Arts Desk

ToDo ToDay: Art Adventures, “Song 1,” and Way More

Where does an artist turn when variations on a theme just becomes a rut? For some, such as Brian Eno, lateral-thinking exercises are all they need to spark creativity. Eno co-created the “Oblique Strategies,” where each card in the deck has a phrase or question to inspire an artist to try a new approach. But when random-idea generators, exercise, or alcohol can’t wake up the creative spirit, perhaps a trip to Calder Brannock’s “Adventure Residency Program Headquarters” is just what the curator ordered. This Maryland Institute College of Art grad acts like a mystery-cruise director for artists, taking them on trips to nearby undisclosed locations—with no knowledge of their fellow explorers—and asks them to create works related to that day’s adventure. With their comfort zones discarded, artists must rely on cooperation, trust, chance, and social interaction to create their work. The travelers’ art is then displayed at the Flashpoint Gallery, where viewers are encouraged to use the “Adventure Gear” on hand to make their own pieces and sign up for future trips. Brannock has a thing for mobile art experiences: His “Camper Contemporary” is a 1967 Yellowstone camper that’s been altered to serve as a functional gallery space that can be parked anywhere, from art fairs to Walmart parking lots. But the populist idealism behind “Adventure Residency Program Headquarters” is far too big to fit inside a 45-year-old caravan. The exhibit is on view noon to 6 p.m. Tuesdays–Saturdays to April 27 at Flashpoint Gallery, 916 G St. NW. Free. flashpointdc.org. (202) 315-1305. (Christopher Porter)

Friday

Last night marked the first night you were able to see Doug Aitken’s panoramic video projection, “SONG 1,” on the exterior of the Hirshhorn. The much-anticipated work will be on display through May 13 from dusk until midnight. This afternoon, American University is hosting the artist for a one-hour lecture in the Abramson Recital Hall in the Katzen Arts Center. The lecture is a part of AU’s Arts Colloquia, which brings various individuals from the world of fine arts to speak about the creative and critical practice of contemporary art. The theme for this year’s colloquia examines the interdisciplinary practice, which is a theme well-suited for Aitken who typically works with photography, sound, video, and sculpture. We can only assume he’ll be speaking about the project at the Hirshhorn. Although the focus of his lecture will be directed toward art students and faculty, with priority given to the members of the art community, the lecture is open to the public. The lecture will be held in the Abramson Recital Hall, Katzen Center from 1:30-2:30 p.m. For questions, or to express interest in attending, contact Zoe Charlton at charlton@american.edu. (John Anderson)

Buzzy Minneapolis fuzz-poppers Polica headline at Red Palace, 1212 H St. NE, with Outputmessage opening. Ish is sold out, though.

The Washington Women in Jazz Festival continues to be the big jazz event this week. And its Friday night performance sums up the purpose of the festival: demonstrating how much female jazz talent the area can boast. Enough, indeed, to form a powerful big band. Shannon Gunn and the Bullettes is 15 pieces strong, led by Virginia-based trombonist Gunn through a strong repertory of jazz standards and other favorites. Gunn describes the band as “laid-back but hard-swinging”; that's a good nutshell for them (and credit to sterling drummer Lydia Lewis, who’s the nerve center of their sound), but unfortunately, it leaves out the remarkable level of finesse that the performers bring to the bandstand, and Gunn’s admirable skill in coaxing it out of them. The Bullettes are a joyful addition to the large-ensemble side of D.C. jazz; if that’s not immediately clear, watch the smile play across Gunn’s lips as she catches the contagious swing from her players. Shannon Gunn and the Bullettes perform Friday at 6 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 4th and I streets SW. $5. (Mike West)

The days of crossover hits are gone, but reggaeton lives: Rakim y Ken-Y perform at 9 p.m. at Galaxy Nightclub, 2031 University Blvd., Hyattsville.
Saturday

The name 5x5 sounds like the title of every other group art show that has ever happened. The theme is familiar, too: Five curators select five artists to put up temporary public artworks around town. The show’s sponsor, the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, has pegged the event to the National Cherry Blossom Festival, meaning that the 25 artworks are bound to be lost in the jostle. Focus, if you can, on 5x1—specifically, the five artists selected by Laura Roulet, the only local curator tapped for the exhibit. She hasn’t made it easy. For example, artist Patrick McDonough has contributed “Painted Rock Hunt Game,” a “geocaching” scavenger hunt that asks visitors to search out encoded piles of rocks at museums, parks, and libraries across all eight wards. Or follow Wilmer Wilson IV, a bright new D.C. light who, covered in postage stamps, will attempt to mail himself from three different post offices in an homage to Henry “Box” Brown, a slave who actually did mail himself to freedom. Ben Ashworth’s skate park in Southeast’s Garfield Park should be easy to spot, and Charles Juhasz-Alvarado’s sound installation outside Arena Stage isn’t going anywhere. None of this stuff is to be found at the 5x5 kickoff party tonight, however. Intentionally or not, Roulet has put together an event much more ambitious than a Cherry Blossom sideshow—saying, perhaps, that art is hard, it does not fit a cultural calendar, and you absolutely must work for it. If you want to see the Floating Lab Collective’s work, you’re just going to have to track them down in their taco truck. The 5x5 Kickoff begins Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Capitol Skyline Hotel, 10 I St. SW. Free.the5x5project.com. (202) 724-5613. (Kriston Capps)

