Washington Life Magazine
Washington Life Magazine

Collect Them All
Washington’s collectors come to the fine-arts forefront

The quick-witted French of the 17th century snapped up the delicious Italian word sala, or “room,” and deftly applied it to the gatherings of their bewigged, literary precieuses. Pink Line Project founder Philippa Hughes translated this concept into Salon Contra, hosted at her own Logan Circle apartment, where Contrarians ranged from architects, framer, and image stylists to interior decorators, performance artists , real estate developers, and even a magician. After wine, dumplings and merriment, Mike Weber and guests vowed to make 14th street nightspot Marvin (2007 14th St. NW) the Tuesday-night-hub of the District’s creative community. At the very least, it’ll be a nice way to get all the art history majors into one place.
Vague middle-school English class recollections of that lugbrious Poe story, “The Fall of the House of Usher,” still linger in many of our minds. It’s specious (but fun) to postulate that Usher’s “fall” was predicated on his House’s innate lack of fi erceness. In the “not falling any time soon” category: the “House of Aviance” – a collective of performing artists who can throw down the fi ercest Vogue-moves since Benny Ninja. Proof: the upstairs fl oor at Marvin, where voguers Diamond Aviance and crew gave an impromptu performance for the Contrarians Tuesday night. For the uninitiated, it was a taste of the D.C. “Ball Circuit,” in which different houses (there are the Houses of Xtravaganza, Labeija, Revlon, Ninja, Infi niti, Mizrahi, Milan and of course the House of Aviance) compete in Runway, Best Facial Structure, Best Fashion, Best House Designer, Best Body and Best Vogue Dancer categories.
PW Meat Market Performance Week, held in a sprawling 14th street warehouse, had the DIY, indie aesthetic (and semi-secret-society fl avor) of a RISD off-campus rager, where invites were always word of mouth from the cute blue-haired printmaking major. The fact that the memo “hats, beards encouraged” seemed to have been broadcast obviously didn’t hurt the hip factor. Offerings ranged from bizarre to inspired to incomprehensible. It’s refreshing in this Ritalin society to be forced – even by sheer skin-of-one’s-teeth etiquette – to watch something for 20 minutes straight every now and again without modern conveniences like channel changers. Megan Palaima and Liz Rosenfeld’s intimate face-off across a sheepskin blanket was a prime example, replete with metronome ticks, prolonged staring contests and embracing/slapping/shoe-throwing.
Small is the new big (We can finally relax the vigilance level of our spam folders). At the diminutive
Curator’s Office (1515 14th St. NW), where
“Fifteen for Philip Barlow” paid tribute to that long-haired patron of the arts, a plethora of clever in-jokes from friends and artists is crammed into a room the size of a supply closet. Jeff Spaulding’s “Standing Tall” appears to be an unassuming electrical cord, part of the room itself; upon closer examination, it’s a string of hundreds of tiny Lego heads styled with Barlow’s characteristic Prince Valiant bob. It’s a witty play on the collector’s ability to make an art space function from the sidelines. Another favorite: Nekisha Durrett’s heroic homage-cum-BOP-magazinecover: Barlow’s hair, propelled by some unseen zephyr, flows amidst a panoply of pink hearts; a tiny, symbiotic bird (for scale? for function, like a rhino?) nests atop his head.
The 600-plus crowd thronging to “Collectors Select” at the Arlington Arts Center (3550 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Va.) may have been surprised by the raspberry walls of David Levinas’ room (collectors had carte blanche – or rosé – to transform the space), but they were too busy greeting friends and colleagues to do much more than grin appreciatively. The exhibit didn’t feature items from the collectors’ homes but those from the “fantasy baseball” rosters of their ultimate selections. The showstopper was Henry Thaggert’s room, in which (wallmounted beneath actual Topsy Turvy dolls from the 19th century, one of the exceptions to the “not from my house” rule) Brad McCallum and Jackie Terry’s “Topsy Turvy” video piece hung. The biracial couple, suspended in air together with their heads at opposite ends of earth and sky, rotate slowly and with ceremony in a dark and vaulted hallway space.
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