(e)merge art fair

Unwrapping Unwrapped: A Performance/Installation by Monica Jahan-Bose

This past Thursday Hillyer Art Space hosted UNWRAPPED A Post-Performance Dialogue and Dinner with the artist Monica Jahan-Bose and many other women who performed the piece with Bose at the (e)merge Art Fair. Bose describes the performance piece as such: “UNWRAPPED is inspired by the Indian mythological story of Draupadi, the eternal virgin who was married to five brothers, as well as the true story of Bose’s grandmother’s marriage at age seven. Speaking to women’s rights to education and over their own bodies, the performance involves wrapping and unwrapping the body with a 216-foot sari covered with writing by women from Bose’s grandmother’s village in Bangladesh, part of a collaboration called Storytelling with Saris.”

 The main room at Hillyer was buzzing with activity and excitement as guests and performers discussed the performance over food and drinks. The slideshow of photographs from the performance in October captured the movement and raw emotion found in the piece so for those who had missed the live showing, the energy and expression in UNWRAPPED was still quite clear.

 The performers were eager to share their experiences and the illuminating moments they felt during the show, which spoke to Bose’s intentions behind her work. The women cited the difficulty of working with the enormous sari and the brutal external conditions, including extreme heat and wind, as a source of turmoil that intertwined all the performers and made them come together to execute Bose’s vision.

 Artist and UNWRAPPED performer, Carolyn Becker explored the many cathartic moments she had with her fellow participants and the rest of the discussion members. One could really feel the sense of strength and accomplishment that the performers felt and this idea of women’s empowerment, a main focal point behind UNWRAPPED.

 After the discussion, I asked Monica if she found the egregious conditions somewhat frustrating because they caused such a tortured and pained look on her face in the photographs and added to the difficulty of the performance about vitality and emancipation. She replied that, while yes there were unforeseen complications, these added to the work. The physical difficulty enhanced the idea of women embracing and leaning on each other to better their circumstances and liberate themselves.

 The mood of the evening was festive and inspiring. Eames Armstrong, a performance artist who collaborated with Bose on UNWRAPPED, was a great host. Performance art can be a genre that is difficult to approach at times, however, the Hillyer’s event promoted a constructive dialogue between artists, performers, and attendees that was energizing and enlightening.

For more on Storytelling with Saris click here.

Bringing the Art in DC to You,

Mica Hartman 

Photo Credit: http://storytellingwithsaris.com/ai1ec_event/unwrapped-performance/?instance_id=

Sijae Byun Wins Emerging Artist Prize

Surrounded by silks, stretchers, dozens upon dozens of squeezed paint tubes, brushes and other art-making materials, Korean-born artist Sijae Byun sits on a stool in her studio at the Arlington Arts Center and says with an exuberant smile, “I am very thankful.”

Less than two weeks ago at the third annual (e)merge art fair, Byun was awarded The Phillips Collection Emerging Artist Prize. The award is the first of its kind to be given by the nation’s oldest modern art museum, and supports Byun as an important new artist, whose work is thought to be original and of art historical significance.

“I think her paintings were the most impressive work that we saw at the fair,” director of the Center for the Study of Modern Art and curator at large at The Phillips Collection, Klaus Ottmann said during a phone interview. “It was just a matter of which one we should buy.” 

Ottmann, along with The Phillips Collection director Dorothy Kosinski and senior curator of modern and contemporary art Vesela Sretenović, selected Byun’s Wind #7 In Jungle as the winning work and the piece that would be acquired for the museum’s permanent collection. The selection was made after all three administrators saw Byun's work displayed in the Washington Project for the Arts booth, curated by executive director Lisa Gold. 

Wind #7 In Jungle is a large-scale artwork with content and context equal in monumentality to the towering 37.5 x 50.5 inch work, made in a highly complex practice of layering and painting silk. A dynamic and energetic ovular form asserts itself against a modulated pink background. A variety of textural surfaces and intricate patterns intertwine and support one another, creating a surrealist structure. A purple flower hangs quiet and closed, ready to bloom, provoking thoughts of nature. Environmental themes such as these are supported by vegetal imagery resembling lily pad leaves and green algae, and are underscored and considered critically juxtaposed the architectural forms, rendered in sharp manufactured lines scattered throughout the work and clustered heavily at the bottom right. Strands of dark hairs and veins appear to weave the elements together, and one cannot help but to consider whether the blood-pumping vessels give life to these traditionally oppositional forces, or if the human body constricts and strangles, further complicating the relationships between natural landscape and mechanical construction.

