malls – lit with an inoffensive evenness against a series of variously colorful and marbled backdrops. When exhibited, these images are hung salon-style in a Rococo clump, each in a unique and ornate frame.

Wowsugi’s choice to photograph her immediate circle was born out of more than convenience or happenstance – her artistic concerns revolve around social networks and otherness. After moving stateside, Wowsugi found herself freed from some of the complications of her identity as a Korean living in contemporary Japan, and she enjoyed the ambiguity of a “pure foreignness.” The relative anonymity of the foreigner afforded her a subjective and almost anthropological eye. In her previous work Group Portrait Journey, Wowsugi uses herself as a conduit to link together seemingly unrelated social milieux. In these photographs, best seen as a collection rather than individually, she portrays members of a Muslim community center, exotic dancers, Girl Scouts, gallery workers and others with an almost German seriality. Wowsugi considers these images a survey on “the nature of belonging, social roles and boundaries” and credits August Sander’s timeless portraits, as well as the work of Thomas Struth and Tim Davis with guiding her work.

Through both of these projects, Wowsugi has sought to replace the “in-betweenness” of her cultural identity with meaningful, if brief, connections to the people she photographs. Her relationships to her subjects, both personally and on the scale of the social network, operate as an attempt to forge a new identity. These images speak to the obstacles of integration that native-born Americans may not recognize and manage to do so with a studied wit.

Read the full article "In the Studio" by Adam Ryder in photograph magazine here.

John Anderson interviews Hamiltonian Fellow Billy Friebele for the International Sculpture Center blog

FloatingWorld-feature DRAWING MACHINES - September 17, 2014

It was late 2012 when I first saw the work of Billy Friebele at the Hamiltonian Gallery in Washington, DC. A pen hovered above a pedestal, tethered to a cluster of Mylar balloons floating above it. The pen bobbed and bounced across the surface of a piece of paper attached to the pedestal beneath. As I approached the pedestal, a motion sensor triggered a fan to turned on, firing a gust of air toward the balloons, causing the pen to skitter wildly across the surface of the paper, where it reached the end of its tether, landed, and scribbled the limit of its orbit on the page. While the finished piece for purchase was a drawing, it’s difficult to peg Friebele as a drawer. This is especially so, given the interactive nature behind the creation of his drawings, and the construction of the objects and machines that draw them. Since 2012, Frieble has been a Hamiltonian Fellow,  a kind-of “post-doc” program for select emerging artists in DC, created by physicist Paul So in 2007. As the summer winds down, so to does his last solo exhibition as a fellow in the program, where he is exhibiting a motion-activated drumming robot that captured people’s interaction with the machine using sonar. We took a few moments to talk about his creative arc since 2009, his process, and his penchant to tinker.

JA: Over the last five years, there is a clear thread of mapping within your drawings.

Billy Friebele: It starts first with working in a public space: in making works in the infrastructure of the city. That extends into how the city is organized and the hierarchy of the city. I think we are all interested in our own pathways through the city, but it is interesting to see what other people are doing. So with the map: what are the rhythms and flow that other people generate when moving through the space. In terms of thinking about drawing I am more interested in extending the way I think about drawing. So, a way of extending beyond that is thinking of drawing as a noun and drawing as a verb (the object as distinct from the process).

Current Recorder Sculpture

JA: What I’ve found interesting in the drawings is that you use so many other things to create them: balloons or propellers and wind, GPS, sonar, people. Really interesting capture strategies.

BF: Someone said what I make is a recording process. I am trying to see things that I can’t see. So, creating kinetic sculptures that are inherently reactive has been an interest. Creating flexible objects that contort with the wind, like the balloons. Drawing is just a way of making invisible things visible. And each time I do that it opens up more questions, which is why I move through various materials.  Each tool opens up a new question—how can I refine the way that tool reacts. Sonar was interesting because I had been using these binary processes to map, and I wanted something that was more fluid.

