Is a Picasso hanging in the woods without a viewer still a Picasso? Paul Weil doesn’t think so. The 27-year-old District artist, part-time art impresario, and lead singer of alt-funk outfit Sampson insists that “Art that’s not seen doesn’t exist.”
Hoping to avert existential crises over unseen potential masterpieces, Weil and five friends established Masters of Arta loose confederation of artists exhibiting their own work. Since July, the six Masters (friends who met as University of Maryland undergrads and at the local design firm Toolbox) have hosted four art parties in Weil’s two-room studio just south of Dupont Circle.
The Masters aren’t typical artsy do-gooders earnestly peddling their work. Their most recent show, called “Never Stop Caring,” was organized around a photo shoot of the members performing a mock neighborhood clean-up, complete with a faux benefit concert held several weeks earlier that featured a performance by the Masters of Art band under a banner declaringwith Repo Man-style genericism”Benefit Concert.” Suspended over the fireplace at the Masters’ show last Friday night was a gigantic check from the benefit for $250,000, endorsed by the Masters and made payable to “The Less Fortunate.”
All the Masters created piecessome more or less seriousexpressly for the show. Web designer Tim Pugh fashioned an installation incorporating slides of the Masters’ community service photos: Master Jason Faust with a self-satisfied smile, zestfully wielding a garbage can; Master Erick Jackson eagerly sweeping the sidewalk. Above the installation, Pugh’s painting Helper Monkeyfeaturing the familiar “handicapped” symbol with a stylized monkey in its lapsmiled down benevolently. Master Amanda Kleinman, who baked M-shaped sugar cookies for the party, contributed four paper collages featuring cartoonish figures with captions such as “We am helper peoples, and we give love if you move and poo falls on you.”
The group was still awaiting the work of the show’s guest artist, Brian Liu, when folks began trickling in. “He just called to say he’s on his way,” explained Pugh. “He’s bringing some photos he took today.”
“This is very last-minute,” Faust added.
“We’re a well-oiled machine,” Weil said proudly, reveling in the evening’s impromptu tone. “And we wear [our] process on our sleeve.”Jessica Dawson