“This particular work fits really nicely into [The Phillips Collection's] long tradition and conversation that goes on in our collection about color and painting, but at the same time, brings in something new, a different kind of dialogue in terms of material as silk and some non-western aesthetics that play in the work so it’s kind of expanding that tradition,” said Ottmann.

The Phillips Collection has a long history of supporting emerging artists. Duncan Phillips, the seminal art collector whose collection was the precursor to the 1921 museum and who played a key role in introducing America to the modernists, was widely responsible for launching the careers of such important figures as Arthur Dove, Georgia O’Keefe and John Marin. In keeping with the spirit of Duncan Phillips, Ottmann believes award and grant programs that both support emerging artists in the local DC-community and engage artists and viewers in a global dialogue, should occur regularly, given the appropriate funding.

When asked about having her work in The Phillips Collection, Byun said humbly, “I’m very happy, but I also, I want to work harder and be a greater artist. I really like [The Phillips Collection] and I want to be one of the great artist there.”

The acquisition of a painting is of particular significance for Byun, who was told by her undergraduate teachers that she should avoid painting and instead focus her artistic practice on installation. Following the advise of her teachers, Byun studied fabric design and primarily worked in installation and set design, until a professor at the School of Visual Arts in New York noticed Byun’s aptitude for drawing and suggested she start painting.

Since those initial conversations in 2007, Byun has combined painting with such mediums as stop motion animation, installation and fabrics, to create nuanced and challenging artworks that share a masterful command of space.

When asked about how the prize will affect her artistic practice, Byun said it will help her maintain energy and encourage her to continually work harder. For Byun, she is most concerned with keeping her eyes and her mind strong, and always following her inner voice.

Sijae Byun’s solo exhibition, Vaginascope, is currently on display at Tallybeck Contemporary in New York until November 15, 2013, and her solo exhibition, Circulation-Respiration at the Korean Cultural Center in Washington, DC, opens November 1, 2013.

Bringing the Art in DC to You, 

Roxanne Goldberg

(e)merge: ArtSee's Picks

Unfortunately, the (e)merge Art Fair is over. But that doesn't mean the conversation (and mild obsession...) has to stop just yet! Below are a few of our favorite artists, now colloquially known as ArtSee Picks. 

Elizabeth Grazioli, ArtSee Founder and Creative Operations Director

David Brown, Goya Contemporary, 2nd Floor:  

The large red forms and fish-like shapes of Baltimore-based David Brown’s artworks were of instant intrigue.  Brown had two bodies of work being shown. The first, a smaller series of black-and-silver ink on paper numbers are made using a directional shift in what Brown calls his "eye motif." His interest in the numbers involves their form and how his "eyes" can make this form appear by simply changing the way he draws them. In contrast, the "Red Eye" series (pictured) consists of skeletal forms that do not entirely fill the page. I was captivated by the empty space Brown leaves around the shapes, opening room to imagine what could be there, while at the same time appreciating the strange form that exists. Brown uses x-rays of vertebrae to find his image but enjoys the imperfection in creating that image out of his tiny "eyes." The red is a deliberate nod to the human body and the blood that connects it, similar to the way the spine functions as a connector. What really struck me about Brown's work was what was not shown at (e)merge. Brown has a series of these "eye motifs" on panel that take different forms. One such piece hangs on the corner of two walls in the home of Amy Eva Raehse, Goya Contemporary curator and executive director. I hope to see more of Brown’s work soon and maybe one day, find a place in my home for one too! 

Si Jae Byun, Washington Project for the Arts, 2nd Floor:

It didn't take long being in the WPA room to realize the talent in Si Jae Byun.  Immediately making the connection to her powerful work from her past show at Arlington Arts Center (AAC), I has instantly connected. What proved to be even more impressive was her process for her silk works WPA presented this year. As explained by Samantha May of WPA, each piece is layered with 4-5 layers of silk with paint and ink applied over it to reveal forms of how architecture and nature intersect.  What stood out most to me are the way Byun's colors pop. They create a wonderful composition of her imagination. 
Si Jae Byun also won the Phillips Collection Emerging Artist Prize.  

