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Three strung-together lines of T-shirts flew up the side of the Adams Mill Road NW building that houses Casanova’s Studio. The tableau was supposed to evoke the clotheslines of the barrio; each line signified one of the three artists featured Thursday, June 1, at Artoconecto, a collective founded by Alexandra Rangel and Lorenzo Casanova to foster the art of local artists whose work has not been displayed locally.
Inside and up a steep flight of stairs, London cellist Michael Kevin Jones warmed up the crowd in the room where Ruben Gamarra’s photography from New York shares wall space with Nelson Villasana’s painting and sculptures from Madrid.
The three artists have zero in common, except for their identity as newcomers to the District. The visual art, in fact, could not have much less in common. Gamarra’s photography hails from the heavens—a variety of high-contrast and abstract images of angels in ethereal flight. Villasana’s paintings and sculptures are from the gutter or at least the Madrid alleys that he scours for lost objects to refurbish. “I like to work with things that people have no use for,” Villasana says through a translator.
But if the art stands dimensions apart, it matters little to Rangel, who organized the show. A transplant herself, the Venezuelan artist hopes to give a boost to artists who are trying to establish themselves here. To draw a crowd for greater exposure, she makes her monthly soirees somewhat more exciting than your average gallery show with its polite conversational tempo. Her trick, she says, is a homemade sangria and, tonight, a four-piece funk band, One Night Stand, that gets a fair number of folks dancing—even in the tropical heat. “We like to make it fun and to foster a familylike atmosphere,” she says, “a support system, if you will.” —Patrick Tracey