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Posted at 8:49 AM ET, 08/16/2006

New Kids on the Block

By Julia Beizer

Anyone wondering what's new on the contemporary art scene need look no further than three Washington galleries this month. Work by newly minted BFA and MFA graduates are on view at Irvine Contemporary, Project 4 and Conner Contemporary. There are highlights and lowlights of each exhibit, for sure, but for the most part, gallery-goers can find funky, thoughtful and wild artworks.

Any exhibit featuring a seven-foot-long aircraft made out of tongue depressors is totally worth my while and on that score, Conner Contemporary's "Academy 2006" delivers. Andy Eklund's piece, creatively titled "Tongue Depressor Star Destroyer," hangs from the gallery ceiling and is almost as impressive as the fictional warship that inspired it. Also on view at Conner Contemporary are black-and-white photographs by Marissa Long. At once polished and disconcerting, the women in these photographs seem to hover on air. Ryan Carr Johnson's "Blotter Acid," made up of sanded house paint on wood, is remarkable to anyone who knows how hard it is to sand wood by hand.

"15 Minutes" fills up Project 4's small space with many interesting pieces. In one way or another, the works on view address celebrity culture and the meaning of fame (riffing on the oh-so-ubiquitous Andy Warhol quote). Good concept for a show of emerging artists, I think, particularly in a city like D.C. where famous equals Tim Russert. I spent most my time in the gallery focusing on Phillip Adams' charcoal drawings. They're lifesize portraits of people you've seen before doing things you wouldn't expect them to do: Alan Greenspan holding a banjo, Bono firing a gun. It's this fish-out-of-water feeling that makes the work so compelling. The show also serves up some healthy snark about tabloid culture, as evidenced in Marc Alain's photo collages, one of which features the ever-present Paris Hilton.

A long-dead snake in a glass container hardly seems like it would be beautiful art, but of all the works on view in Irvine Contemporary's "Introductions 2," this piece by Evan Morgan has stuck with me. The snake -- soaked in alcohol -- twists just so in the vase. It's situated alongside a similar vase with a snakeskin inside. Both works are strangely beautiful and not in a science-project kind of way. Other hits from the Irvine show are Heidi Johansen's digital photographs and Randy Toy's large-scale gold-leaf work. This exhibit is more of a buffet: showcasing a wide variety of the art out there, including etchings, paintings, photographs and sculptures.

The pieces on view aren't of the pretty-pictures-in-a-frame ilk, but they're definitely thought-provoking. So far, I'd say the new class is looking good.

--Julia

By Julia Beizer  | August 16, 2006; 8:49 AM ET
Categories:  Museums  
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hi. my gallery is opening this sunday. more information at http://www.myspace.com/designergrooves

Posted by: alex | August 17, 2006 10:14 AM | Report abuse

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