"[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

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.

City Paper's Capps reviews Dan Perkins + Adam Ryder

Perkins’ palette is rich but regular

“Alone in the Woods” and “Renovatio Imperii” At Hamiltonian to Sept. 12

“Sky Stack” by Dan Perkins (2015)

The surface of “Sky Stack” is so delicious, you could dip into it with a spoon, as if it were a bowl of ice cream. It’s a painting by Dan Perkins, a recent American University grad who demonstrates control and precision with tone and gradient. “Sky Stack”is pleasant: a landscape oil painting, in which a rhombus of bright blue day intersects the sky of a piney hill scene at sunset. “Sky Stack” is so good that it might just be bad for you.

“Alone in the Woods”—a show of new paintings by Perkins, and one of two exhibits on view at Hamiltonian Gallery—gets high marks on execution. Perkins fades oranges and pinks expertly in the sherbet sunsets that appear in most of his scenes, and his framing device enables him to combine colors in ways that nature never intended. In “Mountains on Mountains,” an image of a mountain, distant in the horizon, is set in front an image of another mountain closer to the viewer, which rises over a lake, which is itself set over a lavender field of abstract color. Stacks on stacks.

Perkins’ palette is rich but regular. He dilutes what would otherwise be a traditional landscape format by carving up the composition, splicing scenes to create geometric fissures in the space-time fabric. Yet even this touch is conservative. The landscape in “Looking Down,” for example, looks like a scene from an aircraft window, depicted in a painting that also includes the plane’s rounded window frame.

The landscapes might be anywhere; locale is beside the point. Control is the purpose behind these paintings. They recall something like Laura Owens’ early work, but without that special thing that let her paintings turn into what they are today: wild and frothy, yet totally under her command. Perkins’ paintings are too tightly wound, and they take a bit too much pleasure in their own pure painterliness to do too much. Delicious: high in calories, but low in content.

“Renovatio Imperii,” also on view at Hamiltonian, is a tour through Adam Ryder’s paranoid mind. Through photos and some found objects, Ryder opens a Dan Brownian investigation into the Renovatio Imperii, the shadowy fraternity that shapes Washington power and the invisible hand guiding global affairs. It’s an Illuminati show illuminated by color prints.

It could easily serve as the picture round of a D.C. pub quiz tournament: Photos of rooms and artifacts from the World Bank, the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, and the Masonic Temple are easy enough to identify. “Oculus,” a photo of the oculus in the National Gallery of Art, which is rimmed by the Greek meandros symbol, looks like a thousand other photos of the skylight—but here, it’s presented as evidence.

Ryder’s photos look staged, like press photos, a presentation that runs contrary to the whole concept of a medieval conspiracy that has persisted through the present day. He’s included an infographic, a black pyramid that breaks down the hierarchy of power within the Renovatio Imperii, but it doesn’t quite line up with his offering of very known, mostly public, largely memorial spaces as true bastions of secret authority. (How much more mysterious might it’ve been if he’d thrown in, I don’t know, a suggestion of non-ceremonial spaces—a dilapidated warehouse in Ivy City, or an unassuming restaurant on Barracks Row?)

But Ryder doesn’t go far enough with his investigation to convince viewers to look past the photos to see something more, something darker. A convincing deception (or revelation?) would require something more immersive, like a multimedia performance. There are a handful of ceremonial vestiges presented in a vitrine, but that’s it. “Renovatio Imperii” doesn’t stand up as a playful investigation into the secret corridors of power in Washington. Without the gamesmanship, Illuminati artifacts seem simply whackadoodle—or worse, touristy.

1353 U St. NW, Suite 101. Free. (202) 332-1116. hamiltoniangallery.com

click here to read the original review

Washington Post reviews Lisa Dillin + Allison Spence

Washington Post reviews Lisa Dillin + Allison Spence

simulated fragments of suburban life

In the Galleries

by Mark Jenkins - July 25

Lisa Dillin and Allison Spence

“You are important to us,” recites the recorded message from the intercom attached to a white wall. The sentiment is insincere, of course, as is every artifact in Lisa Dillin’s “I’m looking for you . . .” at Hamiltonian Gallery. The Baltimore artist presents simulated fragments of suburban life, hinting at the larger simulation practiced by the developers of instant “communities.”

The most complicated piece is a working fountain, framed by polished stone to signify Euro-classical refinement, that burbles blandly in the center of the gallery. It looks like something ripped, complete with plumbing, from a shopping mall. Also included are a slab of composite flooring, mounted on the wall, and a 13-foot-wide print of a golf-course-like vista, partially obscured by a curtain. The grassy emptiness that’s visible is tidily scenic but suggests a sort of upscale quarantine. So does the Muzak-like ditty that plays after that intercom message: “All by Myself.”

