Inside Outside, Upside Down
By F. Lennox Campello
Inside Outside, Upside Down
A while back I wrote about the Phillips Collection’s call for area artists to submit artwork for Inside Outside, Upside Down, a juried invitational show (currently on view through September 12), where the museum invited artists of the Greater Washington area to submit recent artwork that “addresses the unprecedented events of the past year.”
The call was part of the museum’s 100th anniversary celebration, and continues “founder Duncan Phillips‘s commitment to present, acquire, and promote the work of local artists.”
About 1,300 works of art were submitted for review, and about seventy works were chosen by the jurors,
Elsa Smithgall (Senior Curator, The Phillips Collection), Renée Stout (DC artist and guest curator of the exhibition), Phil Hutinet (publisher of the local news source East City Art), and Abigail McEwan (Associate Professor of Latin American Art at the University of Maryland). I am proud and honored to have been one of the chosen artists – thank you to the jurors.
Many well-known DMV area artists were selected, including blue chip artists like Tim Tate, Michael Janis, Kate Kretz, Judith Peck, and others – all with immense artistic pedigree, huge exhibition histories and deep international presence.
A lot of new artists – at least new to me – were also chosen, which is always a great sign of a well-curated exhibition; kudos to the jurors for the mental amplitude to select work based on visual impression rather than name or presence.
“After an extraordinarily difficult year that has shaken the world, we feel it is important to join with our entire region to celebrate human resiliency, and especially the strength of artists and the arts,” said Vradenburg Director and CEO Dorothy Kosinski. “Duncan Phillips hosted this type of exhibition annually from 1935 to 1950, and we are proud to continue this tradition to support our talented community.”
“Last summer, as plans for our centennial progressed in collaboration with our community advisors, we felt an urgent call to elevate and uplift artist voices in our local artist community,” noted Elsa Smithgall, Senior Curator. “Now as we look with hope towards a post-pandemic era, these works are deeply moving affirmations of the hardships endured over the past year.”
The exhibition itself, like every single multi-curator exhibition that I’ve seen since art school, is a wonderful eclectic mix of spectacular and sublime displays of artistic power to pedestrian, forgettable, forced works that seek to “respond” to the thematic focus of the work. That’s not a “hit” on the jurors – constant readers of this column over the last few decades by now know that pretty much every single group show that I’ve ever reviewed has met this perception from my perspective.
The jurors awarded the First Prize to Dominick Rabrun’s work titled Dr. LaSalle, The Spider Queen, and Me, a 2021 digital mixed-media video installation. The Second Prize went to Kristina Penhoet’s installation fiber piece titled How Many More? and Honorable Mentions went to Desmond Beach’s fabric and paper work titled #SayTheirNames 2, to Marta Pérez García’s Your Hand, a molded cotton handmade paper and stitching work with yarn, and to Richard L. Williams’ touching photograph titled Claudette, Roman and Rashard – February 2021.
What else do constant readers know about me and jurors? I love to re-review shows and see if I agree or disagree with their choices. Art is a very subjective thing and artists must all have thick skins.
My choice for Best in Show – not just First Prize – would have been Werllayne Nunes’ gigantic oil on panel painting titled Us. The work vibrates with happiness and power and reaches deep into every child’s memories as well as delivering a powerful social message.
Judith Peck is one of the DMV’s painting superstars – her technical skills are almost supernatural and her breath-taking ability to infuse her work with psychological power legendary. Her painting titled State Collapse, depicting a young woman in bed, is able to transmit fear, anxiety, and angst and summarize 2020 in one gorgeous work of art. She gets my First Prize award.
Second Prize goes to Carol Antezana’s sensitive portrait photograph titled Las Gringas. She writes about this work:
“Las Gringas is a photographic self-portrait analyzing the balance between being both Bolivian and a first-generation American amid political turmoil and uprisings in both countries. Disagreements about politics have been a specter for many families and the differences are ones of morality, core values, and character, creating tension and division. I was always taunted by my family for being “una gringa” because I cannot speak Spanish perfectly, yet there was no importance in keeping our Indigenous language, Quechua, alive. As a child of immigrant parents, the act of balancing, adopting, and assimilating cultures can be daunting; there are deeply rooted racial double standards in both countries. Through redefining my identity, I am striving to decolonize my mind—my attempt at breaking the intergenerational trauma in my family.”
Honorable Mention goes to Cathy Abramson’s oil painting titled Waiting for Takeout (to go), another cool work which captured the Covidian Age perfectly! I also like Aaron Maier-Carretero’s somewhat disturbing enormous painting titled not in front of the kids. The palpable, hidden violence is terrifying in the work.
One last thing.
As I wrote earlier, Dorothy Kosinski noted that “Duncan Phillips hosted this type of exhibition annually from 1935 to 1950, and we are proud to continue this tradition to support our talented community.”
An open request to the Phillips: Host this type of exhibition annually from 2021 till the end of time.