Artomatic: Some Early Reactions
Barnstorming through Artomatic, it's easier to react than reflect. This year's artist headcount is more than 1,000, which means a two-hour dash through the 10 floors of artwork gives you about five seconds per artist—an overestimation that does not factor in the time to move between rooms, move between floors, or get lost. That estimate also leaves no time to reflect on a single artwork.
The notion of creating a top 10 is a little preposterous, akin to flipping through a survey of art history text and picking out the top 10 artists of all time. That's not what this post is. These are merely a few works for which I urge you to keep an eye out. Artomatic runs through June 23 at 1851 S. Bell Street, Crystal City.
David D’Orio took his time in displaying his work, laying down a panel floor and bypassing Artomatic’s fluorescent lighting with a drop lamp. Even his vinyl lettering has the hint of a museum exhibition. His sculptural work, a bicycle with various glass beakers attached to it, feels like the hybrid of early aeronautics and Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel. The radio atop is tuned to WMAL, a station that drones right-wing rhetoric through mouth-pieces like Chris Plante and (the syndicated shows of) Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin. It’s reminiscent of the days leading up to World War 1, when the opinions of yellow journalist were mistaken for fact, when bicycle pedals could launch their riders into the skies, and when science was uncovering ingenious ways to kill thousands through chemistry.
Gloria Chapa’s work centers on themes of early childhood. A large crocheted wreathe lays on the floor, covered in flour and baby powder, and you smell it as you approach the installation; encircling it is a swarm of white plastic soldiers, emerging from flour. These are things a parent might identify symbolically with the growth and development of a child: They’re borne from the womb and swaddled in lose-woven blankets. For a couple of months they chiefly smell of baby powder. And flour is something that occupies them: It’s tje mess they make in the pantry, a substance they learn to draw with, an essential ingredient of cookies. The floor installation is supported by the portraits of infants and toddlers that align in a chevron. The contrast between a predominantly white installation and six charcoal drawings is startling, which makes the presentation feel like two distinct works, related by theme, coming to a compromise in the space.
Geoff Boyle, according to his wall bio, “is an instructional designer who uses technology to enhance learning and make the experience more authentic.” On his wall he has posed questions and instructions, and follows up with a QR Code for visitors to snap with their smartphones. I don’t have a smart phone; I have a dumb clamshell and consequently felt a little alienated by the piece. Irrespective of my inability to access the work directly, the work deals directly with ideas without bothering with the foreplay of craft and aesthetic. It's been distilled down to the technology.
Bhaval Shah Bell has an interesting display of maps that would be a good addition to a cartographic collection that includes Ork Posters or Aaron Koblin’s Flight Patterns. Their overall design evokes the potential distribution of any given data point: population, trees, heat, and so.
Jason C. Yen’s meticulous collages and constructions are often humorous, and at times create visual puns.
Yeon Pa Park-Mitchell’s work might be ignored for its overwhelming prettiness. Take a step closer and that prettiness can be excused. Her process involves origami and quilling: the rolling, folding, and shaping of strips of paper. The craft is remarkable.
Greg Braun’s drywall sculptures demonstrate how an artist can do a lot with simple materials and strict limitations.
Jenny Walton’s “Tell Me a Joke” on the first floor appears to be an interesting set up for an expanding interactive experience that collects jokes from people in an effort to explore the healing power of laughter.
Caitlin Phillips’ Rebound Designs seems like an appealing way to recycle what she qualifies as a “well-loved book.” Meaning: These books have been read so many times that pages fell out and they were getting discarded anyway—so why not make a handbag out of them? If the boutique nature of the work isn’t appealing, the “wallpaper” should strike your fancy.
And Mason Calhoun's pixelation paintings (top) are kind of interesting. More compelling is the time he took to install each paint-chip sample within his display.