Shira Karsen, ArtSee Creative Assistant

Jeremy Dean, Aureus Contemporary, 2nd Floor:

Native New Yorker Jeremy Dean explores the American dream in sculptural and definitive ways; a presidential face pasted on American printed dollars, the dichotomy between rich and poor, superwoman versus the business man. But the pieces that struck me the most at (e)merge are some of his most current works. "Owe and Own" and "Buy and Sell" are two Chinese-centered pieces a museum in Shanghai commissioned Dean to create. These pieces are deconstructed tourist flags, broken down thread for thread and divided between the horizontal and vertical strands. Dean then reconstructs the flags from that one singular flag, making one out the horizontal and one from the vertical, implanting them onto a board with a needle for each thread. Behind the Chinese flags are the English words, "owe" and "own", a commentary about how the Chinese are owned by the Americans and want to own American goods. Likewise, behind the American flags are the Chinese characters "buy" and "sell". These pieces are so deeply detailed, aesthetically striking and of course, highly political, it would be difficult for me not to admire them.

 Lennox Campello, Alida Anderson Art Projects, 2nd Floor:

A member of the DC-based Alida Anderson Art Projects, Lenny Campello is a seriously energetic and frenetic artist. The works that caught my eye were hanging on the wall, plugged into an outlet. These pieces are original charcoal and graphite drawings that display Campello’s impeccable figure drawing skill with an added 2.0 techy twist: each one has a cut out with a digitally produced image peeking through. They are quirky, fun and totally modern. One of my personal favorites is "Frida Kahol: An Homage to Bloch." Campello is of interest to ArtSee for not only his technical skill, but also his unbelievably smart, savvy and cheap marketing. For a mere $75, a buyer can own an original 8 x 10 inch charcoal drawing, and for $125, the admirer can have it framed and matted by the talented hands of Campello. How do I know this? I bought one myself.

Roxanne Goldberg, ArtSee Creative Writer

Larry Cook, Shanti Grumbine, and Alan Turner, Present Company, 2nd Floor:

Brooklyn-based exhibition, performance and social space Present Company exhibited three uniquely dynamic artists who explore taboo pieces of American culture and who together, revealed a darker side of American society. Curators Brian Balderston, Chad Stayrook, and José Ruiz used cardboard to line the walls of the hotel room and installed additional lighting to create a sleek, clean, curated exhibition space. The extra effort successfully converted the hotel room into an art gallery that highlighted the excellent quality of Larry Cook’s photographs, Alan Turner’s graphite and colored pencil drawings, and Shanti Grumbine’s screen prints. Cook’s striking portraits examining issues of race and racism challenged the viewer with a sense of sincerity and confrontation, while Turner’s “box house” works inserted the viewer within vacated buildings around New York City, begging her to consider economic disparities. Grumbine’s broken horizontal lines reminiscent of a broken television screen were set against a glittered background and hung between the social and economic concerns of Cook and Turner, effectively questioning American media culture and its relation to the issues presented by the other two artists.

 Carol Jackson, Benjamin Bellas, slow, 2nd Floor:

Chicago-based alternative contemporary art venue, slow, presented dark, contemplative, and undeniably humorous conceptual art works that innovatively utilized the fully-furnished hotel room. Walking into the booth, the viewer was greeted by the beautiful script of Carol Jackson. The last words of condemned criminals, so elegantly composed in old-world calligraphy, caused the viewer to alternate between emotions of disgust and contempt, sympathetic compassion, and disturbed hilarity. Humor continued throughout the space, ending under the bed. Crouching near the floor with a flashlight in hand, artist Benjamin Bellas encouraged viewers to crane their necks and lie on the floor in an attempt to see and identify sugar ball constellations. The installation was fun and brilliant for the way in which it engaged the viewer, encouraging a curious audience, and also played with the childhood fear of finding monsters under the bed. Leaving slow’s booth, one could not help but to be affected with a peculiar smile and inquisitive thought. 