Although Warren Wolf plays a percussion instrument—vibraphone—and is also an adroit drummer, rhythm is not his first musical priority. Melody is. Wolf (who also plays piano) has a flowing, magnificently resonant style, virtuosic and deliciously tuneful, that he performs in a straightahead milieu with a hell of a lot of soul. It serves him well in his work for Inside Straight, the soulful acoustic outlet for bassist Christian McBride—who also produced Wolf’s self-titled first album in 2010. Wolf is a melodist at heart, but he still has a sense of rhythm; indeed, having soul in his music makes groove inevitable. The flow of his melody runs as though on a motor, rolling out with an unstoppable trajectory that can look like he’s operating a highly specialized machine. Wolf is a Baltimorean, which makes him no stranger to area jazz venues or musicians (he’s recorded, for example, with vocalist Integriti Reeves)—the better to see him work with them. Wolf performs at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. (Michael J. West)

TEDxWDC, the latest of D.C.'s many TEDx speaker conferences, includes a number of local names speaking about creativity and the local arts economy, including Philippa Hughes, Kokayi, Harriet Tregoning, Gwydion Suilebhan, and way more. From 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at THEARC, 1901 Mississippi Ave. SE. $65.

And the latest event in WPFW host Jim Byers' excellent Metro Mambo series takes place 2 to 4 p.m. at the Smithsonian Anacostia Museum, 1901 Fort Place SE. The panel includes Didier Prossaird—the French-born bandleader of the featured band, Sin Miedo, which will perform—and others who will discuss their own personal paths to immersion in Latin music.

Sunday

There doesn’t appear to be a cap on the acceptable number of eulogies to New York’s bohemian past. In every medium, another tribute lurks—from the canonical (Blank CityDowntown Calling) to the crass (a “Basquiat 88” T-shirt, in memoriam to artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, who died of a heroin overdose in 1988). The band Gray, however—an ensemble that originally included Basquiat, Michael Holman, Nicholas Taylor, and later on, Vincent Gallo—is one New York artifact that doesn’t invite nostalgia. Gray didn’t want to be a product of its time, after all; if anything, they strove to do the opposite of what other musicians were doing, including calling themselves musicians. “The idea of sounding like any other band, regardless of how out-there they might be, was strictly verboten,” said Holman in a 2011 interview. “We never wanted to come off as proper musicians. We always wanted to make music from a painterly, or more to the point, a sculptural perspective.” It’s also hard to wistfully reflect on a band that won’t die: Last year, Holman and original member Nicholas Taylor released Shades Of..., a collection of works derived from Gray’s original vision, and the duo played a kind of reunion show at the New Museum in New York. That performance wasn’t totally avant-garde, as some may have expected. Event organizer Ethan Swan likened the trip-hop-infused concert to “ignorant dubstep,” a reference to Gray’s philosophy of “ignorance,” which demands that instruments be “played” in the most nontraditional of ways. (Holman reportedly peeled strips of masking tape off his drums—an old Gray trick dusted off for the occasion.) Tonight, Gray makes its Washington debut at an event presented by the Corcoran and Adrian Loving, the local DJ who has brought a miniseries of downtown New York-themed films to the Corcoran, Phillips Collection, and National Gallery of Art. But don’t expect anything too challenging; unlike old Gray, the new Gray is a little more black and white. Gray performs at 4 p.m. at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, 500 17th St. NW. $30.corcoran.org. (202) 639-1700. (Ally Schweitzer)

Theater

Kyle Donnelly’s warmly nostalgic revival of Ah, Wilderness!Eugene O’Neill’s only comedy, finds Arena’s company playing to its strengths. Stirringly acted, decorously upholstered in period finery, and bathed in starlight, it showcases a winning performance by William Patrick Riley as the hopelessly romantic high-school senior that O’Neill wishes he’d been as a lad, with raging hormones, a fondness for revolutionary rhetoric, and a heart he’d wear on his sleeve if it weren’t forever leaping into his throat. To April 8 at Arena Stage, 1101 6th St. SW. (Bob Mondello)

Film

Film critic Tricia Olszewski endorses Declaration of War, "the hippest kid-with-cancer movie you’ll ever see."

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