- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 9, 2008

Once in awhile, an arts curator comes up with a successful new exhibiting approach — and the Arlington Arts Center’s Jeffry Cudlin has done just that with “Collectors Select.”

Mr. Cudlin chose six District/Arlington-based contemporary art connoisseurs who were willing to mix their usual acquiring roles with curatorial ones.

“I wanted a show about collecting interests, not about collectors,” Mr. Cudlin says.

While visiting the exhibit, consider that the Chinese blue-and-celadon Kangxi porcelains that consultant Julian Fore displays in his home inspired his choice of artists using similar hues.

Pink Line Project Director Philippa Hughes, who stages arts events in nontraditional settings — the latest was in a 14th Street Northwest auto brake shop — feels strongly that graffiti art is fine art. To support her opinion, she placed D.C.-based Tim Conlon and crew’s site-specific “Graffiti” in the stained-glass-decorated Louis L. Tiffany Gallery.

“Surprising as it might seem, these 20th-century windows by Tiffany make an ideal backdrop for the bold colors, intricate line details and witty characters of the art form,” she says.

Mr. Cudlin staged a major coup when he arranged for collectors Heather and Tony Podesta to curate “Between a Rock and a Hard Place.” Recently listed among America’s top collectors by Vanity Fair, they chose stunning nature-inspired photographs. They also selected a flowing floor-to-ceiling stone-and-wire sculpture by Barbara Liottaas the room’s centerpiece.

Reached by telephone, the Podestas say they only collect art they love.

The exhibit director wanted mature as well as young artists shown, and he found one in Leon Ferrari, 87, collector Daniel Levinas’ choice. Mr. Levinas chose the artist’s heliographs — large prints intended to resemble labyrinthine city plans with political messages.

Mr. Ferrari is the group’s most famous exhibitor inasmuch as he is the 2007 Venice Biennale Golden Lion winner.

Yet it is lawyer Henry L. Thaggert’s focus on a poetical kind of art — in video and photography — that is the best in show. Consider his vision of the four-part “History/Memory: The Videos of McCallum/Tary” as passionate explorings of universal pairings such as “male/female; black/white; husband/wife; dominant/subservient.”

These couplings are traditional, but their often sensual interpretations by the husband-and-wife art team of Brad McCallum and Jackie Tarry are not.

For the collector, scenes in the sexually charged “Cut” do it best, with each partner seeming to both revel in and reject his or her dominant/subservient role.

Pictured as the aggressive partner, Mr. McCallum seems to exult as he straight-razors Ms. Tarry’s hair into unattractive clumps. Mr. Thaggert sees it as “violence through sex.”

This is confirmed by the single tear running down one of Ms. Tarry’s cheeks.

Though the exhibit’s art-jargon-filled descriptions tend to negate its considerable power, this intriguing and original approach raises the exhibit to a higher level.

Mr. Cudlin is to be congratulated for his original exhibit approach, which could well be a model for future unusual shows.

WHAT: “Collectors Select”

WHERE: Arlington Arts Center, 3550 Wilson Blvd., Arlington

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, closed Sundays and Mondays. Through March 29

TICKETS: Free

PHONE: 703/248-6800

WEB: www.arlingtonartscenter.org

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