Best Arts Bets May 13
Le Drip, "Free Lunch" by Blu Murphy; Courtesy of Torpedo Factory Arts Center

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Welcome to Friday! City Paper is trying some different things as we move toward a digital-first existence. What does that mean for you? For starters, City Lights will now be delivered in one easy-to-access package every week. So check back here on Fridays for our recommendations and ruminations on the best and lesser known artsy events happening in our fair city. —Sarah Marloff

Open Saturday: LE DRIP: The Uncontainable Sauce of Black Essence

Blu Murphy, the D.C.-based artist and arts educator, is celebrating her Black community and featuring its stories in her current solo exhibit LE DRIP: The Uncontainable Sauce of Black Essence, on display at Alexandria’s Target Gallery. Using her elementary and middle school students as the subjects of her work, Murphy seeks to spotlight individuals who are often overlooked at the age they begin to become “unseen.” The series centers Black narratives in mixed media works combining photography and graffiti, as well as collage elements. As Murphy notes in the press release, the paint drips, for which the exhibition is named, represents the “uncontainable and undeniable sauce of the [B]lack essence,” the ingredients of which is the community’s “combined pain, triumphs, joys, strength, and swag.” By tagging the works with “I am Art,” Murphy challenges viewers to see and ask themselves to consider what is art and what is valuable? The exhibition itself pops against the white walls of the gallery. The stark contrast shines a spotlight on the untold stories of frequently undervalued individuals. Over the entrance of LE DRIP, shoes hang from the ceiling to remember lost community members. Emerging as the exhibit progresses is a breakthrough—a disenfranchised community that is seen. Black essence drips through each portrait and flows from one piece to the next, proving that the unseen leads to masterpieces. “I see art everywhere I go, most importantly in my community,” Murphy says. “Everyone is a work of art.” Through July 17 at Target Gallery, 105 N. Union St., Alexandria. Open Wednesdays through Sundays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Free. —Anupma Sahay

Sunday: District Cinema: Flee

Courtesy of District Cinema

Patricia Nader is a film fan who’s spent the past two months planning the launch of District Cinema, a pop-up experience devoted to screening independent foreign film in slightly unusual settings. After weeks of organizing, the pop-up will pop up for its first time at the Adams Morgan Afghan Bistro, Lapis, on Sunday, May 15. The eclectic, swanky restaurant is an ideal setting for a screening of Flee, a Danish documentary about Amin, a queer Afghan refugee’s journey from Afghanistan to Denmark. The film puts a unique twist on the documentary format—director Jonas Poher Rasmussen opted to use animation to tell Amin’s story while protecting his identity. While Rasmussen won’t be there in person, District Cinema will share a pre-recorded Q&A with the director following the screening. “I launched [District Cinema] because I love film and I think D.C. has a need for more film events,” Nader tells City Paper. But it’s not just about movies. The hope is that District Cinema will not only host film screenings, but also feature food and drink specials—“To shed light on different cultures through film, but also through other mediums,” says Nader. That’s exactly what this first event aims to do. Ticket holders will be treated to a specialty cocktail—or mocktail—as well as a selection of Afghan appetizers from Lapis. The Bib Gourmand restaurant, owned by a local Afghan family, has been a great partner, says Nader. Likewise, the city’s Immigration Film Festival has also joined forces with District Cinema to help make the event happen. Nader, whose day job is in the hospitality industry, says the pop up is a passion project that she’s doing with the help of some friends. That passion is clear. District Cinema isn’t looking to profit from ticket sales. Instead, all proceeds will be donated to Afghanistan Youth Relief Foundation, an organization that supports displaced Afghan refugees in the region and throughout the country. For now, Flee is the only screening on the calendars, but Nader’s hopeful District Cinema will host monthly events, with fundraising components (a June event that will likely support Ukraine is in the works). But first, let’s enjoy this one. District Cinema presents Flee and fundraiser starts at 6:30 p.m. on May 15 at Lapis, 1847 Columbia Rd. NW. $55. —Sarah Marloff