While Dillin excavates the ’burbs, Allison Spence considers science fiction movies, horror comics and how they depict the human body. Her “More human than I am, alone,” also at Hamiltonian, takes its title from a line in David Cronenberg’s “The Fly.” To illustrate that bit of dialogue, the D.C. artist made some paintings that are crumpled and then varnished into permanently clenched disarray. Two unrumpled canvases recall Francis Bacon’s butcher-shop treatment of the human form, combined with the ever-manipulable quality of digital imagery. Whether stretched flat or randomly jumbled, Spence’s pictures are mutable and implicitly violent.

Read the original posting here

Kriston Capps reviews Larry Cook's “Stockholm Syndrome”

issues of image and representation in the city’s black population

“Some of my best friends are black” by Larry Cook (2014)

Larry Cook may be the artist D.C.’s been waiting for. While D.C. looks less like Chocolate City and more like Chocolate-Chip City with every passing day, here’s an artist who dwells on issues of image and representation in the city’s black population—and he’s finding sure footing. Since he graduated with an MFA from George Washington University in 2013, he’s been named as a finalist for both the Trawick Prize in Bethesda and the Sondheim Artscape Prize in Baltimore, two of the highest honors in the region.

Cook’s second solo show at Hamiltonian Gallery, “Stockholm Syndrome,” sees him navigating a subtle racial dividing line. This spare show builds on other fictions about black identity, namely two classic films about slavery, to create a multimedia meta-fiction of his own. It’s big, national-picture thinking. And yet the most compelling takeaway in “Stockholm Syndrome” is a narrow one.

At first glance, “Some of My Best Friends Are Black” looks very current: White neon letters spell out the titular phrase along one of the gallery’s long walls. But this is a throwback piece: Cook is plainly sampling well-worn art history here. Text-plus-neon is signature Bruce Nauman and Glenn Ligon (and Joseph Kosuth and Tracey Emin and maybe some others). The phrase itself is mordant shorthand, a quip about the kind of excuse that white people use to preface whatever appalling thing they think about black people. Both the content and the form are vintage, snarky, and cynical.

It’s as if Cook is embracing and dismissing contemporary art as a way to tell some truth about being black—like he’s lost confidence in photography, his former medium of choice, or maybe art altogether. Once upon a time, contemporary art really did matter. Women artists, artists of color, and queer artists took up conceptual, performance, and installation art as an alternative to sculpture, painting, and even photography. The barriers to entry were lower for contemporary art. Nobody needed a degree or money or access to use a photocopier, or her body, or her ideas, to make new work. All that has changed.

Other works in “Stockholm Syndrome” don’t offer the same grip. A sound installation and a video installation borrow clips, respectively, from Roots and 12 Years a Slave. These nod at the cultural construction of black identity, but they seem to lack a working theory. They aren’t out to prove something about form. Cook also offers up “Whitewashed,” a series of text installations, gorgeous plates rendered in plexiglass and wood frames. In these, Cook references everything from medieval art history by Kurt Weitzmann to From Babylon to Timbuktu, a source for the Black Hebrew Israelites (you know, the shouty guys outside the Gallery Place–Chinatown Metro station). Taken together, they read like deliberate non sequiturs, but I can’t quite find the thread.

“Stockholm Syndrome” feels inscrutable because it’s incomplete. Cook’s mixing up his modes to make his point now, where content carried his photography. This is good. Amid the national fury over police brutality, housing inequality, every kind of inequality—all these issues that have always been with us but have only now taken pride of place at the top of the newshour—Cook is working at a whisper. His focus is acute. His concentration is Vulcan. This is fine. But viewers need to see more to know whether Cook can channel these efforts into a full roar.

1353 U St. NW, Suite 101. Free. (202) 332-1116. hamiltoniangallery.com

Dane Winkler reviewed in Washington Post

Dane Winkler reviewed in Washington Post


there is an industrial aspect

The Washington Post | Mark Jenkins, May 1

In the galleries: Inspired by their homelands and beyond

Because he grew up on a farm, Dane Winkler does not see agriculture as pastoral. There is an industrial aspect to “Chassis,” his show at Hamiltonian Gallery, which consists principally of two large sculptures and two ­12-minute video loops. A University of Maryland MFA student from Upstate New York, Winkler puts real-world building skills in the service of what he calls “mystery.”

