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One of the best D.C. art openings taking place this fall won’t be happening in D.C.
“You Are Here: Washington D.C.” brings together seven artists for a quick primer on art in the District for New York’s Dorian Grey Gallery next month. Featuring work by seven D.C. artists, “You Are Here” is by no means a complete survey of Washington art and doesn’t mean to be. And without having seen any work for the show, I’d say it’s as comprehensive—and as D.C.—as any show of seven artists from Washington could hope to be.
The show is wide-ranging, featuring artists who work in paint, sculpture, performance, photography, and in between. At first glance, it’s hard to find the common thread that unites Billy Colbert, Lily DeSaussure, Ryan Florig, Alexa Meade, Marissa Long, Adrian Parsons, and Trevor Young, except that they’re all fairly young artists. Long, Florig, and Meade are photographers working in extremely different modes. Colbert and Young both paint, with Colbert pinch-hitting as a sculptor. Parsons is an ever-present if difficult-to-categorize art guy; this time around he’s contributing digital images. DeSaussure has shown work from a variety of media, including embroidery, which she is contributing for the show.
What makes this group such a credible D.C. delegation is that so many of them have represented D.C. here at home, too.
DeSaussure, for example, has worked at Project 4 Gallery. Long worked at Transformer and has organized panels for the nonprofit’s “Framework” series; last summer, she co-curated a photo show, “Exquisite Corpse”, and she’s the assistant director at Cheryl Numark Art Advisory. Colbert, who has the longest District resume of the bunch, books art and performance for the Eric Hilton–backed Montserrat House. Parsons ably represents the Brightest Young Things circuit and is involved in another new Hilton venture, an arts space at 1337 H Street NE. In terms of media exposure, Meade may be the best-represented of any artist in D.C.: Slate was the most recent outlet to turn her painting schtick into click bait.
Florig, on the other hand, hasn’t shown D.C. much of anything: His first big showing will be at the upcoming But Is It Art? fair. “You Are Here,” which curator Danielle Vu named for one of Florig’s photographs, will be his second exhibition. It’s an unexpected angle for a regional survey—to include an untested artist to represent the city—but welcome curatorial practice for almost any group art show.
There’s another common bond between these artists. With the exception of Young, none of them is represented by a D.C. gallery. (Put an asterisk on Meade: She is represented by Martin Irvine Gallery, which went virtual, i.e., closed its storefront space, last month.) Young is represented by Civilian Art Projects, while Colbert has gallery representation in Atlanta and Oakland.
Vu says that she aims to export some D.C. style to the East Village for the show’s Oct. 15 opening, too, tapping lit journal The Folly, homegrown brewery D.C. Brau, and her band Shark Week to make it a truly D.C. party. Fair enough. But what’s in it for D.C. viewers? Sure, the show’s only a BoltBus ticket away. But a panel featuring these artists—independent artists who don’t revolve in the orbits of Philippa Hughes or Leigh Conner or other D.C. fixtures—would be one way to bring some of the insight of this D.C. show to D.C. Who knows whether New York will pay any attention to it, but I bet D.C. would.
Update! 3:03 p.m.: Vu writes in an email that she’s added another artist, Joey P. Manlapaz, to the show.