JA: Clearly, there is an element in most of your works that is tinkered, or hacked.  Is that a starting point or an ending point behind the ideas in your work?

BF: Certainly a starting point. What I’ve been thinking about lately is each object and machine has its own algorithm: sense of motion: way it would draw. So, when you collage those inherent properties… it’s a starting point to investigate what each machine can do.  The ending point for me is what those things produce. In many cases it’s a drawing on paper, or a print, and the machine is hacked together to absorb some flow, and translate it into another form. So each machine is there as a form of translation.

JA: There is an anti-aesthetic to your works: a seemingly limited effort to disguise how it is made. What’s the intention for that?

BF: I’m interested in the simple hack—the limited means it takes to get something to happen, whether that is zip ties or fishing supplies. The other part of the Anti-aesthetic is putting the objects out on street corners or in public spaces. I want them to camouflage with their environment, to looking like things that might be found on the streets. It’s something I have been asking myself: how slick does this work need to become? I don’t think that kind of finished veneer is necessary. It’s more about utility than surfaces.

Floating World Sculpture

JA: Where does the art exist in the work: with the machine or sculpture making the work, with the final output, or with the marvel at the process and the idea?

BF: The work exists in the connection between all of those things. Clearly it is an effort to translate—making a static form from something that is dynamic. The other side is a lot of the works are in motion for the viewer in the gallery. So the heart of the work is watching the piece change or draw or perform some action. But there’s some slippage between the action and the record, and you lose some of that dynamic in the process.

JA: Having seen your wind-drawing machine in action, it tends to be a very popular work with young and old, artists and non-artists. It’s simple, imaginative, and accessible: something that anyone can do, but everyone seems to respect that it was done (rather than dismiss it like Pollock). Is there some sort of inner idea that, if you can reveal how one of these machines is made—if you can reveal the structure of a work—that it liberates any non-artist into realizing an artistic potential?

BF: It goes back to that idea of the simple. I’m interested in the potential that objects around us have, and in that sense reality does not have to be what we take it to be. Mundane objects can be used in strange ways. And I realize it follows in the tradition of readymades—Duchamp. I can’t avoid that reference in the work. But at the same time, I am interested in downplaying my role as innovator. That is one thing that is going on in digital art. So many people are helping each other and offering their code to help others. There is a shift in innovation where we can share our knowledge really easily. So, since I create something with these materials, I don’t feel the need to obfuscate the materials to make them more magic.

JA: The drumming machine installed at Hamiltonian was not your first drumming machine. Tell me about the Memory Drum (that use a Kymograph).

JA: How did the Memory Drum project come about?

BF: I was a musician before I was an artist. And some of those experiences of playing music have bled into my work: collaboration, and interest in temporal events. So, to go back to that Kymograph piece, it was one of those times I had this object in my studio for a number of years and wasn’t really sure what to do with it. And I combined it with other things in my studio. I had this drum. So, it was with an idea of memory as a machine that conjures up images, but also changes how we remember them: I wanted to create this machine that makes a sound but also distorts an image as it is creating.

Also, being a part of the Hamiltonian Fellowship, I’ve been encouraged by other artists and the curatorial team to investigate music more. That’s why it appeared in my recent exhibition. I thought it would be interesting to combine sonar with music, since it would take an ultrasonic frequency and turn it into a low frequency we can actually hear. So, I thought that could translate into how Duke Ellington interpreted the city around him. Duke observed flows and characteristics of the city with his senses and used these impressions as material. Creation entails an input and an output of sensorial information. Both are ways of externalizing mental processes. One being the act of remembering and the other being the act of composing music based on what you see in your surroundings, or translating your surroundings into music.

JA: You’ve mentioned that your recent exhibition, U Street Chromatic (for Duke), is transitional. In what way?

BF: Certainly the technology, because I just learned how to use Arduinos and Processing. And once I learn a new technique I ask myself if what I am making is innovative or part of the logic of the object. Where does the tool’s influence end and where does the creator’s input take over?