Ongoing: Sporarium 

Sporarium by Yuko Nishikawa at Friends Artspace; Photo by Margaret Bakke

Friends Artspace shines a light on sculptures—quite literally—in its new exhibition by Yuko Nishikawa. Sporarium showcases ceramic pendants, sculptures, tableware, and lamps, among other objet d’art, some plunging from the ceiling and some bewitchingly arranged along the walls and tables of the small gallery. Nishikawa’s roots in Brooklyn and Japan inspire her whimsical ceramics, which are created in all colors and shapes. As a designer and contemporary ceramicist, Nishikawa plays with edges and coloration to create pieces alive with story. She experiments with lighting to create movement and illuminate the ceramics in the exhibition. As the light moves through the edges and colors of the pieces, alternate surfaces are dimmed and highlighted, colors are softened, and shadows create gradients. The industrial application of lighting constructs movable designs to continue each story. As the ceramics move and evolve, Nishikawa’s journey with her ceramics remains constant, even as the pieces spring up from her handwork and transform in the depths of her kiln. Friends Artspace calls the artist’s connection with her works as her “delight” to reunite with the ceramics as she retrieves them, and her excitement for their reveal. With new parts of each fantastical ceramic to discover as the light continues to shine, refracting on surfaces and illuminating different areas, the pieces can feel both recognizable and unexplored. Nishikawa seeks to trigger wonder with the mystery of each piece. “‘Piku piku’ is a Japanese onomatopoeia that describes involuntary movements caused by unexpected contact,” says Nishikawa. “I want my work to make you feel piku piku, tickling something deep down inside you.” Through May 27 at Friends Artspace, 2400 N. Edgewood St., Arlington.—Anupma Sahay

Wednesday: Cloud Cult

Cloud Cult; by Scott Streble

Minnesotan indie rock band Cloud Cult had grand plans for the release of their long-awaited studio album, initially slated to be unveiled to the public in March 2020 via collaborative performances with the Minnesota Orchestra. Those plans, and the album, were shelved when the pandemic hit, but the delay gave the band an opportunity to reevaluate the material. “There was so much transition going on personally and globally, that it felt like spending time with the songs and letting them adjust to the new paradigm was important,” explains lead singer Craig Minowa. “Some of the songs got ditched, and some of them drastically changed themselves to adjust with the times.” The resulting effort, Metamorphosis, focuses on global change and the need for people to make serious adjustments to face global crises. Now finally hitting the road, including a stop at City Winery on May 18, Cloud Cult, who have always promoted eco friendliness, calculated a way to offset any carbon emissions they’ll have during this tour. “We figured out how much co2 we’re making with our flights, with our travel, with our electricity on stage and in the hotels,” Minowa tells City Paper. “We figured out how many trees need to be planted in order to absorb all that. So this tour, we’re probably going to plant over 1,000 trees just to suck up what we’re putting out there.” The band also picked up where they left off in March 2020, finally playing three sold out shows with the Minnesota Orchestra this past April. “It was absolutely surreal to go from a pandemic where we’re performing over our webcams to being in a venue with a couple of thousand people, all wearing masks, but still sitting shoulder to shoulder,” says Minowa. “That was pretty wild.” Doors open at 6 p.m. on May 18 at City Winery, 1350 Okie St. NE. $25–$35. Proof of vax and masks required. Christina Smart

Ongoing: Watergate: Portraiture and Intrigue

“Watergate Breaks Wide Open; ”Jack Davis, Watercolor and ink on paperboard, 1973; National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Time magazine © Estate of Jack Davis

On June 17, 1972, the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate complex were broken into. Since then, the word “Watergate” has come to represent far more than just the building. The term is used in reference to the burglary, the White House’s attempt to cover up their complacency, and President Richard Nixon’s involvement in the matter. Fifty years after the historic event, the National Portrait Gallery explores the political scandal that ensued through its exhibit, Watergate: Portraiture and Intrigue. The exhibit is part of the Portrait Gallery’s One Life series, an initiative that explores the biography of a single figure, theme or moment in time. Watergate: Portraiture and Intrigue features twenty-five objects in various mediums—paintings, sculptures, cartoons, and, of course, portraits of those involved in the scandal (including Nixon himself). “The nation has been fascinated by Watergate for more than fifty years,” Portrait Gallery’s acting senior historian Kate Clarke Lemay says in the exhibit’s press release. “The incident and its aftermath have evolved in the decades since into a uniquely American meme, buoyed by depictions in film and pop culture and regular reference in modern political discourse.” The goal of Watergate: Portraiture and Intrigue is to “examine the crisis and its contributors through the lenses of the artists and critics of its time,” Lemay continues. The exhibit is an attempt to bring visitors “face-to-face” with all those involved, demonstrate how current events influenced the art and portraiture of the era and vice versa. Though Sept. 5 at the National Portrait Gallery, 8th and G streets NW. Free.  Hannah Docter-Loeb