Kevin MacDonald is the star of not one but two shows at the American University Museum. In addition to “The Tension of a Suspended Moment,” his career retrospective, MacDonald is featured throughout “Teenage Twisted Plot,” an exhibition about the musical side-careers of D.C. visual artists active in the late 1970s and early ‘80s (and vice versa). This show, part of the Alper Initiative for Washington Art—a new, dedicated space for local artists at the American University Museum—is named for MacDonald’s new-wave band, Teenage Twisted Plot. Unlike his retro-modern artworks, MacDonald’s musical collaborations sound like something you might still hear at the 9:30 Club today.
If “The Tension of a Suspended Moment” is a sprawling double album in which a great single LP is hiding, then “Twisted Teenage Plot” is the boxed set, filled with deep cuts and rarities for the completist. Jack Rasmussen, director and curator of the museum, might be the biggest fan of this era of D.C. arts. The show includes paintings by old mainstays such as Clark Fox and Joe White, recordings and ephemera by groups like Twisted Teenage Plot and Tiny Desk Unit, and a catalog featuring nostalgic essays by everyone involved.
The highlight of the show is “UVATAC” (Urban Verbs at the Atlantis Club)” (1978), a graphite and colored-pencil drawing by MacDonald. It depicts the gear belonging to Urban Verbs, a stellar D.C. new-wave band from this era, on stage at the club that came before the old 9:30 Club. (If you were there: congratulations, you’re the real D.C.) MacDonald’s rendering of amps and mic-stands carries all the same attention to structure and atmospherics as his drawings of Silver Spring. Capturing the moment from a bygone scene is hard to do; MacDonald’s drawing makes it seem like not a day has gone by.
4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Free. (202) 885-1300. american.edu/cas/museum.