"[recombinant] fellows: RA" Reviewed by Kriston Capps

"[recombinant] fellows: RA" Reviewed by Kriston Capps

Hamiltonian Gallery's Latest Group Show Finds Camaraderie in Loneliness

written by Kriston Capps
Washington City Paper
December 2, 2016

Labored descriptions distinguish [recombinant] fellows: RA from the typical group show at Hamiltonian Gallery. For example, a convoluted wall text from guest curator Camilo Álvarez, director of Boston’s innovative Samsøñ Projects, wouldn’t be out of place in the critical-theory journal Semiotext(e). A sample: “Eight isolates collected in the region were analyzed using available ontological sources and molecular typing assays.”

For practical purposes, all that really means is that the show’s eight artists, all Hamiltonian fellows, descended on Boston and made works about their experiences. Or at least, that’s where the show begins. For [recombinant] fellows: RA, two artists set out to make works about the show itself, illustrating the lengths to which artists will sometimes go to pursue some insular end—and how this isn’t always a bad thing.

The best way to see the show is to don Allison Spence’s “In the absence of” (2016), an audio guide to the exhibit. The piece is a pure homage to the work of Janet Cardiff, an audio-artist known for making guides that take viewers through or around museums. (Cardiff made one of them, “Words Drawn in Water,” for the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in 2005.) Spence’s clever piece invites viewers on a specific march through Hamiltonian, asking them to walk under Nara Park’s suspended painting, “Shatter” (2016), and look up before continuing on. The piece is nominally connected to the stunning theft of several paintings from the Isabelle Stuart Gardner Museum in Boston—a heist that still inspires book-length investigations today. That’s not important context for Spence’s tour of a show she never saw fully installed.

Nancy Daly’s installation is the other meta-work in the show. For her piece, “What’s Yours Is Mine” (2016), she has crafted souvenirs for several of the artists on display (as well as other Hamiltonian alumni). Jim Leach is represented in Daly’s display case by signed pieces of shattered dinner plates, an allusion to “Shutter Stands” (2016), an all-too-serious installation piece (documentation, really, of an unseen performance). Leach’s work is more likable with Daly’s work there to take the piss out of it.

Not all these works necessarily need one another. Dan Perkins’s cluster of small, hand- some, abstract landscapes occupy a gallery corner without paying much mind to any of the other “isolates.” Christine Neptune’s digital-video project, “We Are Not Alone: A Digital Exploration of Planet X” is an introverted retreat from both Boston (where the artist reportedly felt uncomfortable) and the viewer. Naoko Wowsugi approaches isolation in a different way, through a series of photographs depicting various times she arrived in a shop to find no shopkeeper on duty. At each of these establishments, she left a small cowbell imprinted with the words: “Please Ring Cowbell for Service.”

Loneliness is not always a wellspring of comedy for visual artists, so it’s refreshing to see so many artists from this Hamiltonian class touch lightly on the subject. For a show assembled on an intentionally insular, obscurantist theme (“these isolates represent a novel st(r)ain, for which the name, relative assertion [RA], is proposed”), this one gels.

Read the original review here.

Recent Press for Permacounterculture

Recent Press for Permacounterculture

See what DC has been saying about "Permacounterculture," orchestrated by Naoko Wowsugi! Exhibition closes September 10.

"Naoko Wowsugi: Permacounterculture"
Plantpop, by Leon Guanzon

The political, anti-establishment lyrics are one of the things that define punk music. It’s a genre that desires to break away from the norms. So what does punk music have to do with plants?
Art professor at American University in Washington, DC, Naoko Wowsugi, seeks to answer probing questions like these using the art world as her platform. Read more.

Image: Farrah Skeiky

Image: Farrah Skeiky

"With 'Permacounterculture,' Naoko Wowsugi Turns Hamiltonian Gallery Into a Green House and a Punk Venue"
Washington City Paper, by Kriston Capps

The best time to see Naoko Wowsugi’s latest solo show may be when it’s blessedly quiet. That’s not at all what the artist has in store for viewers. “Permacounterculture,” her show at Hamiltonian Gallery, is an invitational series of noise and hardcore shows in a garage of sorts that’s built inside the gallery. This is an art show that comes with ear-plugs. Read more.

Image: Alex Shelldorf

Image: Alex Shelldorf

"In a new exhibit, a DC Art Gallery will transform into a punk music venue that doubles as a greenhouse"
DC Music Download, by Jordan Snowden

Punk music and urban farming might seem like two very separate worlds, but local artist Naoko Wowsugi intends to bring them together for a bold new exhibit that’s opening this weekend.
When Permacounterculture is unveiled at the Hamiltonian on Aug. 13, the art gallery will transform into a punk music venue that doubles as a greenhouse for wheatgrass. The exhibit will create an unconventional ecosystem where live music and sustainable living coincide with one another. Read more.

Image: Alex Schelldorf

Image: Alex Schelldorf

"How To Cultivate Plants Using Just Water, Nutrients And A Steady Diet Of D.C. Punk" 
WAMU, by Ally Schweitzer

Many have heard the conventional wisdom that talking to plants helps them grow. But what about playing music for them? A new exhibit in D.C. is testing that idea — and like many experiments throughout history, it begins in a garage.