Naomi Minkoff, ArtSee Intern


Ali Miller exhibited many works from her collection bad habits. However, a few small, vibrant pieces stood out to me. These incorporated crystals stuck into the paint. They added a three dimensionally of light and pulled in the viewer's imagination. In her works, Miller takes an ordinary scene from everyday life and departs from it into a fanciful, imagined view of reality. She explores the psyche and the crazy, unexpected directions in which our minds take us. 

Bringing the Art in DC to You, 

The ArtSee Team

(e)merge Preview: Andrew Wodzianski

At last year’s (e)merge art fair, Andrew Wodzianksi floated in the Capitol Skyline Hotel rooftop pool, resting inside a coffin for 36 hours. 

A most memorable endurance performance, Self Portrait as Ishmael was the vehicle by which Andrew embodied Ishmael, the protagonist in Herman Melville’s great American novel, Moby Dick.

“I feel like when I’m reading fiction, I always try to find connections between the characters and myself and that helps me escape into the author’s context,” Andrew explained, “I find so much connectivity with these characters and it seems like I can camouflage or meld myself into that character description. The transition doesn’t seem so alien.”

For the third annual (e)merge art fair, October 3- 6, Andrew is challenging himself to embody a character haunting him since childhood. Jack Torrence, the protagonist in Stephen King’s 1977 novel The Shining (and portrayed by Jack Nicholson in Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film), is the character that frightened young Andrew and inspired him to explore horror as a film student.

 A trained oil painter with a traditional studio practice, Andrew’s interest in self-portraiture harkens to his college dreams of working with special effects in Hollywood. 

“I was fascinated with disguise and transformation, and when I got older it evolved more into an academic level,” Andrew said. He combined talents in the fine arts and interests in controlled metamorphosis with the most readily available model, himself, to create the series of self portraits his audiences know from (e)merge.

“There’s this really rich depository for me to explore and I feel closer to this than a lot of the work I have done in the past,” said Andrew, “It really just does seem to be this beautiful convergence of all these long standing interests of mine, be it disguise or cinema or literature, it all seems to be rolling itself up wonderfully.”

As part of his preparations for Self Portrait as Jack Torrence, in which for the duration of the art fair Andrew will be occupying the Capitol Skyline hotel lobby and typing James Howell’s proverb, “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy,” the artist created a Venn diagram listing the traits he shares with Jack Torrence. Intimate insights such as recluse, self-loathing, witness to spousal abuse, and vulgar, are included among milestones like graduate education, early success, stagnant mid-career, husband, younger brother, and educator.

 “It’s incredibly personal and it’s a little bit uncomfortable,” Andrew said of the Venn diagram he recently shared with his Kickstarter backers.

To help raise funds for his performance, including insurance, furniture, wardrobe, and the purchase and repair of an Adler Universal typewriter of the same model used in the Kubrick film, Andrew launched a Kickstarter campaign. Originally hoping to raise $375 in total, Andrew is pleasantly surprised to have 58 backers, whose donations have totaled $1,145 to date. The repairs and cleaning of the typewriter alone cost more than $430.

“The machine also has connectivity with my family history. My father fled from Poland in World War II,” explained Andrew, “It also goes back to my theater days as a prop master. I wanted to have some sort of fidelity with the Kubrick film.”

Andrew’s passion and sincerity for his artistic practice is extraordinary.  Adopting the same fervor for Ishmael and Jack Torrence as do method actors when preparing for a feature film role, Andrew’s performances are astonishing for they succeed at convincing the viewer he is not only witnessing, but also playing a part in the familiar scene. It is as if Andrew creates moments of nostalgia for memories that never existed.

“You see the madness of descent into insanity through cinematic trickery,” Andrew said of Jack Torrence’s obsessive typing in the film version. He explained, “The performance that I’m doing is actually manifesting that descent. Because I’m there for such a long time [….] I’m trying to recreate the moment of the character’s actions, which are never seen in real time.”

 Self Portrait as Jack Torrence will be performed by Andrew Wodzianski in the Capitol Skyline Hotel lobby for 23 hours during the (e)merge art fair, October 3- 6, 2013.

 Bringing the Art in DC to You,

Roxanne Goldberg

Flashpoint: (e)merge preview

Hotel rooms are odd spaces as temporary homes for visitors to foreign places or familiar faces seeking moments of escape.

When an art fair enters the hotel framework, as does the Capitol Skyline Hotel at the (e)merge art fair, the hotel room takes on another totally strange personality, that of a temporary art gallery.

