Arts Desk

All Weekend: Alberto Roblest’s Adams Morgan Art Intervention

"This is an intervention," says the accomplished D.C. poet and installation artist Alberto Roblest. When Adams Morgan's drunken revelers wander through the reliable shortcut behind the neighborhood's Sun Trust bank this weekend, it sure will be.

That's because Roblest is taking over that alley tonight and tomorrow to stage "Present Interval/Intervalo del Tiempo," which will fill the space with sound, light, neighborhood vignettes and cityscape images—using projectors, mirrors spinning on disco-ball motors, and, of all things, the song "Tequila." I spent about 40 minutes Wednesday night watching Roblest and a small team testing the project in pieces, and I'm still not exactly sure how to describe it. But I'm guessing that an art intervention will only do the usual Adams Morgan set some good.

The projected images are "video poems," Roblest's term for his attempts to visualize poems he's written on the page. Before he took up installation and video art, Roblest was a notable Mexican poet. "In Latin American, people don't read but they watch TV," Roblest says. They also don't tend to go to museums, he says, at least in cities where admission to large arts institutions isn't free. Hence Roblest's focus on art in public spaces.

Much of the content he'll splash on walls this weekend concerns the environment: "It’s basically an opinion on global warming," he says of one of the projections. Others contain recognizable Washington scenes, both above ground—the silhouettes of monuments and government buildings—and the below, like bustling vignettes shot in the Metro. Some projections contain narratives, he says, others are more impressionistic. As for "Tequila": Let's just say it'll fit with Adams Morgan's usual festive mood.
Roblest (who, full disclosure, is married to Washington City Paper contributer Christine MacDonald, but I think you'll agree that an ambitious art installation dropped in the middle of Adams Morgan on a weekend night is worth a mention) created the vast bulk of "Present Interval" specifically for the alley, but some of it he took from a project he had originally planned for around this time that he would've installed temporarily in the Dupont Circle Metro. It was a project for which he received funding from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities and other organizations, as well as a letter of support from Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's MetroArts office. Two years later, Roblest hadn't received permission to put on the installation, and with DCCAH wondering what had happened to its money, the artist pulled the project, and began conceiving a new piece for the Adams Morgan location.
It's a topic—the relationship between Metro and installation art—that I'll be digging into for next week's print Washington City Paper. Have some thoughts? Let me know. Both tonight's and tomorrow's performances start after dark. Tonight at 8 p.m. Tryst is hosting a reception in the alley space.
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