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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.

Breaking through: D.C. artists emerge in VisArts exhibit

Visual artists have been known to be dedicated to their models. Will Barnet regularly painted his family, and Anne Getty can’t seem to get past babies.Artist Jessica van Brakle, who lives in Olney, favors cranes. What started out as an element of her thesis at the Corcoran College of Art + Design in Washington, D.C., turned into a fascination that led her to subscribe to crane magazines and even to go up in a few for an aerial view.

“I’m friends with crane operators now,” she says. “As much as I try to learn about them, they’re mysterious to me. They’re kind of majestic to me. They’re like the modern-day unicorn.”

Van Brakle’s latest work is part of “DC Emerging: New Urban and Domestic Interpretations” at VisArts in Rockville. Featuring five upcoming regional artists who work in an array of mediums, “Emerging” premiered last Sunday and will be on view through Aug. 11.

After becoming interested in the design of cranes, van Brakle says she used bright, often curving designs to interplay with the rigid structure of her muse.

“A lot of balancing of this industrial crane with botanical or domestic patterns, so that it was that balance of feminine and masculine [qualities],” she observes.

Currently a fellow at the Hamiltonian Gallery and a resident artist at the Arlington Arts Center, van Brakle has been studying 19th century landscapes and incorporating their outlines into her work. Many of the black-and-white pieces depict the large machines in the backdrop of a snowy vastness. Although her works still feature cranes whether abstract or clearly defined van Brakle also likes to paint pieces on some of the canvases that look like pixels, as she says they share a link with cranes.

“They’re like the building blocks of images as far as digitally [speaking], so I like how that relates to the idea of building,” she says.

While her art is evolving, van Brakle isn’t sure she ever will be finished building her crane repertoire.

“As much as I am into the cranes, I can’t imagine that they’re going anywhere anytime soon,” she says.

VisArts Gallery Director Brett John Johnson says the show’s purpose is to highlight up and coming area talent.

“DC Emerging kind of refers to the fact that they’re emerging in their careers,” he says. “But it also refers to the fact as to how they all work, where they kind of take the urban and domestic life that’s around them and build upon that to create their artwork.”

Van Brakle is not the only crane-centric work to be on display. Sculptures by Sean Lundgren, a Red Dirt Studio member in Mt. Rainier, offer his take on the behemoth machines.

“He’s definitely playing with similar structural type ideas, on almost a more literal way, which I think should lend an interesting counterpoint to some of the more conceptual work,” Johnson says.

As Lundgren overlaps with van Brakle in their affection for cranes, some of van Brakle’s ivy-like patterns in her earlier works are reminiscent of designs used by fellow “Emerging” artist Maggie Gourlay. Working out of her Kensington studio, Gourlay positions common sights such as wallpaper patterns and furniture in new ways.

“She kind of combines them into more a structural sculpture that is somewhat narrative…It kind of has this element of human quality to it in that there’s a human footprint to it,” Johnson says. “You know somebody’s been a part of it, but it’s still strange in the end.”

The paintings on paper of Washington, D.C., artist Mariah Anne Johnson is also exhibited in the show. Johnson creates both large fabric installations as well as paintings and drawings. Each of these mediums shows a very refined understanding of color.

“She kind of also plays on narrative and story,” Johnson says.

Rounding out the show is McLean, Va.-based artist Mike Dowley, whose expressionist work demonstrates an equally mastered color palette. The painter earned a master’s degree from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2008.

While his work largely features otherworldly shapes, he says many of his designs come from things he sees while walking outside.

Pieces such as “Valve” show what may be the inside of an artery, with varying shades of red mingling with blacks, reds and greens.

Before entering graduate school, Dowley says he created mostly figurative and representational art, but as he learned about expressionistic artists like Philip Guston, his style changed dramatically.

“I started feeling like I could see why he was doing it and it wasn’t sloppy it was actually very controlled,” Dowley says. “And that was like an eye-opening thing.”

When he’s not painting in his studio, Dowley works as a graphic designer for companies such as Georgetown Learning Centers. While he acknowledges that he must work with certain color palettes and be mindful of commercial expectations, the work helps change things up.

“It’s a good break from painting and I basically work in the same kind of mode,” he says.

Although the artists in the show have had their work displayed in many parts of the country from Los Angeles to Miami, the VisArts exhibit shows the new faces of local talent.

“DC Emerging: New Urban and Domestic Interpretations” runs at the Metropolitan Center for the Visual Arts (VisArts), 155 Gibbs St., Suite 300, Rockville, through Aug. 11. An artist talk will be featured at the gallery on July 23, and a reception will be Aug. 4. Call 301-315-8200 or visit

Reviews: Conner Contemporary Art, Transformer, Hamiltonian, Irvine and Civilian

By Jessica Dawson

Friday, January 29, 2010

This critic has been hitting quite a few art openings lately. Here's some of what I've liked.