While some exhibitors at the third annual (e)merge art fair elect to have the furniture taken out of their assigned rooms-turned-booths, other galleries challenge the artists they represent and exhibit to adopt the hotel room persona into their art.

“We spend a lot of time talking about how to negotiate the space,” said Karyn Miller, director of visual arts and communications at CulturalDC. “We’ll be acknowledging the fact that it’s a hotel room again.”

Flashpoint, the gallery space managed by CulturalDC, has been exhibiting at (e)merge since its inaugural fair in 2011. That first year, Baltimore-based artist Lisa Dillin installed a structure over the bed, inviting visitors to sit and contemplate the work from a comfortable setting. At this year’s fair, collaborators Lauren Rice and Brian Barr will also be utilizing a bed space, while pen-and-ink artist Dana Jeri Maier has specifically requested to show her work in the bathroom.

“In some ways it’s an exciting challenge for these artists to show work in these contexts,” said Miller, “It asks them to present work in a really unorthodox and potentially awkward space and making it work.”

In her curatorial process, Miller considered ways in which to merge upcoming artists in Flashpoint’s fall exhibition schedule, with themes that are socially relevant.

Though all three artists work in different media and use different inspiration as diving points, each engages with the appropriation and remixing of found images, text, conversations and objects.

Sonya Lawyer purchases family photo albums at auction in an effort to ‘rescue’ her ‘ancestors’ from predatory purchasers who buy and divide the photographs in the album in order to re-sell individual photographs at higher prices. Sonya incorporates these photographs into her work, which is focused on the process of hand dying cotton fabric.  The resulting compositions are strong, emotive works that cause the viewer’s mind to wonder in curiosity about the anonymous figures, presented in concurrence with intimate fabrics that retain a sense of human touch through texture and color. Similarly, Lauren Rice and Brian Barr collage found images and remix them in order to create new contexts for objects already in existence.

Dana Jeri Maier does not draw in a studio, but instead takes her practice into bars and coffee shops, where she appropriates overheard conversations and general surroundings into the artwork she produces while absorbing these various stimuli.

“These artists are really interested in providing new meanings and understanding that meaning is never a fixed or static thing,” explained Miller, “Meaning is something that is constantly changing and evolving.”

Bringing the Art in DC to You, 

Roxanne Goldberg 

Camden Place: (e)merge preview

Hillary Clinton is running for president.

This is the constructed reality according to Camden Place, a local artist whose fascination with the gap between perceived realities of the self and the actual self, inspired a mock Hillary 2016 campaign for presentation at the third annual (e)merge art fair.

“Obama has revolutionized the way presidents interact with us not as a president, but as a celebrity,” explained Camden, “What I’m trying to do, is increase the celebrity status of the president.”

The 2012 American University MFA graduate has recently been working on a series entitled, “Memories: 1985- 2000.” In these digital collages, he superimposes images of himself in pictures with celebrities, finishing the work by framing the prints as if they were ordinary family photographs. Such constructions as a smirking young Camden wearing a pink YMCA shirt among the Sandlot boys are endearing, while other collages, like that of toddler Camden imitating the outstretched arms of Ace Ventura, evoke an undeniable sense of humor.

Camden plays on this sense of levity in his mock presidential campaign, but not for the sake of comedy. Instead, he seeks to challenge viewers and participants to question and consider what is presented to them.

“The viewer may distance himself. He may ignore it, or take a pin,” said Camden.

The artist explained his interest in how people not only see themselves and others, but also how they respond to their perceptions, particularly when presented incongruous to reality.

“There’s always been this element of doubt. People will have to ask questions,” said Camden.

Buttons, flyers, pamphlets and other campaign paraphernalia, including an enormous, billboard-size poster, will constitute the mock advertising campaign.

Presenting a mock presidential campaign in Washington, DC is especially interesting, and one must wonder how Camden’s artwork will be received during the (e)merge art fair, which although takes place in the nation’s capital, draws crowds from many diverse locations worldwide.

“I want curiosity, I want disgust potentially, or for people to take it as offensive,” explained Camden, “I want people to dig into it.”

Hillary Clinton as a subject was not selected for the artist’s political preferences, but instead because she already enjoys the celebrity status Camden seeks to augment.