One sculpture, titled “A-L-I-C-E” after a favorite cow the young Winkler saw being butchered, consists of two large hanging bales of raw wool that rotate periodically on a motorized steel scaffold. The other, “Setting Sail: Gettin Outta Dodge,” is a wooden pontoon boat accompanied by audio of nature sounds. The craft looks a little ungainly, but it is river worthy, as one of the videos demonstrates. (The other documents the construction.) Though potentially practical, the boat is becalmed in the gallery. If the vessel’s location alone doesn’t make it appear outlandish, its built-in cup holder tips the balance toward absurdity.

Read original post here.

Dane Winkler: Chassis On view through May 9 at Hamiltonian Gallery, 1353 U St. NW, Suite 101. 202-332-1116. www.hamiltoniangallery.com.

Kriston Capps reviews Naoko Wowsugi in City Paper

Naoko Wowsugi + Whoop Dee Doo

Make your art professor a gift for her birthday. No pressure.

“Here, Throw This Off A Building” by Randall Lear (2013), courtesy of Hamiltonian Gallery

Some people can be so difficult about their birthdays. Expensive dinners, cabin weekends, a birthday penumbra that expands until you find yourself celebrating someone’s birthday week or birthday month—birthday-zillas are always wrecking the calendar. But nobody goes as big on her birthday as Naoko Wowsugi.

For the last few years, Wowsugi, an art professor at American University, has asked her students to make her a birthday present as a class project. In addition to video art, Wowsugi teaches a class called “Time-Based Media,” which you’ll find over in the performance wing (so to speak). “I don’t need more material possessions,” her class prompt reads. “You don’t need to butter me up. I want experiences as my birthday gifts.”

“Assignment: Happy Birthday”—a show by Wowsugi at Hamiltonian Gallery—is as clever as exhibits come. Wowsugi’s work here isn’t her own, but rather the work of her students, meaning the artist’s titular role in the show’s production is somewhere between curator and conductor. The work on view may be the students’, but it deserves an asterisk, too: This isn’t an American University group art show so much as a collection of exercises urged by a professor’s prompt. “Assignment” is challenging along an author-artwork spectrum of analysis, but it’s also a big birthday jumble of fun and frivolity (and failure).

There are some Fs to be handed out after “Assignment,” for sure. Angel Samudre’s “Time-Based Studio Sings Naoko Wowsugi’s Philosophy of Teaching in the Style of John Baldessari Sings Sol LeWitt” (2014) is exactly what it sounds like. (Or worse, since the students can’t carry a tune.) Students are forever learning the wrong lessons from the wildly inventive performance artist Baldessari: Do as he does, not what he does. Rebekah Pike’s “3 Red and 2 Green” (2012) comprises found products made with apple coloring or flavoring—give the teach an apple, get it?—but that doesn’t seem to meet the parameters of the assignment.

Another student went far beyond the classroom’s walls (and U.S. borders) to fulfill the project. HwaJin Shin notes in her video, “The Route to Home” (2012), that Wowsugi’s birth certificate features an address that places her permanent home in the middle of a field in South Korea. (Wowsugi, an artist of Japanese and Korean descent, has studied art at Osaka University of Arts in Japan and the Kansas City Art Institute, and received her MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University.) So Shin—from her classroom at VCU, where Wowsugi was teaching at the time—asked family and friends back home in South Korea to drive some four hours to plant a tree at the GPS coordinates indicated as Wowsugi’s address. The video is searching and sincere—too earnest, really, but also an interesting redirect, with Shin essentially assigning out an endurance performance to people who’d be willing to do it for her, if not for Wowsugi.

Then there’s Tim Hoyt’s “Magnified Reciprocity” (2014). I don’t know whether to give it the lowest or highest marks, which makes it a compelling piece, albeit maybe the least likable one in the show. For Wowsugi’s birthday, Hoyt composed a new piece of music for her. I’m no music critic, but to my ear, the song’s swells of synthesized-sounding harmonies sound indistinguishable from those of Brooklyn electronic-rock duo Ratatat. (I wonder, in fact, whether it might be a remix.)

To make this a piece of time-based art, not just a piece of music, Hoyt video-recorded Wowsugi (and himself) as she listens to the song for the first time. “Magnified Reciprocity” is an indulgent video: The two sit face to face against a stark backdrop, co-stars in this birthday production, Hoyt beaming as Wowsugi concentrates on the sounds streaming through her headphones. It’s a total jerk move. (Imagine your boyfriend making a video about your reaction to his very special gift for you.) With “Magnified Reciprocity,” Hoyt has made Wowsugi’s birthday about Hoyt.

Then again, why shouldn’t he? There’s nothing organic about “Assignment,” after all. Maybe Hoyt felt pressed into service, celebrating his professor’s birthday. Or maybe he simply perceived that he’s the artist creating work here, not her. Hoyt’s poncy video makes us face the facts: There’s a touch of selfishness to even the most generous gestures. Sometimes favors have to be earned.