The other aspect is this homage to Ellington, using his story and connection to DC as a framework to make decisions about the work: where to put the machine, the rhythms to create, how it envisions those rhythms. So that is what makes it transitional: Lots of new content and new tools. Maybe more time with those tools will lead in different directions.

By John Anderson

Anything Sacred: Amy Boone-McCreesh reviewed in BEAUTIFUL/DECAY

collage, ink, watercolor, charcoal, marker, digital print and mixed media on Rives BFK, 11 x 8 inches

Amy Boone-McCreesh’s Vibrant Works Immerse You In Colorful Complexity

Amy Boone-McCreesh’s sculptures and 2-D mixed-media works are both self-referential and highlight a larger aesthetic idea, which is the visual aspect of celebrations. For years, she’s explored the way in which different cultures commemorate events in their lives, particularly how they express it with decoration and objects. Now, with a new body of work, Boone-McCreesh goes beyond this initial inspiration and uses things she’s previously created as raw material for new pieces. They debuted at a recent two-person exhibition with artist Sarah Knobel entitled Anything Sacred at Hamiltonian Gallery in Washington, DC.

Read full article here.

Technologically Disposed

Benjamin Andrew and Ian MacLean Davis discuss solo exhibitions by Ryan Hoover and Joshua Haycraft at Hamiltonian Gallery, Washington, DC, on view through May 10th.


Joshua Haycraft: “20XX Future Guaranteed”

Ian MacLean Davis: Since 2007, Joshua Haycraft’s artistic practice has focused almost exclusively on BHBITB, an installation project which serves as satire of contemporary corporate/spiritual/consumer culture. Prior to pursuing his MFA, Haycraft trained as an industrial designer, and in BHBITB he applies his acute awareness of design, materials, and language into a collection of artifacts, propaganda and interactive media, which promise an optimistic and vague future of no specific value, if only we sign on the dotted line.

Haycraft is a snake-oil salesman of the highest order, hiding behind the organizational persona of the unintelligible BHBITB (Is it a phonetic? Is it a secret acronym? It sure is a mouthful…) to condense many technological, cultural and philosophical references into a product from a perfect world, as filtered through the utopian ideals of Modernism. If that seems like a lot to tackle, it is. It’s not that complicated though, as we implicitly understand the language of BHBITB because it is conveyed through friendly branding and retro-futuristic aesthetics, which have been completely integrated into familiar media consumer culture. Ben, what do you think of all this?

Benjamin Andrew: I definitely agree that everything in the show feels familiar, which isn’t anything against Haycraft, but rather because he so perfectly echoes the visual language of science fiction and advertising. I often feel like product design and software interfaces are just pulling pages from the history of Science Fiction films, and I think BHBTIB really points out how shallow and omnipresent that aesthetic has become. The clean white surfaces and molded plastic forms in the exhibition are exciting to me because I feel like I’m walking onto the set of Star Trek or Minority Report (or an Apple store), but, like the best Sci-Fi they become a little ominous after looking closely.

Continue reading here


Washington City Paper talks “Woman and Landscape” and “From an Eighth to a Key”

annette-isham-Larry-Cook-exhibition-featureWritten by: Kriston Capps

Annette Isham and Larry Cook

Watching Kanye West’s video for “Bound 2,” it’s easy to imagine a stodgy old critic somewhere crossing Yeezus off his list for a Grammy nomination, more in sadness than in anger. It just isn’t a music video meant to please the gatekeepers of the music industry, much as the green-screen graphics and naked Kim Kardashian may have delighted music bloggers. But through a fairer lens—one not colored by judgment of Kanye’s character—the video shines just like the song does. It never occurred to me to give it a second look until I saw Annette Isham’s show at Hamiltonian Gallery.