On a recent morning, that garage is being built from the ground up at Hamiltonian Gallery on U Street NW. Clad in spiky accessories and plenty of black, Kohei Urakami is cracking open a can of gray paint, preparing to coat pieces of lumber. He's working for artist Naoko Wowsugi, the brains behind a new art show-slash-science project called "Permacounterculture." Read more.

Image: Alex Schelldorf

Image: Alex Schelldorf

"This DC Art Gallery Is Using Punk Rock to Grow Plants" 
Washingtonian, by Sarah Stodder

You’ve probably taken a shot of wheatgrass before — it’s a thick, green liquid, sweet at first and followed by a bitter aftertaste of, well, grass. If you’ve heard about wheatgrass’ numerous health benefits, the setting was probably an upscale juice bar, and the person who told you was probably peppy and clad in Lululemon.

You’ve probably never heard about wheatgrass while attending a punk show. But that’s what’s happening at Hamiltonian Gallery over the next few weeks: “Wheatgrass juice acts as a detergent the body can use,” the lead singer of the band Heatwave panted into the mic as he paced the stage between his drummer and guitarist last Saturday night. “And it acts as a body deodorant, which I will need after this set.” You also probably haven’t heard a punk band rave about wheatgrass in the middle of a white-walled art gallery — but that’s exactly what artist Naoko Wowsugi wants you to experience. Read more.

August Arts Agenda: Punk Farming Edition

August Arts Agenda: Punk Farming Edition

BY LYNNE VENART IN ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT ON AUG 1, 2016 12:30 PM 
Permacounterculture at the Hamiltonian Gallery

Naoko Wowsugi's Permacounterculture @ Hamiltonian Gallery. Opens Saturday, August 13, 6:30 to 10 p.m. with an all ages punk show at 7 p.m. (Free, but $5 to $10 suggested donation for bands)

Wowsugi's upcoming exhibit at the Hamiltonian Gallery on U Street sounds so D.C. that it's sure to be a blast. Permacounterculture combines D.C.'s punk scene with urban farming, transforming the gallery into a punk music garage with a greenhouse for wheatgrass. The artist claims the wheatgrass will feed off the extra carbon dioxide from the showgoers and create more oxygen to fuel the vibes. Bonus: after photosynthesis does its thing, the plants will be converted into wheatgrass shots and offered to the public. Bands will perform at 7 p.m. sharp on August 13, August 25, and September 9, and the exhibit will be on display through September 10.

Hamiltonian Gallery is located at 1353 U Street NW.

Dan Perkins + Alejandro Pintado in East City Art

Dan Perkins + Alejandro Pintado in East City Art

What defines a landscape?  Is it rolling hills or a copse of oaks flanking the fixed horizon of a sunrise or sunset?  The rocky crags of mountain ranges stretching vertically from surrounding grasslands?  Landscape as a genre has come to be defined chiefly by what the eyes connote, but what happens when we remove our eyes from the equation?

Allison Spence and Jim Leach featured in Washington City Paper

Allison Spence and Jim Leach featured in Washington City Paper

Even though spring, the glorious season of new life, is finally here, death is never far away—in fact, it’s on display at Hamiltonian Gallery. Two concurrent shows, “Spread” by Allison Spence and “Hot Water” by Jim Leach, take up death as a powerful creative tool.

Allison Spence featured in The Washington Post

Allison Spence featured in The Washington Post

Fire consumes, but also transmutes, and can clear territory for renewal. Allison Spence didn’t torch anything for “Spread,” but her Hamiltonian Gallery show was inspired by Pando, a Utah forest that benefits from periodic burns. The single-rooted Aspen-tree colony is a vast clonal organism — its name is Latin for “I spread” — thought to be at least 80,000 years old and now at risk of death...

Nara Park + Dane Winkler featured in The Washington Post

Nara Park + Dane Winkler featured in The Washington Post

In separate Hamiltonian Gallery shows that dovetail conceptually, Nara Park and Dane Winkler consider links between nature and technology. The entrance is through Park’s “Between Millions of Years,” which stacks transparent plastic boxes in emulation of a rocky gorge in an Australian national park. It’s not exactly a grand canyon, since the building blocks are commonplace, unnatural and scaled to a gallery, not to all outdoors. And yet the narrow passageway does produce a strong sense of place.

Rob Hackett featured in The Washington Post

Rob Hackett featured in The Washington Post

In the galleries: Semi-fictional streetscapes resemble stage sets

by Mark Jenkins

The Washington Post

January 29, 2016

Rob Hackett

D.C. sculptor Rob Hackett is known for suspending burly wooden beams in midair, as if they were feathers caught in an updraft. Most of his pieces in “Mode(s),” at Hamiltonian Gallery

D.C.’s 12 Best Gallery Shows of 2015

D.C.’s 12 Best Gallery Shows of 2015

consider this an invitation

by Kriston Capps, Washington City Paper


A single list can't possibly account for all the gallery exhibits that mattered in 2015. There are shows that narrowly missed this list. There are other shows that this critic narrowly missed. Consider this an invitation to revisit several of the strongest gallery presentations of the year. It includes achievements by longstanding mid-career artists as well as first forays by newcomers. There are a handful of artworks that stood head-and-shoulders above everything else hanging around them. A few of those are listed here, too.

