Monday, September 17, 2012

Good Art / Bad Art

I'll be part of a panel discussion on Good Art/Bad Art at Hillyer Arts Center on Wednesday. Also on the panel are Bill Dunlap, Artist, Critic for WETA Around Town show, Curator; Harriet Lesser, Curator, Strathmore Center for the Arts and Artist; and Michael O'Sullivan, Visual Arts and Film Critic for the Washington Post.

I've been picking my brain about what to talk about. So many examples:
  • Jon McNaughton's paintings of Obama.
  • Sam (im)Basile's ludicrous video about an historical figure he surreptitiously named George.
  • Maybe something a little less political and public, like the artist who earned Lenny Campello's superlative "The Scariest Pussy Award" at Artomatic this year.
  • The Statue of Liberation

Picking on bad art is easy.
So is picking out the good stuff.

What's probably going to happen is a discussion on how we qualify the good from the bad, and then probably discuss - to some length - why either deserves the merit of conversation.

Come on down!
September 19, 2012 7-8:30 p.m.
Hillyer International Art and Artists
9 Hillyer Court
Washington DC 20008
Free and Open to All

Saturday, September 08, 2012

My September Shows/Events.

Sept. 7 - The DC Commission for the Arts and Humanities is hosting a ribbon cutting fat 4:00 to celebrate the opening of the gallery in their new space in Canal Park: 200 Eye Street, SE.  Also in the exhibit are Anna U. Davis, Khahn H. Le, Scott G. Brooks, Alexandra Silverthorne, Asmara Marek, Barbara Liotta, Colin Winterbottom, Janis Goodman, Judy Southerland, Mary Early, Michael Iacovone,  Rik Freeman, Siobhan Rigg, and Gediyon Kiflemoving. Works from my Gun Show will be on exhibit, to include several of the text pieces (Quotes from articles about Heller Vs. DC), and my Flash Video DC Homicides, 2006-2010.

Unfortunately I could not be in attendance for the ribbon cutting because this week I've been installing...

Sept. 8 - "City Limits: site95 at Locust Projects" organized by Meaghan Kent
site95 is a non-profit organization founded by Meaghan Kent, and she's been organizing art exhibitions in temporary spaces in NY, DC, and MIA. In June she invited me to exhibit works in the Project Room at Locust Projects in Miami. I'll be exhibiting bits from various recent projects, to include  JOB Creation Project, Hours of Labor (which was featured last in WPA's Options 2011), and Maintenance Required. The main space of Locust Projects is featuring work by Adam Putnam, and his work is pretty rad: he's transformed the room and it reminds me of Bologna, and he's been building columns out of bricks. The show runs through Oct. 17.

Sept. 13 -  Campaign Re/Form, curated by Holly Bass, at Greater Reston Arts Center in Virginia
If you need a JOB, the JOB Creation Project will be on display from Sept 13 - Oct. 27
also exhibiting are, Holly Bass, Kashuo Bennett, Graham Boyle, COLON:Y (chukwuma agubokwu and Wilmer Wilson IV), Dana Ellyn, Blake Fall-Conroy, Delphine Fawundu-Buford, Kate Kretz, Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky), and Renee Stout

Also Sept 13 - reception for Empowered in the Marlboro Gallery at Prince George's Community College, 6:30 - 8:30
In the past year I've been able to curate a few exhibits for my college; Empowered is my third. Simply put, the exhibit intends to empower our student population to engage social/political subject matter and experiment with various approaches and media.  Artists include Selin Oguz Balci, Iwan Bagus, Heather Boaz, David S. D'Orio, Laura Elkins, Tom Greaves, Linda Hesh, Melissa Ichiuji, Siobhan Rigg, roycrosse, Amber Hawk Swanson, and Lina Vargas De La Hoz.

Sept 19 - Panel Discussion at Hillyer International Art, 7:00 PM
Our discussion will be BAD ART/GOOD ART. Panel includes Harriet Lesser, Michael O'Sullivan, and Bill Dunlap.

Sept. 25 - Politics as Usual, Rice Gallery at McDaniel College, Westminster, MD.
I'll exhibit new works that explore Hollywood archetypes of our elected officials, and allow students to vote on the 10 chosen candidates (via butterfly punch ballot). Lawn signs will clutter (a small portion of) the campus. Painted quotes of Empty Rhetoric will hang from the walls. Students can proudly display conflicting party arguments on their cars with a series called "Bumper Sticker Politics," and there may be a few more surprises to display.