Kost and Baldwin at Conner

Enough drag queens to fill a bus preened for the art crowd at photographer/good-time-boy Jeremy Kost's splashy opening earlier this month. Leigh Conner, owner of Conner Contemporary Art, had bused in a gaggle of New York party people -- these the very same subjects of Kost's thousand-plus Polaroids now covering the gallery's walls. In Conner's back room, Taylor Baldwin's quirky sculptures configure castoffs (plastic foam cups, plastic crates) into objects worth looking at. Baldwin's best work here? The artist-made 'zine accompanying the show. Its diary-like entries detail the history of every component of this artist's decidedly mixed media.

"Snow Globe" at Transformer

If you were hanging with the drag queens at Conner, you missed Transformer's ballet-in-a-shoebox performance, "Snow Globe." A collaboration between artists Zach Storm and Jessica Cebra and the Washington Ballet studio company, "Snow Globe" used the gallery's diminutive size to its advantage: The one-off, hour-long ballet (choreographed by Septime Webre) featured company members dancing against a backdrop of icy blue walls and cardboard mountain peaks designed by Storm and Cebra. The resulting spectacle (music by Mozart, Air and Philip Glass, among others) was a complex spin on "mixed media."

"Call + Response" at Hamiltonian

The sweaty masses packed last weekend's "Call + Response," a collaborative exhibition that asked 16 artists to respond to stories by 16 writers, transforming the gallery into a giant, disjointed picture book. Standouts: Magnolia Laurie's delicate architectural fantasias done in gouache and graphite (though how they connect to Wade Fletcher's opaque text is befuddling.) Another hit: artist Bryan Rojsuontikul, who memorialized TV icon Mister Rogers via minimalist icons Carl Andre (yes, you may step on Rojsuontikul's linoleum tiles) and John Baldessari (those 1960s text paintings, which Rojsuontikul riffs on). The work is a shout-out to Mike Scalise, author of a story about the Cardiganed One's indifference to death.

Sebastian Martorana at Irvine

Like Bernini doing Bed, Bath & Beyond, Baltimore-based Sebastian Martorana sculpts the quotidian -- bath towels, crushed-up paper balls, a jacket -- out of marble. His "Uncommissioned Memorials" exhibition at Irvine Contemporary involves intriguing reversals, such as a trio of bath towels, bolted deep in the wall, that actually hold up the metal racks they "hang" from. The heaviest one -- rumpled beautifully -- weighs 140 pounds. Martorana is adept, manipulating stone into the perfect degree of nubby.

George Jenne at Civilian

No, you didn't just walk onto the set of a George Romero film. This is Brooklyn, N.Y., artist George Jenne's show of props for horror movies that never happened. Here, showmanship rules: Unparalleled production values meet stranger-than-fiction characters inspired by scary movies. Jenne's day job as a commercial prop designer ensures you won't soon forget the tongue wagging from that Hitler youth boy scout. Note to the nightmare-prone: Viewer discretion is advised.

Kost and Baldwin

At Conner through March 6.

"Snow Globe"

At Transformer through Feb. 20.

"Call + Response"

At Hamiltonian through Feb. 13.

Sebastian Martorana

At Irvine through Saturday.

At Civilian Art Projects through Feb. 13.

http://www.civilianartprojects.comDawson is a freelance writer.


George Jenne



The Weekend Guide: What to Do This Weekend











Holla back.

SEE Call + Response What: In a visual take on — you guessed it — call and response, writers pick themes for artists. Why: It takes two to make a thing go right. When: Thru Feb. 13. Opening reception, Sat., 7-9 p.m. Where: Hamiltonian Gallery, 1353 U St. NW, b/t 13th & 14th Sts. (202-332-1116).

One Life: Echoes of Elvis What: Celebrate the King’s birthday with an exhibition, tribute concert, and screening of Viva Las Vegas. Why: Elvis is in the building. When: Sat., 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Where: National Portrait Gallery, 8th & F Sts. NW (202-633-1000).


EAT (and HELP) Dinner to Support Haiti What: Restaurateur Ashok Bajaj pledges partial proceeds from signature dishes like crispy spinach salad to aid victims. Why: Eat your heart out. When: Thru Feb. 19. Where: Any of Bajaj’s restaurants (Rasika701Ardeo,BardeoBibianaThe Oval Room, or The Bombay Club).

WATCH Battle of the Burlesque Stars What: Teams of saucy dancers shake, shimmy, and strip in a showdown. Why: Cut and pasties. When: Sat., 10 p.m. Where: The Palace of Wonders, 1210 H St. NE, at 12th St.(202-398-7469).

BRUNCH Bistro La Bonne What: Waffles, omelets, and champagne at the new French spot. Why: Bonne appetite. When: Sat. & Sun., 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Where: 1340 U St. NW, b/t 13th & 14th Sts. (202-758-3413).

Art: Excerpt from Ian MacLean Davis, Spaghetti Western, 2010. Courtesy of Hamiltonian Gallery

The Weekend Guide: What to Do This Weekend