There was something ironic about Thievery Corporation co-founder and restaurateur Eric Hilton telling Brightest Young Things last year that Baltimore “has a way better arts scene” than D.C. “I think it’s expensive to live in D.C., so it’s hard for artists to fully concentrate on their art,” he said. In Baltimore, affordable commercial rents facilitate an ecosystem of artist-run lofts and gallery spaces. Not so in D.C, especially not in any neighborhoods where Hilton does business—when he opens one of his restaurants down the street from your studio, it’s a good sign you’ll be priced out of the neighborhood soon.
So D.C. viewers will just have to settle for imports from Baltimore. Nudashank, one of Charm City’s more successful artist-run gallery spaces, has curated a small group show that is part of the spring exhibitions at American University Museum. As is usually the case with Nudashank-organized group exhibitions, “Saturation Point” brings together the work of Baltimore-based artists with artists working in other cities, in this case Philadelphia. Coincidentally—and proving that Baltimore is a city of artist-run enterprises—the two Baltimoreans in the show, David Armacost and Jordan Bernier, are themselves co-founders of another artist-run gallery space.
The show presents works that explore the idea of saturation, a word that becomes rather malleable here. You won’t leave with the impression that the artists themselves are pursuing this theme; it simply emerges from the works and materials, each time with a seemingly new definition. And that’s a good thing.
One of Bernier’s video pieces investigates this idea from the perspective of the quintessential artistic gesture: painting. Adjacent monitors show the artist applying strokes of paint onto a couple of blank canvases. It’s not long before they’re filled, each subsequent layer of paint becoming lost in the morass of colors beneath. Meanwhile, Armacost’s black paintings provide an impastoed counterpoint, just as rich with the absence of color.
The interests of Philadelphia-based painter Jamie Felton are more rugged. The materials of her painting “Lay on Me” are listed as “oil on towel,” and that’s exactly what you’ll find—a towel slathered in colorful oils and left to dry. The towel, stretched like canvas over stretcher bars, looks hardened and brittle. Sure, it’s not hard to imagine that it has been saturated in color, but this idea takes a backseat to the artist’s material and formal interests. As with the rest of the works here, saturation is part of the story, but there’s also more.