And, if you happen to be riding the Red Line in DC, and find yourself at the Bethesda Metro, it the pedestrian path under Wisconsin Ave and take a look at the piece selected by the Bethesda Urban Partnership last May as a part of Tunnel Vision. BUP said it might be up there for a year or longer. So, check it out before May 2013.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Lighten Up Congress: Let Frederick Douglass Into Statuary Hall

The content below was written for Washington City Paper's blog on June 7, but never published, mostly because I didn't get to the edits fast enough in time for the post to be relevant. (Illness will do that.) So, here is my sardonic editorial. 


D.C., as we all know, has no voting rights in Congress. Now it seems Congress is also hesitant to allow even another D.C. delegate in the building, even if he's made of bronze. As National Journal reported earlier this week:
A five-year fight to get abolitionist Frederick Douglass inside the Capitol has apparently ended in an impasse, with the life-size statue of the 19th-century hero left standing in a District of Columbia government building about four blocks off the Hill.
As the article mentions, petitions to for the U.S. Capitol complex to display the statue of Frederick Douglass, as well as for Pierre Charles L'Enfant---the architect and civil engineer who designed the city of Washington, D.C.---have been rejected by the Architect of the Capitol's office because current law states:
the President is hereby authorized to invite each and all the States to provide and furnish statues, in marble or bronze, not exceeding two in number for each State, of deceased persons who have been citizens thereof, and illustrious for their historic renown or for distinguished civic or military services such as each State may deem to be worthy of this national commemoration;
Maine Rep. Justin S. Morrill proposed the National Statuary Hall, which became law in 1864. According to the Architect of the Capitol's website, the hall eventually became so crowded with statues that Congress had to pass a resolution in 1933 that allowed for the statues to be relocated to other parts of the Capitol complex; that resolution was made law in 2000.  One motivation for relocating some statues stemmed from structural concerns: The chamber could not support the weight of all the statues.

In the 1800s, it may have made sense to exclude non-states from the hall: In 1864, There were 35 states in the U.S., and there was likely some assumption that the territories in the middle of the country might one day become states. At the time, excluding statuary representation made some sense, since these territories were sparsely populated, their functions were ever-changing (Oklahoma was an Indian territory), and so were their boundaries (for example, the Dakota Territory included North and South Dakota, Wyoming, and parts of Idaho and Montana). There was also room to speculate the unlikely possibility hat some territories could become independent republics, as Texas once was and as California once considered. Time and migration would sort those issues out.

But D.C. is unlikely to become an independent republic, and its boundaries are not likely to change (except through retrocession). Though laws prohibiting a statue representing D.C. likely parallel the laws that prohibit D.C. from having representation in either chamber of the legislative branch, despite having a population larger than the state of Wyoming, in this instance all we are asking for is a statue.
We understand, Congress: D.C. is just a pawn on your little chess board. However, for two hundred years that pawn has had an identity and a culture---one that has had an impact on the greater nation.

We could be asking for a statue of Chuck Brown or Duke Ellington, both of whom have made significant contributions musically. We could be asking for a statue for Gene Davis, Ken Noland, Alma Thomas, or Anne Truitt, all of whom have had some impact on the history of fine art. Heck, given the popularity of the place, we might find justification for a statue of Chili Bowl founder Ben Ali. Instead, we're asking to be represented by a man who escaped slavery and became a prominent abolitionist arguing for equal rights as well as for women's suffrage. Though Morrill argued for "the reception of such statuary as each state shall elect to be deserving," 150 years later can't we see past the language and accept that Morrill argued for a hall of statues representing great Americans? Last time I checked, the citizens of DC were also Americans.

Let D.C. be represented by a statue of Frederick Douglass. You don't even have to give him a provisional vote in committee. In fact, he'll do what you wish Eleanor Holmes Norton would do: Be off in a corner somewhere being quiet.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Painting into Sculpture

I've been fortunate enough to curate a couple of exhibitions for my college's art gallery. In March I started organizing Painting into Sculpture...

an exhibition of painting that embraces the physical space beyond the rectangle. The featured work explores the terrain where painting becomes sculptural through various methodologies: stacking panels, activating negative space, stripping the medium from the support, using objects that function as paint, shaping the canvas, and reducing the brush stroke to an object.

The exhibition runs June 4 – July 19 and features artists Dennis Dake, Don Kimes, J.T. Kirkland, Donald Martiny, Eugene Markowski, Kris Scheifele, and Dan Tulk. By tomorrow, the catalog should be printed!

