“Patrick McDonough: White Turf Painting Action” At Shannon Place SE between V and W streets to at least Aug. 10 “Ladyparts” At 87Florida to July 26 Work that takes a closer look at the undernoticed and the overexposed

Patrick McDonough, “White Turf Painting Action”

On Sept. 11, 2003, the New York Times published a proposal for Lower Manhattan’s 9/11 memorial that had arrived by mail in the form of a collage. Designed by artist Ellsworth Kelly, it was an image of striking elegance: an aerial photograph of Ground Zero that Kelly had clipped from the Times, to which he had added a minimalist green polygon shape representing a simple mound of grass. Kelly’s memorial design is not the one that opened to visitors on Sept. 12, 2011, but it depicted a view shared by some: that no structure should have replaced the footprints of the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

Ellsworth Kelly is a name that comes up when D.C. conceptual artist Patrick McDonough discusses his latest project, the second in a series that he calls “white turf painting actions.” Over the course of 30 hours last weekend, McDonough painted an empty grass lot in Anacostia white by using turf paint, the kind used to stripe a football field. Part of the Lumen8 arts festival, McDonough’s piece is a performance that, much like Kelly’s proposal, uses the language of minimalism to illuminate the changing urban environment.

There’s nothing special about the plot of land McDonough picked. The parcel is promising real estate, located along Shannon Place SE between V and W streets just one block from Anacostia’s famous Big Chair, with views of the Washington Monument and Nationals Park. But as it is now—a vacant lot that stands in the shadow of a building that houses the D.C. Taxicab Commission and the D.C. Lottery—it’s a plot that only a developer could love.

That cold featurelessness is perhaps the quality that led McDonough to approach Curtis Brothers, the owners of the vacant and other nearby properties, for permission to paint over the field with 250 gallons of Pioneer Athletics Ultra Friendly Brite Stripe field-marking paint. Brite Stripe is an EPA-recognized field paint that emits no volatile organic compounds, so McDonough’s not hurting anything—except maybe himself, seeing as how he spent the better part of a late-July weekend outside, using a household roller brush to paint over more than 10,000 square feet of weeds.

It’s an endurance performance for both McDonough and the viewer: There’s no reward in watching McDonough doing manual labor in the way there is in, say, sitting face to face with the immortal Marina Abramović. McDonough, a young and consistent artist, has made every effort to strip his work of ornamentation. Neither this vacant lot nor the part of Rosslyn’s Gateway Park that he painted white during the recent SuperNOVA performance art festival provides a very splashy visual. It’s a lot of effort for subtle ends.

McDonough appears to delight in deliberately tweaking the most overlooked parts of the built environment. His practice, which also includes creating awnings, usually requires the participation of building owners or property developers. McDonough paints the lot that nobody notices; he builds an awning that people will look right past once it’s complete—and only after knocking down the doors of uninterested owners for permission . (They often reject his intensive and pointless-seeming gestures.) McDonough is disrupting something, though it’s not always clear what that something is.

That’s the trick: McDonough’s work, in fact, registers a vote of confidence that minimalist and conceptual artworks, even the most cerebral intervention, can make a difference—without any dip in formal integrity. McDonough’s “White Turf Painting Action,” which coincides with the broader Lumen8 festival taking place in Anacostia through Aug. 10, illustrates the faith that developers are placing in art as a driver for new commerce to the neighborhood. McDonough is getting right down to the point by painting the property itself.

One of my favorite parts of McDonough’s “White Turf Painting Action” project is a rendering he made to illustrate the concept before he ever got started. It looks like an architectural rendering, with a figure standing on a field holding what might be a rake—but over the tool’s head and much of the field, McDonough’s whited everything out. It’s a collage that conveys a big concept through a single stroke.

Next, if he can get approval from the National Park Service, McDonough would like to paint over every triangle-shaped park in the District—which could, in a single stroke, do more than a conference’s worth of urbanists to demonstrate the wasted cumulative opportunity that these “parks” represent. It’s a proposal that Ellsworth Kelly might endorse.

“Ladyparts” At 87Florida to July 26

Rachelle Beaudoin, “Upskirt Defense System”

I don’t love disrobing in front of other people even under the best of circumstances, so it was with some trepidation that I participated in Rachel Hrbek’s performance at “Ladyparts,” a group show on view at the 87Florida Artist Collective. For the opening-night performance, Hrbek asked viewers to become the viewed. One at a time, viewers could enter the bedroom where Hrbek was sitting, in her underwear, but only by stripping down to their skivvies first.

As vulnerable as I felt, exposed during a two-minute conversation with a stranger, this intimacy power-play left me feeling chafed afterward. Perhaps work in a show called “Ladyparts” was bound to weaponize sex. But Hrbek’s performance, and other works aiming for the confrontational, arrived at the transactional.

