On November 7, FotoWeekDC kicks off a weeklong celebration of screenings, installations, and lectures. The heart of the festival is FotoWeek Central, located at the Former Residence of the Spanish Ambassadors in Columbia Heights, where a powerful collection of works from iconic photographers and emerging artists serves as the festival's anchor exhibit.
Billy Friebele and Mike Iacovone have been working as an art collective for about eight years, so when they heard about the DC Public Library's new Maker-in-Residence Program, they decided to apply together.
As part of the program, the DC Library Foundation grants a resident artist, maker, or designer a budget of $25,000--including a stipend and extra cash for materials, outreach, and travel expenses--plus other perks, like the chance to host workshops and community classes at local libraries.
In August, Friebele and Iacovone became the one-year program's inaugural "makers." The local artists can work from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library's Fabrication Lab--or Fab Lab--to "make" projects using laser cutters, wire benders, 3D printers, robotics, and more. At the end of the residency, in the fall of 2016, the program culminates with an exhibition at the DC Public Library.
Jordan Eagles is used to working with blood. For 15 years, the New York artist has transformed vital fluids from slaughterhouses into red-splattered abstractions. But for his sculpture on view through October 18 at the American University Museum, he choose a different kind of blood: Blood Mirror is a seven-foot-tall monolith made with the blood of nine gay and bisexual men.
The FDA bans any men who've had sex with other men since 1977 from donating blood, a policy in place since 1985. But this May the agency announced a proposal that would allow men who have been celibate for a year to make donations. To Eagles, this news was "a slap in the face." "Even today, we are not equal in our blood," he says.
The issue is often treated politically, so he devised a sculpture that could escape the policy realm. "To view it as art really opens up the conversation in a much broader way," he says.
On September 26, Art All Night: Nuit Blanche DC will transform the city into a crazy patchwork of art exhibitions, concerts, and video installations, with even a silent disco thrown into the mix. More than 250 artists, musicians, and performers will invade dozens of local venues, ranging from the Carnegie Library to vacant, weed-covered lots.
Ariana Austin brought the concept to Washington after attending a similar event in France. While teaching English at a high school outside Paris in 2008, she learned of the original Nuit Blanche--named after a French expression for all-nighter that translates to “white night.” The one-night arts extravaganza started in Paris in 2002 and has since spread to cities around the world, including Montreal, Rome, and Melbourne. “I had never thought about a nighttime arts and culture festival before,” Austin says. “There was a spirit of openness and egalitarianism that you could feel, and the quality of the art was really, really great."
Austin decided to bring Nuit Blanche to DC. In 2011, she got a $15,000 grant from the DC Commission on Arts and the Humanities and launched the event. Art All Night has been growing since; last year, more than 30,000 people filled the streets. “It’s public space reimagined,” she says. “It’s great for neighborhoods, it’s great for businesses, and it’s great for artists.”
With a $300,000 budget this year, there are ample reasons to stay up late that Saturday night. (Full disclosure: I'm a mixed-media artist and will be staging an installation at the Carnegie Library as part of the event.) Here are a few of this year's highlights:
Several art galleries will be open late with special exhibitions. The Embassy Row Hotel will host local and international short films from the Parallel Film Collective, a DJ party by One Love Massive, live painting by artist Jonn Marc, and a neon black-light rooftop party.
H Street, Northeast
Art Whino, a National Harbor, Maryland gallery known for its eclectic art events, will open a satellite location at 700 H Street for its G40: Art Summit. The gallery will fill a 20,000-square-foot vacant building with artwork, murals, and light installations by more than 70 artists. Gallery O on H will feature video installations, fire sculptures, and a bit of burlesque. A giant projection by the New York-based Laia Cabrera & Co. will cover the Bank of America façade at 722 H Street, Northeast and will be accompanied by a musical ensemble.
The neighborhood where Art All Night started, Shaw will have venues spread along Seventh and Ninth Streets, including a vacant lot where people can cast their silhouettes onto a five-story building. Downstairs at the Carnegie Library, Olivia Tripp Morrow will create a “sculptural painting” suspended from the ceiling using donated clothes from dozens of women.
Guests can don headphones and pick a music channel for a silent disco while watching video art projections in a vacant lot at Florida Avenue and Q Street, Northwest. In another lot across the street, artists will show their work along with performances by fire spinners, acrobats, and several bands, including Batalá Washington, an all-female Afro-Brazilian samba and reggae group.
The Gateway Pavilion on the east campus of St. Elizabeth's Hospital will feature performances by local bands, including Footwerk, which mixes go-go, hip-hop, and reggae. The JoGo Project will create a sonic stew of jazz, funk, and go-go.
About three years ago, Julie Wolfe started collecting water samples from across the country. She went to New York, Texas, DC, and Maryland, pouring each sample into a jar then mixing in natural ingredients, like squid ink, sandalwood, beets, and turmeric, as well as chemicals like copper sulfate, crystal violet, and methylene blue. She arranged the jars onto shelves, connected them with tubes, and lit the whole thing from behind.
The resulting installation is a stunning spectrum of color. The chemicals and materials will transform the water, creating a living, breathing artwork and a statement on man's harmful impact on the environment.
"It's interesting to see the reaction with these different industrial chemicals and then also with the organic materials," Wolfe says. "The point is to see how the exhibition changes over time."