If you are interested to come out to the college and see it, gallery hours are 9:00 A.M. – 5:00 P.M. Monday – Thursday, and 9:00 A.M. – 3:00 P.M. Friday. We'll have a reception June 28, 6:30 – 8:30 P.M.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Hydrants on View at Strathmore

Off to the  Strathmore tomorrow with some hydrants from 2010 that I created as a part of my solo exhibition at the Arlington Arts Center in the spring of 2010. The hydrants were a response to the broken hydrants being tagged and replaced throughout DC.

In a couple of weeks the hydrants get a new life in an exhibition entitled "Unleashed!" running from April 28 - June 23. The focus of the exhibition is about dogs. Architects are designing one-of-a-kind dog houses for the exhibition, and a portion of sales go to benefit local animal organizations as well as the visual art dept. at Strathmore.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Presidential Branding

The Obama Sunrise logo

It's primary Tuesday in the District and Maryland. Despite all of the partisan squabble that perforates decency and punctuates the need for candidates to discuss how they would actually handle the issues with realistic and measurable solutions, in this election cycle one thing seems to have improved slightly over past years: the branding. For the past few decades the bumper stickers and buttons of hopeful public stewards have been predominantly limited to visual references of Old Glory - stars and bars - sometimes quite literally as evidenced by Sam Brownback's presidential bid in 2008. Others have manipulated elements of it, like Huckabee in '08, or like Pawlenty in '11, whose design was complicated by a hint of Lady Liberty.

The big iconic shift in presidential branding happened in 2008 with the Obama sunrise logo. The genius behind the log was how it repurposed the bar, bending a blue bar into the top half of an O, and the remaining bars into a bending road or the rows of a farm field. It also signaled the messaging of the campaign by depicting the hope brought with the sunrise of a new day. However this was not the first time a president had been reduced to a branded image. Some campaign paraphernalia for Obama's predecessor had reduced the Bush 43 to a single letter, a W.

All of this year's challenging contenders have learned something from the visual playbook of the incumbent, albeit conservatively. The stripe still dominates. Red and white stripes billow under the name Newt. They also got squeezed across the cross bar of Bachmann's H, and explode from a vanishing point over the crossbar of Paul's A. Stripes area also visible in the Romney R, like a billowing flag from the Netherlands.

Jon Huntsman took the page from the Bush branding and reduced his name to the fractured H, which looked more like cast off typography from the Avaya branding campaign. More dynamic have been the Cain torch and the Santorum eagle. The torch of Liberty has been the most intriguing of devices applied to campaign branding this season, but unfortunately it held no reference to the candidate the way a Stetson did for LBJ in '64, a hole in the shoe did for Adlai Stevenson in '52 and '56, or the way a sunflower did for Alf Landon in '36. It also failed to integrate within the name of the candidate the way Santorum's eagle freely glides past the O of stars.

Despite integrating with the name, Santorum's design possesses two conflicts.  First is the eagle. While symbolically the flying eagle suggests freedom, previous candidates (Wallace in '72 and '76, and Romney in '08) have only used the head of the eagle. It could be because an eagle body gets a little difficult to persuade into a design - and the soaring eagle in Santorum's design does a fair job of it. However, full-span eagles with rigid design can also be erroneously associated with the perched eagle of the National Socialist German Workers Party. Who would want that? (It would take away any credibility of comparing Obama to Hitler.) Of bigger curiosity is the significance of the seemingly arbitrary 22 stars. Santorum is from the 2nd state in the union, not Alabama, the 22nd. Does it represent the 22 states that pushed for legislation restricting voting rights by pushing photo I.D. requirements at polling places, or perhaps it is a reference to the 22nd Amendment? When the design is vague it is at best a visual accent, like an underline. But when the content possesses symbolism - like a torch or an eagle - and is repeated - like a star - it needs some added context to justify its placement, otherwise it is irrelevant cuteness, like a bow on a shoe.

The push in design hasn't trickled down well into local politics, at least not well in DC. Most candidates seem to revitalize their old color schemes and design, like Delano Hunter in Ward 5 who has recycled his green and yellow postage stamp poster from previous years. Eleanor Homes Norton has tacked the dome of the capital onto her yard signs. The only innovative branding approach has been Teri Galvez's pink elephant, which signifies one of two things, either she is a Republican that treads through cliched depictions of femininity, or I'm drinking too much. (Everywhere I go I see pink elephants!)

With any luck, in future years the branded identities of politicians will get better and better. And, if the issues of campaign reform have been any indication, maybe we'll see some cross over. Perhaps a politician will wear a jump suit covered in logos like a Nascar driver, and we'll be able to see the various sponsors that have contributed to the campaign. Or, better still, since corporations are people too, maybe well-branded corporations will run in future years.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Habitat for Humanity Auction Piece, and stuff in a Bethesda Tunnel

Habitat for Humanity, DC,  has organized a fundraiser through ArtNet Auctions. I've contributed one of my recent works for auction, courtesy of Adah Rose Gallery. This is the link to the work. And this is the link to bid on other art in the auction.

