It is with regret that this post comes so late, for by far the best show I have seen in recent months not sponsored by a museum has been this little opus by three “emerging” artists in DC: Breck Brunson, Nilay Lawson and Solomon Sanchez. The press release states the exhibition explored “the relationships between self, society and community,” all of which is evident without reading the release; there were several works that resonated at that level, and a few that perhaps needed the release to guide us through.
The first pieces welcoming the public to the space are visible or audible from the outside. Sanchez’s aptly titled White Submarine Emerging from Synthetic Hair placed the modeled top half of a submarine emerging from many locks of synthetic hair within the front window of the gallery. This work suggested the wit and cynicism that might be found on the inside of the gallery in the other works of art. It could relate to the emerging artist, the wallflower at the party, or that NSA agent listening in to your phone calls overseas; who knows what rests beneath the pool of hair. Overhead, Brunson’s sound installation And I know tomorrow will still be the same could be heard squeeling into the street. Contained within, the R&B song “Always and Forever” was no longer recognizable, and possessed an eerie, fighting quality – a stuttering elocution that became too slow and forced to be understood. Far more subtle than its street-level partner, pairing the title of the work with the title of the song emotes the wonderful suggestion that for how much we want to see things change and evolve, growth can often be a slow process in the art world or otherwise. The end of this song might not sound much different than its beginning, and certainly no one is going to stand around long enough to wait for the sound to change for very long.
Inside different works of art echoed what was publicly exhibited as well as what was exhibited on the inside. Sum Mate, a black plastic bag with a video looping on the inside of hands hurriedly counting bills, and A safe too full to be closed, consisting of a wood constructed and painted to look like a safe stuffed full with stacks of money, sat on opposite ends of the gallery space quoting for many of us what will be that unattainable dream: financial security. Alternatively, it also suggests the hustle to earn, to be rewarded. A large phallic structure, Lawson’s 14” Diamond Tip, certainly played an ironic twist on the issues of “love” as publicized by celebrity and teen magazines. Neither the size of the diamond on your finger, nor the size of his cock, truly signify the affection or trust found in a committed relationship - though both might make a lady feel good for a little while. It might also connote the hustle that some women have to marry rich. It’s shape distantly echoed the work of Sanchez’s submarine, or his Permanent marker bleeding through surface of paint, which also had a pink phallic/submarine nature to it.
Perhaps the weakest piece, structurally, was the painting Spite Night, which lingered somewhere between a formal painting and a cartoon without really embracing one or the other. Not that it had to. The subject, however, played wonderfully the themes associated with a party (or a large gallery opening) wherein people are drinking, socializing, ignoring the stuff on the walls, and possibly screwing in the bathroom. A little touch of Red Grooms in this painting, several narratives could be assumed questioning the relationships between the multiple characters within. Who was with whom, and who went home with someone else?
What is perhaps most important is whom this collection of work could speak to: easily everyone. Issues of money and sex are pervasive throughout our culture.
The Relationship Show exhibited at Transformer until March 5. The submarine might still be in the window, but “Always and Forever” is no longer playing.