In no particular order, a dozen shows and artworks that shined in 2015:

Renée Stout: Wild World," Hemphill Fine Arts

Stout's fifth solo show at Hemphill was less laser-focused than some of her past presentations, in which she has adopted an entire persona to present her work. With a looser framework, Stout explored some new themes, tapping a fantasy or sci-fi vein, without devoting herself to a full-on world-building exercise. The casual approach works for her.

Maggie Michael: Colored Grounds and Perfect Xs,” G Fine Art

Michael's well of inspiration seems to be bottomless. Clarice Lispector, the Brazilian novelist, was just one of a number of sources she tapped for paintings in this show. Michael's shows typically find her drilling down into some new mode of abstraction or reviving something from the past; this exhibit falls into that latter category.

Larry Cook: Stockholm Syndrome,” Hamiltonian Gallery

By focusing on race and implicit bias in his photography and media work, Cook is working with the themes that are on everyone's minds. Yet his work never looks ripped from the headlines. Cook appears to be looking backward at older modernist strategies for making photos and film. This show saw him dipping a toe into a deep pool.

“Tilling Phase,” curated by Amy Hughes Braden

"Tilling Phase" was the rawest show D.C. has seen in a long time. It wasn't merely the unfinished pop-up spot in Hyattsville that gave the show so much texture. Plenty of the artworks and even some of the artists seemed unrefined; a handful of very poised pieces made for excellent contrast. "Tilling Phase" brought together one of the broadest assemblages of D.C. artists any show has seen in years—one of the most diverse, too. As a curator, Hughes Braden is a one-woman Washington Project for the Arts.

"Jeff Spaulding: Vintage," Curator's Office

Circumstances conspired to give Andrea Pollan (Curator's Office) an empty gallery space and Jeff Spaulding a reason to hang an older work. So Pollan did what any curator would do: She built an elegant show of works by Spaulding from the 1980s and early 1990s. For an impromptu presentation, it's one of the best sculpture exhibitions in recent years, one that gives a fresh look at Spaulding through the lens of work he hasn't shown in decades.

Champneys Taylor: Resident A.D.,” Civilian Art Projects

Taylor's brand of postmodernism involves taking a simple pattern from the world and making it the basis of his abstraction. Some of his paintings look like confetti or Easter egg candy; some of his paintings look like the cratered surface of the moon. What sounds simple is anything but: Taylor's paintings are rich and savvy, but also a little cocky and seemingly effortless. No mean feat.

"Naoko Wowsugi + Whoop Dee Doo," Hamiltonian Gallery

Naoko Wowsugi's birthday-themed exhibition was the most joyous art gallery show D.C. has seen in 15 years. More incredible still, it was clever: Wowosugi asked students to make the work for her show (as a present to herself). A performance party by Whoop Dee Doo was icing on the cake.

"Anthony Cervino: Ejecta," Flashpoint Gallery

Cervino put it all on the table: doubt, insecurity, second-guessing, hidden trauma. Shannon Egan, a curator and Cervino's wife, collaborated on the sculptor's show—the best in Flashpoint's history as a gallery—and it might not have hit home without her. See above: "Folie a Deux," a sculpture comprising the desk of Cervino's estranged father and the desk of Egan's departed mother. (Full disclosure: I wrote a catalog essay about Anthony Cervino's work for a2014 group exhibition at Dickinson College; the school paid me for my work.)

“Condo Suit” (2015) by Graham Boyle and Ryan Florig (from "Hipster Facism"at The Fridge)

Visual artists haven't been able to make as much hay from D.C.'s housing boom as, say, Jack on Fire or Chain & the Gang, but it's nice to see that D.C. musicians aren't having all the fun.

“Tête a Tête” (2014) by Brandon Morse (from “Resolutions 2015” at Civilian Art Projects)

Morse makes his iterative video works in Cinder, a C++ programming library, which is just one thing that distinguishes his art. (I know because I asked him.) Beyond technique, no one comes close to Morse in creating forms that are as unsettling as they are mesmerizing.

“The Field Goal Challenge” (2014) by Annette Isham and Zac Willis (from"Play: Tinker, Tech, and Toy" at Arlington Arts Center)

The bromance between Isham and Willis reads in every play of the fiercely athletic competition they staged together last year. Both of them play it like they're angling to be the next star to grace a box of Wheaties. It's a pure romp.

“Sky Stack” (2015) by Dan Perkins (from "Alone in the Woods" at Hamiltonian Gallery)

Perkins's paintings are easy on the eyes. So much so that it's tempting to second-guess his strategies as comfortable. His quasi-surreal landscapes are balanced and poised. Pretty is a fine foundation for what comes next.

Read the original review.