“She’s implicated herself,” said Camden, “Like when there is a meme made about her, she reaches out to those people.”

As Camden’s installation slowly reveals itself as an art piece and not as an authentic campaign booth, it will have the potential to inspire viewers to expand their awareness and to consider the implications of the recent phenomenon of the president as celebrity.

Bringing the Art in DC to You,
Roxanne Goldberg

D.C. and ArtSee Gear Up for (e)merge art fair, September 22nd-25th

September 6, 2011


As you’ve heard by now, Washington D.C. is looking forward to hosting the new (e)merge art fair this fall. A perfect city for such an event, D.C. is Capitol Skyline Hotel, www.emergeartfair.comburgeoning with a wealth of contemporary artists and a thriving cultural community. The organizers of (e)merge art fair recently revealed a roster of the 80 participating exhibitors and artists from 15 different countries, with a majority from the mid-Atlantic region. No one could be surprised with such an impressive line-up with co-creators Helen Allen (owner of Helen Allen Consulting and founder/former Director of PULSE Contemporary Art Fair), Leigh Conner and Jamie Smith (co-owners of Conner Contemporary Art Gallery) at the helm of this event.

As (e)merge approaches and our anticipation heightens, we had a few questions for Ms. Allen about how the idea for the fair came about and what exhibiting artists, collectors, and culture-hounds should expect.

ArtSee: When did you realize that DC needed a forum to showcase new/emerging artists?

ALLEN: DC has had a vibrant contemporary art community – albeit a smaller scaled one – for decades.  Leigh Conner, Jamie Smith, and I had been talking with one another about collaborating on a project that helped draw attention to all that the city has to offer in early 2010. Over the next several months, we worked out a plan to introduce innovative exhibition and educational programming within the familiar setting of a hotel art fair, and (e)merge was created. 

ArtSee: What was your primary goal in creating this event? 

ALLEN: To put DC on the map as a contemporary art and culture destination.

ArtSee: How do you believe (e)merge art fair will achieve these goals? 

ALLEN: We are achieving it already.  People are taking notice and asking ‘why DC?’ By asking the question it starts the dialogue.  Without that first vital step we can’t move on to the next one.  We have exhibitors participating from over 15 countries.  Collectors and interested visitors are coming into DC to explore the Fair and attend the events that (e)merge and our cultural partners are hosting.

ArtSee: Tell us a little something about the venue (the Rubell family’s Capitol Skyline Hotel); How do you feel it fits in accordance with the objectives for the fair?

ALLEN: (e)merge draws inspiration from the Gramercy International, the Ritz Hotel Project and the Times Square Show. What is wonderful about the Morris Lapidus designed Capitol Skyline is its modernist architecture, its expansive outdoor space (both front and pool deck) and the clear layout of the space.  Our exhibitors are taking over all corners of the first four floors – from the garage to the pool deck to banquet rooms to the restaurant to hotel rooms. The organic and fluid layout encourages discovery and creates a more relaxed and engaged atmosphere.

ArtSee: What should artists who are exhibiting their work for the first time in such impressive atmosphere expect in terms of exposure?

ALLEN: It is going to be a great chance for artists in the gallery and artists platforms to get their work in front of a fresh/new/larger audience of curators, collectors, colleagues and urban explorers.

ArtSee: What are you most looking forward to about this fair?

ALLEN: The atmosphere – the energy that the show is generating and the camaraderie among the DC galleries, nonprofits and institutions is contagious.  I am looking forward to seeing the work installed, watching the performances and listening in on the star line up panel discussions that we are hosting.

ArtSee: What major differences can visitors expect from (e)merge art fair as opposed to other art fairs?

ALLEN: The primary difference is that emerge presents two platforms – one for galleries and one for unrepresented artists.  Both sections were vetted by art world luminaries – but (e)merge is not charging the unrepresented artists to present their work.


We are so excited for (e)merge as it will be a fantastic opportunity to discover exciting new artists and their work both in the DC art community and around the world. ArtSee founder Elizabeth Grazioli will be on the scene all weekend volunteering with guest services; please feel free to seek her out if you have any questions about (e)merge or ArtSee artist promotional services!


Bringing the Art in DC to You,

Kendall E. Willey