To add to the excitement of bidding on my work, I learned on Friday that one of my pieces from the series of "Building Blocks" was accepted into Tunnel Vision. Tunnel Vision is organized by the Bethesda Arts and Entertainment District/Bethesda Urban Partnership, and it is installing a dozen art works in a pedestrian tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue at the Bethesda metro stop on the Red Line.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A note from Saturday's Opening.

At the opening the other night, I received the following comment about my work.

"I'm completely pedestrian when it comes to this stuff, and I don't know a thing about art, but I just love the color in your pieces. And then I spend all kinds of time trying to figure out which logos these letters belong to."

I told her she was doing it right. She was! I got similar responses from people throughout the night: the color, the logos, possible word games, memories.

There is little point to over-thinking a work of art, meaning: you shouldn't have to spend a lot of time looking at it and thinking, "what the hell is this about?" Granted, sometimes it is important to think about context, place, current events, etc. But, if the work is doing its job right, it'll give you things to think about - things to look for.

A few years back, a show in Alexandria, featuring Four Letter Words did the same thing. People started looking at blocks of words, they found words of interest, they recalled what the homonyms and homophones meant, and then they looked for relationships between words. Art should be fun, from time-to-time.

Monday, February 13, 2012 Me me me

I've seen a variety of these floating about Facebook the past few days. So, I thought I'd make one of my own as a satire for all of the others that are floating about the Interwebs. Let's see if it goes viral!

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

My latest exhibition, upcoming at Adah Rose Gallery.

Below is the text from the press release for my upcoming exhibition at Adah Rose Gallery, in Kensington, MD. The opening is Saturday, February 11, 6:30 -8:30.

“The Pleasures Here Are Well Known”
featuring the work of John James Anderson and Susan Stacks
Opening Reception, Saturday February 11, 6:30-8:30 p.m. February 8 - March 11, 2012

Adah Rose Gallery, 3766 Howard Ave Kensington Md, 20895
Hours: Fri-Sun 12-6 and by appointment.

Music by Walker Road 

John James Anderson
The printed word and the acquisition of language are the principal ideas in the work of John James Anderson. His first series, “Building Blocks,” adopts the playful vocabulary of pop art with familiar logos and graphics which require reading through a lens that is both nostalgic and cerebral. Mr. Anderson creates a graphic alphabet from the eye- catching lettering of soda cans, candy wrappers and cereal boxes. In his second series, “Out of Print,” language and the evolution of our collective literacy is also explored, this time in the decline of print journalism. Mr. Anderson collected the front pages of national newspapers and carefully erases portions of their content, resulting in graphic and poetic musings on the fate of mass communication.

John James Anderson earned two BFAs from Iowa State University in graphic design and fine arts. After earning an MFA in painting from American University, he taught at American University, George Washington University, and The Corcoran College of Art and Design. He is currently Associate Professor of Art at Prince George’s Community College. He has shown extensively in the DC area, most recently at the Arlington Arts Center, Transformer Gallery, Glenview Mansion, and the Stamp Gallery at the University of Maryland.

Susan Stacks
Beginning with the unconsciousness of a doodle, but executed with the commitment of surgery, Susan Stacks creates drawings with pencil and pen that are artifacts of a meditative experience. These intricate and elegant works reference landscapes, microscopic forms, and cartography. As she draws, a twist becomes a tug, a dash a dot. Her influences are as varied as novels, mythological figures, plant and bacterial life, rock stars and vending machines. Ms. Stacks refers to her drawings as emotional maps, parasites, friends, and penance.

Susan Stacks recently earned an MFA from the School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan. She recieved her BFA, Magna cum laude, in sculpture, art, and visual technology from George Mason University in 2008. During her three years at the University of Michigan, she worked as a Graduate Student Instructor. She has received several grants and fellowships, both as an undergraduate and graduate student, and has exhibited both in Virginia and Michigan. This is her first show at Adah Rose Gallery.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Getting Ready for a New Show

By first broadcasting work from an old show.

In August I exhibited "The Gun Show" at the Washington Project for the Arts. For all of the quotes about Heller vs. DC, or all of the statistics regarding the disparities in Washington, or the failed Second Amendment blog written by James Madison's zombie, an interesting centerpiece for the exhibition was a video that illustrated DC murders between 2006 and 2010.

Lots of them were committed with a fire arm.