The D.C. Docent

Civilian Art Projects Opens It’s New Space Tonight!!!

It’s been several months since Civilian left its space over on 7th St., NW due to building issues. As Jayme McLellan, Civilian’s Director, is happy to tell you, the gallery itself wasn’t closing (duh). A while back I posted about Civilian’s collaboration with G Fine Art to share space in the same building, which tonight, you can witness for yourself with the debut of a solo show by local artist Amy Hughes Braden (who you should follow on Instagram @hughesbraden). Amy’s celebrity portraits at the Corcoran NEXT show a few years back will always be one of my highlights from BFA Corc students. Her painting since then has only gotten better and her portraits more complex. So what I’m saying is be there tonight!

Amy Hughes Braden “Are You Gonna Eat That?” at Civilian Art Projects, 4718 14th Street NW, Saturday, May 10, 2014, Opening Reception 6-8pm.

Tomorrow: Exposed DC 2014 Opening Night

The thing I like about ExposedDC is that they’ve been consistent in seeking to show the DMV area “not as a political venue or tourist destination, but as a place where we live and work and love every day.” Most people outside of D.C. only have one view of the city; we are not an either/or proposition.

Tomorrow night’s opening reception will showcase 49 images of D.C. by mostly local photographers at Long View Gallery. Expect a wide range of genres, quality and subject matter. Also expect affordable art that supports local artists; a win-win proposition.

Show runs from March 19 to April 6, 2014, with opening night reception on Wednesday, March 19, 2014 from 6-10pm. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door. Afterparty at The Passenger, free entry and cash bar, 8pm. Long View Gallery is located at 1234 9th St. NW. Regular gallery hours are Wednesday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday, 12 to 5 p.m. Free.

Your Sunday Instruction: Damage Control Artwork Screenings at The Hirshhorn

Disclaimer: I have yet to see Damage Control: Art and Destruction Since 1950, but I’ve had a lot going on. Trust me.

Today, indulge yourself by checking out this exhibit of modern and contemporary works about artistic expression and destruction. Follow up your browsing with a viewing of some film/video works you may never get a chance to see on the big screen and which aren’t part of the works in the galleries. The screening includes work by Cyprien Gaillard, Bruce Conner, Johan Grimonprez, Ant Farm, Superflex, Christian Jankowski, and Doug Aitken. You know some of these names, but not all of them.

I am most interested in Ant Farm’s Media Burn and Bruce Conner’s Crossroads form the mid-70s. They both comment on the state of America, with Media Burn satirizing the emerging media-circus state and Crossroads appropriating footage of the first underwater atomic bomb test and turning it into something altogether fascinating, fantastical and otherworldly that shows, rather than tells, a distinctly American viewpoint.

Screenings in the Ring Auditorium, split into two programs at 11am & 2pm, Sunday, March 16, 2014. Damage Control runs through May 26, 2014. Admission is free, first come first served.

One Night Stand: (re)activate Tonight

Good weather, a vacant lot, time-based works, performance art and some of your favorite local faces including Animals & Fire, James Huckenpahler, Patrick McDonough, Kendall Nordin, Jose Ruiz and more.

Who’s behind this set-up? Hamiltonian and Angie Goerner mostly, but with support from lots of other locals. Get going there because this is one-night only.

Takes place in the empty parking lot at the southwest corner of U & 9th Street, NW, tonight, Saturday, March 15th between 6:30pm - 9:30pm.

Corcoran Redux: Best of the Worst News

I’m not done sharing my two cents, but if you’d like to read what others are saying, click below:

A Timeline of the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s Troubled History

Former Director of the Corcoran, David C. Levy talks mistakes (but makes no mention of any personal culpability)

Finding consolation in the breakup of the Corcoran

At Corcoran, a tumultuous week takes its toll (with feedback from staff and students)

Tyler Green compares Corcoran to MCI or Enron (and he’s not wrong)

GWU student journos assess the change

It’s the End of The Corcoran As We Know It, and I Don’t Feel Fine

I’ve been struggling with what to say about the Wednesday announcement from The Corcoran Gallery of Art that it will cease to exist and it’s respective parts will be subsumed by the George Washington University and the National Gallery of Art. Part of the reason I’ve been having such a hard time with this, is because I am a docent there.

I found out about the decision much in the same way most others did…through an end-of-the-day email from The Corcoran saying, by the way, here’s a letter from Peggy Loar on what’s happening to us. By the time they sent the email, I already knew because I had read about it in The Washington Post and in Facebook posts (Corcoran Curator Sarah Cash’s post was probably the best one I read). From what I understand, even staff weren’t told before the Post article came out. This is the type of behavior that has become emblematic of what the Wall Street Journal described as “mismanagement on a near-epic scale.”

The demise of one of America’s oldest museums, and the first museum in this country to focus exclusively on collecting contemporary American art, is a catastrophic event for the nation, but more so for the District of Columbia and the local arts community. No other museum in Washington has had an impact on the arts community of this city like the Corcoran has had. Almost every single person I know who is an artist, a gallerist, a collector, a patron, or any other member of the local arts community has a unique relationship with the Corcoran and its school. There is no other Washington museum that can claim the same unique relationship with DC artists; not the Phillips, not the Kreeger, not the National Gallery of Art and least of all the Smithsonian.

The DC arts community loses the most by the dissolution of the museum as we know it, the subsuming of the school and the inevitable scattering of the collection. I have loved every moment of being a docent at The Corcoran and love the collection in a very personal way. When the Corcoran took down George Bellows’ 42 Kids to loan to the NGA for it’s Bellows exhibit last year I missed it so much; I would walk by where it used to hang and wish it was there. But I knew that it would be back, and when I saw it as part of the NGA exhibit (which was amazing) I was so happy to see it! It was like a visit with an old friend, and I loved seeing it in the context of the rest of Bellows’ works, but I also loved the fact that as the exhibit wound-down, I knew it would be returning to The Corcoran. When the Corcoran rehung the American collection last year, 42 Kids was back in the galleries, in a new spot, given better lighting, placement and prominence.

There are so many pieces in the Corcoran’s collection I have grown to love in peculiar ways, whether it’s the showstopper pieces like Frederic Church’s Niagara, Singer Sargent’s En Route Pour La Peche, Joan Mitchell’s Salut Tomor Hopper’s Ground Swell. Or quieter pieces like Richard Norris Brooke’s A Pastoral Visit, Jean Chardin’s Scullery Maid, Robert Mangold’s Five-Color Frame or Thomas Cole’s Departure and Return. William Wilson Corcoran collected works that were contemporary for their time, and that philosophy drove the earliest inklings he had for his collection and the museum he envisioned. He was bold in that way for his time, collecting American contemporary artists when everyone else was still obsessed with Europe.

Boldness and vision were at the core of the Corcoran’s founding, but the mismanagement of it left room for neither, or rather the lack of both contributed to the mismanagement. Real leadership is about combining vision with execution, something that the Corcoran in these last two decades never seemed to be able to achieve.

There is more to say, and more to be written on this matter. I won’t try to fit it all into a blog post here, but I felt that I needed to say something now, today. I’ve always kept the fact that I was a docent at the Corcoran anonymous, but this latest development was too much for me to continue staying silent. This heartache is real.