Isham, a new young video artist in D.C., has turned a page since her last show at U Street NW’s Hamiltonian Gallery. She previously focused on juvenile stuff, making lo-fi videos in which she donned costumes to portray various characters from high school. These were funny and flippant, like Cindy Sherman by way of Lena Dunham. With her latest videos, she’s left high school far behind, traveling around the West and Southwest to create work that plays with high and low production values.

In four landscape works, Isham captures sweeping scenes from Western states, then stitches parts of different photos together in composites that she sets in lightboxes—fine-art collages whose seams are perfectly visible. The video pieces are set in these same landscapes, and the effect is a little like the “Bound 2” video: The moon in the background of “Utah and the Moon Scape” moves across the sky at the wrong speed for the foreground.

Although Isham recorded the dramatic Utah and Colorado backdrops onsite, she green-screens herself into the final video collages. For these she performs various stunts while wearing 13-inch platform heels, though in “Garden of the Gods” she wrestles longtime collaborator (and high school friend) Marissa McBride (while wearing the platforms), and in “Woman and Landscape” she walks on actual stilts. Although there’s a Matthew Barneyesque quality to Isham’s athletics, they’re offset by the awkward balancing act.

That’s one more high-low contradiction in a show that’s full of them—with none more obvious than the sharp contrast between what is possible in video production and editing and what Isham limits herself to here. It’s the green-screened people bouncing over a badly collaged landscape that make this work smart and likeable. Ditto “Bound 2.”

“From an Eighth to a Key”—a show of portraits by Larry Cook on view alongside Isham’s videos at Hamiltonian—struggles more directly with people and their depiction. His show consists of two series, one of young black men and one of older white men, that also have something of a collage aspect to them: The young black men are wearing post-doctoral robes, while the older white men are standing in front of backdrops that you might find at a go-go. See what he did there?

Cook’s show has a dual logic to it. White art impresario James Alefantis is standing in front of a painted lunar landscape that features a giant bottle of Patrón, while a young black man (Cook’s brother) is dressed up like a college dean on graduation day. The artist is daring us to look past what we are conditioned to see as an incongruity of class and race. (As a professor of photography at George Washington University and a rising young artist in D.C., Cook himself thwarts the sorry expectations that the nation attaches to young black men.)

Ultimately, Cook’s photographs make up a kind of self-portrait: When he went to go-gos, Cook shot images of people standing in front of the backdrops he uses for the “High Roller” series, according to the gallery. And while neither he nor the family members he enlisted for the “Regalia” series has the academic credentials to boast an eight-sided doctoral tam and robes with chevrons on the sleeves, Cook is not so far from it. (He received an MFA from George Washington University.)

But a photo-swap of white subjects and black subjects with white signifiers and black signifiers get us to only a superficial understanding of Cook. He teases us with some deeper issues regarding his feelings about his relatives, or men such as art dealer George Hemphill, who looks in “High Roller 2” like he just signed to Cash Money Records. The viewer gets a lot of information from the photos; they are excellent from a technical standpoint. But the juxtaposition may be too pat—or it lacks greater context. It certainly seems like a larger and fuller explanation is within Cook’s range.

see the full article on here 

Washington Post Meets Eric Gottesman

Written by: Mark Jenkins Eric Gottesman

When he lived in Ethiopia, D.C. artist Eric Gottesman learned about Baalu Girma, author of the novel “Oromay.” Girma was “disappeared” almost 30 years ago, apparently because his book criticized the military government that then ran the country.

The photographs in Gottesman’s “One Needs to Listen to the Characters One Creates” represent two narratives: the novel’s first chapter (in large-format color vignettes) and Girma’s last days (in small black-and-white Polaroids). There’s also a short video in which a barber transforms the look of a man who’s reading from “Oromay,” accompanied by a song by Debo Band, the Boston Ethio-pop group.

The photos are skillfully made, carefully composed and suitably ominous, like stills from a real-life film noir. “Oromay” may be Girma’s principal legacy, but Gottesman’s project places author and book in a wider context.

see the full article on here