1353 U Street NW
Tue – Sat 12pm – 6 pm
Transitioning from the structured guidance that colleges and universities offer, to the real world where everything is what you make of it, can seem an impossible mountain to climb. Hamiltonian Gallery offers a hand to a few lucky artists. Every year Hamiltonian accepts portfolios from emerging artists—the majority of whom have recently graduated from an MFA program—and has a panel of experts in the arts choose the most promising individuals. Hamiltonian provides their ‘fellows’ with a small stipend, guaranteed exhibition space and mentors to guide them into maturity as artists.
The current exhibit at Hamiltonian “new. (now).” showcases selected works from the submitted portfolios of the five new fellows. Although there is no requirement for unity in theme or media between the fellows when they are chosen, it seems that all of this year’s fellows have chosen to deal with space and the human relationship to space in some capacity.
Magnolia Laurie’s soothing, earthy-colored thin layers of paint construct abstract landscapes that are subtly cataclysmic. Laurie’s lyrical titles are often derived from things she has been reading, and she likens her small and intimate paintings to poems. Laurie believes that humanity has an innate desire to build, a desire which often ends disastrously. The hard dark geometric lines in the otherwise soft compositions represent, for Laurie, human construction in the landscape. Building on her interest in symbols, Laurie has recently begun to incorporate signal flags into her paintings. Since they are such a new development, there are no signal flag paintings in this exhibit. As Laurie continues her fellowship with Hamiltonian it will be exciting to see what the signal paintings add to these earlier works.
The dense, hyper-real works of Jonathan Monaghan address the unbalanced and precarious relationship that people have to nature, to human bodies, and to spirituality. Monaghan uses 3D computer graphics to construct his works. His paintings are irregular shapes that are reminiscent of religious icons, and he paints spaces that look like altars and cathedrals but also contain wildly out of place elements. Monaghan incorporates plastic that takes on the shapes of the intricate wood and ironwork that is found in religious spaces. The cleverly titled, “Who Art in Heaven” depicts the inside of a cathedral-like space. The colors are blues, reds and whites and the space is eerily clean. The large windows reveal a blue sky. On the floor of the space, on either side of a pathway, are strange lines of what seem to be blue colored pools and flesh colored pools of unknown substances. Rising from a blue pool in the center of the pathway is a flesh-like substance that seems to lead to the altar at the back of the painting. Layered over the piece is white plastic ornamentation. The piece is sterile and surreal.
The large, layered acrylic works by Katherine Mann investigate the dichotomy of order and chaos that exists in nature. Underlying the work is a pencil-drawn grid that shows through the ambiguous natural forms and geometric shapes that she has collaged seamlessly together. Her work has an epic character in its size and scope. There is a sense of purging and cluttering in the work. Mann’s paintings not only seem to capture the unfathomable construction of nature but also a personal life. Things seems to happen all at once, piling and colliding together, but there is some underlying grid that manages to hold things together, however precariously.
Lina Vargas De La Hoz makes installations, sculptures, paintings, photographs and performances that deal with the perception of space. Umziechen Umzug (Change clothes-Relocate) is a jacket, which Vargas De La Hoz created that can be transformed into a tent. She filmed herself walking around wearing the coat and building the tent in Linz, Vienna, and Washington, DC. Vargas De La Hoz believes space is relative and depends deeply on perception. This object she created is both a home and an article of clothing. It demonstrates both instability and an alien quality that seem drive home the loss of connection-to-place that has resulted from globalization.
Jon Bobby Benjamin believes that many Americans’ perceptions of what it means to be American are deeply rooted in industrial nostalgia. Benjamin finds old decaying buildings that are related to America’s industrial past in various cities including Philadelphia and Washington, DC—and he recreates them as small personal objects. His works include photographs, prints, small personal drawings made of graphite and paint on vellum and paper, and sculptures. From the series You Need to Save Your Time, are three small structures made of vellum, graphite, burnt wood and paint. The wood serves as the base with a drawing of a decaying building in the velum and paper wrapped around it. The drawings are rooted in imagination while the wood brings a sense of reality. The tiny size of the pieces (5 x 7 x 7 inches) makes the pieces very intimate, but also make them seem like keepsakes. Interestingly, Benjamin also constructed lines below each base that look like pipes and reminiscent of the roots of dead trees.
Looking at the subjects that these artists have chosen to focus on it seems that the place for humanity in the world is a pressing question. Perhaps being an emerging artist trying to find his/her way in the art world makes the more general question of where humanity fits in the world more acute. Each artist has taken on a slightly different bent of this question but all seem to recognize that humanity’s relationship to this earth, our home, has been severely compromised and is in desperate need of reevaluation.
new. (now). is on view at Hamiltonian Gallery until August 1.