Another twist in the show, Erin Nanney’s “Eulogy” (2014), took the prompt in the opposite direction. Instead of celebrating her professor’s birthday, Nanney ends her life. Video of the undertaking shows Wowsugi standing in the wings like a ghost attending her own funeral, one who can’t keep a straight face throughout the somber ceremony. Several students say words, not all of them especially reverent, in the video, which is embedded in a shrine. Here’s where some of the cynicism I see in Hoyt’s work might’ve done Nanney some good: What does a literal 180-degree pivot on the prompt get for Nanney? Maybe an A, but not an artwork.

For “Here, Throw This Off a Building” (2013), Randall Lear handed Wowsugi a package with those instructions. Although she didn’t know it, inside were several paintings and projects that Lear had made earlier in his young career. This made the professor the unknowing participant in an act of creative destruction. By dint of Wowsugi’s assignment, Lear made new work from old; thanks to Lear, Wowsugi got to throw stuff off a building for her birthday. That’s an experience worth remembering—and so is Wowsugi’s art exhibit.

Bonkers is the only word to describe the opening-night performance by Whoop Dee Doo (if a video of the event is any indication). The work of artists Matthew Roche and Jaimie Warren since 2006, Whoop Dee Doo is a traveling performance troupe that incorporates whoever’s near and whatever’s at hand for anything-goes installations. For “Baphy Hirpday 2012,” Whoop Dee Doo turned Hamiltonian’s birthday-themed exhibit into a full-on U Street party.

The centerpiece of “Baphy Hirpday” is a cake, surrounded by walls lined with presents. What makes the piece sing, though, are students from the Hung Tao Choy Mei Leadership Institute, a martial-arts studio located just next door, as well as performers from the Girlz With Glam after-school program. While artists always pay lip service to incorporating the community, it’s a rare delight to see it done so fabulously.

What a baphy hirpday it was. A dancing Chinese dragon! A gift-box hiding a drummer! Girls camouflaged as birthday cake! Choreographed martial artists! Dark eclectic synths! By the looks on the kids’ faces, “Baphy Hirpday” was as much a present for them as for Wowsugi or anybody else. Whoop Dee Doo delivered a special gift for viewers: a reminder that art is the icing on the cake.

1353 U St. NW. Free. (202) 332-1116. hamiltoniangallery.com

Original Source: http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/articles/46780/naoko-wowsugi-whoop-dee-doo-at-hamiltonian-gallery-reviewed-make/


In the galleries: At Hamiltonian, a birthday celebration of a different sort

In the galleries: At Hamiltonian, a birthday celebration of a different sort
 January 30 

Every year since 2011, art professor Naoko Wowsugi has asked her students to give her an experience for her birthday. The request is not an expression of narcissism — well, not entirely — but an assignment, first at Virginia Commonwealth University and more recently at American University. Some of the supposed highlights of this exercise are on display at Hamiltonian Gallery, along with a video of a birthday event choreographed by Whoop Dee Doo, a performance-art duo.

The idea for “Assignment: Happy Birthday” may sound odd, but some of the show’s ingredients are routine. Balloons and confetti litter the floor, piles of gift boxes line the wall and birthday cake appears as both a massive sculptural prop and — in a smaller, softer form — something student Toby Nguyen pushed in her prof’s face. Such gestures are documented in photos or videos, so gallery-goers can watch, for example, Wowsugi’s first listen of the electronic music that Tim Hoyt composed for her.

There’s always one apple-polisher who makes a bigger play than everyone else. Wowsugi was born in Japan, where her family has lived for several generations, but her heritage is Korean. So HwaJin Shin enlisted family and friends to travel to her teacher’s ancestral home in South Korea and plant a ginkgo tree. This gift may have gone literally too far, but shouldn’t art overreach?

The implicit hostility of some students’ responses is understandable, and it didn’t stop with in-your-face cake splats. Randall Lear made his professor into an aesthetic assassin, giving her a bag and asking her to throw it off a roof as often as she liked. It turned out that the bag contained the art he had made as a student. Erin Nanney staged a death ceremony for Wowsugi, at which the teacher’s presence was ignored. This idea is more disturbing if you know (did Nanney?) that mock funerals are among the vicious ploys of Japan’s notorious school bullies.

Wowsugi contributed no art to the show, but it could be argued that she has devised a new version of the venerable artistic practice of employing a workshop of assistants. As a learning experience, though, her assignment seems dubious. Can subversion really be taught in a classroom? Rather than wish her students “happy birthday,” perhaps the professor should echo the motto of onetime Harvard lecturer Timothy Leary: “Turn on, tune in, drop out.”

Source: The Washington Post 

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.