Curated by visiting San Francisco artist Alexandra “Rex” Delafkaran with Aether Art Projects’ Eames Armstrong, “Ladyparts” squeezes the work of 11 women and three men into the Bloomingdale apartment gallery. Do-it-yourself house shows aren’t museum exhibitions, granted, but this was just too tight a fit. The space worked to the advantage of Ziad Nagy, whose performance at the opening involved dancing around erratically, but it was nearly impossible to avoid the nuisance.

In the same living-room space, Sterling Poole placed three photographic depictions of a vulva high up on a wall, with a step-ladder providing the only way to view the works closely—at the cost of opening the viewer to scrutiny for wanting to look. Linda Hesh’s portraits conflate sex and sin by joining attractive, less-than-dressed models with apples inscribed with the word “Evil.” There isn’t much room for subtlety. Carly J. Bale’s performance had her in a bathtub, stapling her hair to a board before finally cutting much of it off.

Works that work include a suite of abstract paintings by Kyrae Cowan, representing washboards and installed with clothespins along a line, and a sculptural installation by Elle Brand featuring ceramic egg shells—both potent metaphors for women’s labor. The most topical piece was the one that suffered the most from its display: Rachelle Beaudoin’s “Upskirt Defense System,” a reflective panty-liner attached to a pair of women’s underwear. That’s a funny retort to the so-called predditors who post upskirt pics of unknowing women on Reddit and elsewhere, but the piece—the single artifact plus two photos of a woman wearing them—was so haphazardly displayed that it seemed like an afterthought. “Ladyparts” is a hazy collection of ideas about the body, all of which deserve a more careful exhibit.

Due to a reporting error, the original version of this review misidentified the name of Rachelle Beaudoin's work. The piece is called "Upskirt Defense System," not "Upskirt Defense Systems."

Our Readers Say

What a weird take on LADYPARTS. It was a tight fit because it had an insanely good turn out and no one wanted to leave. Also, he didn't even mention the curator's piece, which was fabulous. Interesting that he found the "safe" pieces the potent; I guess he couldn't really handle the more intense exhibitions. Leave it to a man to write a review about women. How typical.
How is it that issues of gentrification are not being brought up when talking about the action of Patrick McDonough's "White Turf Painting?" I think he is passing something by that is more political than DC is willing to write about.

But here's a short synopsis: Middle aged white male artist paints a sports field white in Anacostia. Then turns the event that is sponsored by the DC Commission on the Arts and the DC Office of Planning in to a sports spectacle while the neighborhood is struggling to keep the air conditioning on during one of the hottest weeks this summer.

I would also argue with Kriston Capps that this event should not be looked at as minimal. This work is a physical action of performative labor that closely resembles the ego-heroic male figures of the American Land Art movement. But I think there is nothing heroic about spreading chemicals across a small football field that will end up in the Anacostia watershed (If we are to use the EPA standards of regulation for toxicity to say something is safe then we should take a look at how the EPA has their hands tied with determining the toxicity of hydro fracturing chemicals and coal ash that are both already a part of surrounding watersheds). We are 5 decades past the American Land Art movement and McDonough should be thinking about how he is actually contributing to the issues he is trying to paint over.
Isaiah, I would love to keep this conversation going. Feel free to email me at p_mc_donough@yahoo.com to chat more. Thanks for thinking about the project in such depth.
Not everyone can afford professionals to keep the children entertained at their childs party and although music and balloons used to be the benchmark for childrens entertainment, it has moved alond somewhat. In todays world, in the age of the personal computer game, the entertainment needs to be at a higher level and really capture even a toddlers interest.The key is to supervise the games and to be involved at the same time. Dont simply tell them what to do and expect the magic to happen, let yourself be a part of the game too and have a go - show them what happens when you succeed and when you fail, with another adult.Have an incentive or a prize for the winner, this will help hold their interest and make it visual and fun to watch, as well as play. That way it will be fun even if its not your turn. As the adult, make sure you know their names and make encouraging comments to the child to help the group feel involved.Games like treasure hunt can be really fun, splitting the group into two and having two sets of things to find, can add an extra sense of urgency as its also a race. Preparing clues and mini prizes along the way will help keep their interest. Pin the tail on the donkey or change it to something in the theme of your party, like pin the eye patch on the pirate or tiara on the princess.Purchasing a ready-made pinata can be really fun, when well supervised or even making an attempt at doing your own, as not all of the prizes need to be edible. For example, you could use stickers, little toys, balloons and other small toys suitable for the age range. Obviously having the space and supervision is important with a pinata so make sure the children are kept safe.

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