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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Thing 8: An Afternoon at the Galleries

And to think, Wednesday it was snowing and I was yearning for a hot toddy. I woke up late this morning and it was a glorious Spring day! Sun's out, a cool breeze is blowing and I could leave the house without coat or scarf. The perfect sort of day for a leisurely lunch and a tour of some local art galleries, which is exactly what I had planned with my friend Emily.

Emily owed me a lunch from a previous occasion, and she picked DCHot!. Being a sucker for a good toasted sandwich, I was happy to try this small place, located on P Street just west of Dupont Circle. I had the "Kansas Roast Beef," which boasts some of the tenderest roast beef I've ever had on sandwich, and a creamy horseradish sauce. The shop is cute, with a kitchy collection of old DC license plates on the walls and a variety of old timey Coca-Cola advertisements. After lunch, Emily and I crossed over to the east side of Dupont to explore some of the art galleries tucked away along 14th Street.

When I first arrived in DC, there wasn't a whole lot going on 14th Street. There was the Studio Theater and the Black Cat, but this historically black commercial corridor hadn't yet fully recovered from the riots in 1968, when it was burned and gutted. Then the Whole Foods moved in at P Street, between 14th and 15th. This precipitated a rapid revitalization and gentrification of the neighborhood. Restaurants, bars, funky little shops and very expensive furniture stores now line 14th Street, as well as art galleries.

Joseph McSpadden: Flesh and BoneWe stopped first at the Irvine Contemporary, a spare white space at the corner 14th and P. The exhibition, "Joseph McSpadden: Flesh and Bone" was my favorite of the three collections we saw. McSpadden's works were of two varieties: thick slabs of oil paint the circumference of quarters stacked on top each other into small peaks and valleys, or five foot long waterfalls of dried oil paint, each color its own fiber, dripping down and pooling at the bottom.

The artist sums up his collection by stating: "My work confronts our expectations of painting, questioning how the object is animated and who is responsible for animating it." I love the idea of re-imagining oil paint as a 3D medium, rather than relegating it to its traditional two dimensional function; making sculpture with it. The colors were earthy and fleshy and the sculptures so appealing, I had to remind myself not to touch them.

Joseph McSpadden: Untitled Panel 2

Just up the street, we next visited the Randall Scott Gallery. They currently have a show called "All Things Said, In Motion," featuring the work of five artists who use motion in their work. ThisTwo of the pieces in Rob Carter's beautiful Mauritius series. gallery had a lot of multimedia works, including an installation representing a deconstruction of grass growing in a field, complete with little boxes of sand and wind blowing long, single strands of grass. For $4,000 you can own Dane Picard's dvd, "Cheetah Hands," what he calls a "hand mosaic" that animates the outline of a cheetah running using only hand gestures pieced together in squares. Emily's and my favorite was probably a series of really beautiful photographs taken by Rob Carter at sunset in Mauritius. The colors were so vivid and vibrant, the images calming and still. The series of the four of them was beautiful put together, and made me long for a higher level of disposable income.

Finally, we visited the Adamson Gallery across the street and in the Donald Sultan: Smoke Ring #1same building as Veridian, a restaurant I'm itching to try. This show featured an eclectic mix of artists and mediums, including cast resin on wood that looked like those drawings of skin cells in high school biology text books, and a photograph of lightning against a red sky with an 8 x 10 mirror on one side and titled "The Dalai Lama." My favorite in this collection, without question, were two 3' x 4', black and white photographs of smoke rings. The detail of the smoke curling, curving and dissipating is truly beautiful.

Thus concluded our afternoon touring the diverse collection of art galleries on 14 street. I'm well aware that both Dupont and 14th Street are brimming with hidden galleries, and this will probably be Donald Sultan: Smoke Ring #2the first in a series of gallery tours. We just couldn't bear to be out of the nice weather any longer though, and Emily and I headed down the street to Dupont Circle to while away the afternoon reading in the sunshine.