The installation "Green Room" runs from September 11 to December 31 at 1700 L Street NW, an exhibition space operated by Hemphill. It's the gallery's third project in the space, but the inside isn't usually accessible. According to founder George Hemphill, installations are selected based on their ability to impact people as they walk by. Wolfe's piece does exactly that. "It looks mysterious. It emanates light. It's super colorful, and it makes an environmental statement," he says.
On opening night, September 11, between 6 and 8 PM, guests can venture inside for a closer look. Hemphill says the gallery is planning additional events through December, and people can also make appointments to view the space from inside. Besides that, the installation is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week--when viewed from the outside, of course.
One tip: Wolfe suggests visiting after sunset; at night, you can really see the water's myriad hues.
Washington’s glut of ambitious millennials may be great for the tax base, but they challenge cultural institutions looking to lure future benefactors. Here’s what the places are trying instead of black-tie galas.
John Grade's "Middle Fork" was created in Washington state, but the finished sculpture will be exhibited in DC's Renwick Gallery when the historic space reopens on November 13. A sculptor of dynamic, large-scale objects that typically involve community involvement, Grade started working on the piece in April of last year. The first step: A group of eight spent about two weeks working on the ambitious (and seemingly grueling) task of casting a living, 140-year-old hemlock tree near the Snoqualmie River. Thanks to the help of tree-climbing rigs, they hung nearly 90 feet in the air and painstakingly applied layer after layer of foil and plaster cast.
Next, the artist invited the public into a Seattle studio to help cover the cast with quarter-inch cedar blocks. The result is a hollow, 40-foot-long sculpture built out of hundreds of thousands of tiny blocks--a mesmerizing piece that mimics the tree's lower half and offers viewers a unique look inside a massive trunk form. Following its exhibition tour, Grade will place the biodegradable sculpture on the ground near the original hemlock in Washington state, where it'll disintegrate into the earth. You can hear more about how the stunning piece was made--and will ultimately be destroyed--in the video below.
"Middle Fork" is part of the Renwick's opening show, WONDER, an immersive exhibition featuring nine contemporary artists, including Maya Lin, designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Wonder will run through July 10.
Toki's "Synth Series 002" was meant to be a temporary installation--a stunning web of yarn that brought curious visitors to an abandoned, graffiti-emblazoned building in Northeast. The duo behind the art collective--Toluwalase Rufai and Khai Grubbs--had hoped to take the strings down themselves on August 12.
On Saturday afternoon, however, someone beat them to it. The carefully arranged threads at 809 Channing Place in Edgewood were cut down without the pair's knowledge. The yarn was piled in neat bundles on the floor.
So who tore down the piece? The answer remains unclear. The installation's legality wasn't firmly established; Rufai and Grubbs admit they created it without permission from the building's owner. The address is listed as the future location for Channing Place, a six-story residential building by Douglas Development Corporation. The real estate developer didn't immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday afternoon.
What took Toki about 18 hours to create was destroyed in about an hour. "What's the point of cutting it and putting it on the ground?" says Rufai, who heard the news from a commenter on Instagram. "Art is impermanent. It's temporary. But it's just the way [the installation] was treated that we do not like or agree with."
Though they didn't find what they were looking for, some weekend visitors lingered in the abandoned space. "It was cool because the art piece brought us to a part of the city that we don't really frequent," says Michael Fila, who visited the building with a friend on Sunday. "People seemed disappointed that it had been cut down, but it didn't deter anyone from coming in to explore the space."
Toki isn't letting the snafu bring them down. Grubbs says they have plans for another installation before summer's end: "We're going to continue adding to the series." As for the location, they're not ready to reveal that just yet.
This summer, two Howard University architecture grads named Toluwalase Rufai and Khai Grubbs, who form the art collective known as Toki, are creating string installations across Washington. First, there was an outdoor web of yarn at Fort Totten Park. Now they've moved on to an abandoned building at 809 Channing Pl., Northeast, in Edgewood, where they've tied magenta, orange, light pink, and cyan string around columns, creating an Instagram-worthy piece that's meant to make visitors think about sound and the perception of public space. Dubbed "Synth Series 002," the piece was inspired by music, Rufai and Grubbs say.
"These creations allow us to represent the sounds of music as physical worlds," the duo writes in an email. They don't get too fussy about meaning though: "Ultimately, we just aim to create dope experiences."
Picture this: You're walking around town with your headphones on, listening to your favorite jam. You look up, and all of a sudden, amid the clouds, you see construction cranes--only these aren't regular construction cranes. These cranes have grown tired of lifting things. They said, "Forget this high-rise, man." And so these cranes began to dance, spinning and sashaying frenetically to the music in your head.
That's (sort of) what happened to Brandon Vickerd, a Canadian artist and professor at York University, who teaches art theory and installations. "There was this weird moment where the music in my headphones seemed to sync with some construction cranes," he says. "I decided to run with it."
The result was a 2009 performance called "Dance of the Cranes" in Toronto, where two high-rise cranes got their groove on for one night. "I focus on making works of art that are in the public realm that aren’t permanent, but that really get people to think about the urban center around them," he says.
Now Vickerd is bringing his dancing cranes to DC for the infinitely creative Capital Fringe Festival on July 15. At 8:15 PM, you can plop yourself on the grass at Milian Park (499 Massachusetts Ave., NW) and watch two cranes get down for a 45-minute dance. And because no dance party is complete without a soundtrack, the performance includes ambient music, which will be blasted throughout the streets.
The event, of course, is free.
The Capital Fringe Festival runs from July 9 to August 2.