- The Washington Times - Friday, March 30, 2007

Washington artists often lament the lack of gallery exhibiting opportunities, but sometimes “alternative spaces” come to the rescue — as with the Washington DC Jewish Community Center’s “5+5: Five Artists Select Five Artists to Watch.”

“Here in Washington, artists need all the help they can get,” senior artist Sam Gilliam says of the show. “This is a way D.C.-connected artists can help each other, and it’s rarely been done since the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s 1968 ‘Ten Plus Ten.’”

Fortunately, the DCJCC’s Ann Loeb Bronfman Gallery chose to celebrate the center’s 10th anniversary this year in this exemplary and altruistic way.

Former Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden curator Phyllis Rosenzweig — who worked with an advisory committee — initially chose well-known sculptor Martin Puryear, photographer John Gossage, multimedia artist Renee Stout, painter Sam Gilliam and installation artist Dan Steinhilber.

Those artists then selected less famous ones — and several were surprises — Jae Ko, Mary Early, Pia Calderon, Otho Branson and Y. David Chung.

Unfortunately, works by choosers and their choices aren’t displayed together. “These kinds of juxtapositions just didn’t work with our space,” says Joshua Ford, director of the Morris Cafritz Center for the Arts.

But there could have been more of an effort.

Most of the top artists here chose lesser-known ones with styles unrelated to theirs. For example, Mr. Gilliam’s lusciously colored, “hinged” “Atlantis” (2005) — an acrylic painted on birch panels with two piano hinges — couldn’t be more different from Korean-born Miss Ko’s exquisite rolled-paper sculptures.

Mr. Gossage, an ultrarealist photographer, chose Miss Calderon, an artist from Bethesda — and before that, Brazil and Mexico. Her work is as free-flowing as his is straight-edged. They’re both connected in their love of art for books — his with images for books and hers with varied organically shaped sketches. He also selected a circular painting, “Ollinxochitl.”

Then there’s the haunting work of mystical storyteller Renee Stout — made famous by “Fatima Mayfield,” her exotic alter ego — who chose fellow Hemphill Fine Arts artist Mary Early.

“I admire her,” Miss Stout says, “because she exploits senses other than the usual one of sight. Mary’s ‘Untitled’ (2007) could be a giant, waxed-and-wood beehive. Smell and touch are important for her.”

Other selections are less successful. Mr. Steinhilber, currently Washington’s fair-haired wunderkind, zeroed in on a frightening urban landscape by Mr. Chung, who was born in Korea.

Unfortunately, after we’ve seen one Chung-slashed cityscape — here “Mega Mart” (2007) of graphite and conte — we’ve seen them all. They’re astonishingly similar.

Visitors may ask why Mr. Steinhilber’s work is so successful. He created his luminous “Untitled” (2007) especially for the exhibit. Basically, it’s a 6-foot-long, floor-mounted fluorescent light bulb smashed into shards. Ironically, the curator describes it as “anthropomorphic” in the exhibit brochure.

Another missed opportunity is Mr. Puryear’s choice of Mr. Branson. The little-known Mr. Branson shows a boringly repetitive rectangle of differently colored acrylic-on-paper grids in “2006-09-10.”

Nevertheless, Miss Rosenzweig managed to delve up Mr. Puryear’s impressive, rarely shown “Untitled” (1973) of stylized “oaks” bound in a steel-wire enclosure. It predicts his later abstractions of simple buildings and enclosures.

The exhibit’s artists make few new finds, but the contrasts of choosers and choices can be challenging. For example, Mr. Gilliam’s grounding is definitely Western in “Atlantis” with its soft acrylic layerings, subtle hues and three- and two-dimensional combinations.

He began with large-scale draped paintings and later traveled to the more sculptural approaches of “Atlantis.”

As Mr. Gilliam looks for originality in his work, he also sees it in Miss Ko’s simply rolled paper-and-glue swinging configurations — “Untitled (JK528)” (2007) and “Untitled (JK529)” (2007).

“First,” she says, “I repeatedly roll hundreds of thick and thin paper rolls through cash registers. I then spin them on Asian-type potter’s wheel posts for hollow doughnut shapes.”

These two artists achieve deeply felt elegances that are the exhibit’s most pleasurable.

WHAT: “5+5: Five Artists Select Five Artists to Watch”

WHERE: The Ann Loeb Bronfman Gallery of the Washington DC Jewish Community Center, 16th and Q streets Northwest.

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays; closed Saturdays; and closed for Passover on Tuesday and Wednesday and April 9 and 10.

TICKETS: Free.

INFORMATION: Click on www.washingtondcjcc.org or call 202/518-9400.


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