Monday, January 30, 2006

Last show at Fusebox

Update: Thanks to Lenny at DC Art News for the link.

As someone trying to become an avid go-seer of art in this town, I was disappointed to hear that a popular gallery just down the street from me was closing forever. So on my way to the office on Saturday I made sure to stop by Fusebox on 14th Street to see their last show in DC. (I also went to Hemphill, but that's for another time.)

I feel like I should make a disclaimer before I begin. I've written a couple of what I've called "reviews" the past few weeks, and plan to do more as I continue to go to events in the city. Partially, because sitting down and writing about my experience helps me understand it better, and also because I like encouraging other people to go see them. (In fact I've been talking so much about the shows I've seen that my friends are slowly starting to say, "Hey, um, why don't you call me next time you go?"...leading me to believe that more people do want to get involved, they just don't know where to start and/or don't want to find the information on their own.) The point is, I'm probably going to spout opinions as if I'm some kind of art critic, but I'm very much your average twenty-something, non-art-educated, English major gal who just likes to expand her horizons. I know little-to-nothing of technique, outside of photography. On the other hand, art isn't made for other artists, it's made for everybody, and that makes me feel well within my bounds to talk about it.

Moving on. I read a bit about Vesna Pavlovic's show on Adrian's site last week, so I was a little worried her pieces would be boring (which is worse than "bad," I think). Upon first glance, they are very sparse subjects. Empty offices, lobbies, conference rooms. It even sounds boring, right? I could see how they might leave you cold.

Pavlovic at Fusebox

In the end though, that's not what I came away with. Maybe they were cold, but there was purpose there. At first I was distracted - it was about 2pm on a Saturday with clear blue skies, and the photographs are framed in glass, hung in a gallery whose front is entirely made of glass. The result? I couldn't SEE the photograph at first - I could only see my reflection in the glass, and the reflection of the two ladies looking at the photos on the wall behind me.

Pavlovic at Fusebox
(not the best example, since I was actually trying to take a photo without the reflection, but I think you see the problem - click to enlarge)

I moved around, squinted, walked up and walked back, but I may as well have been looking in a mirror. The pieces further in the gallery were easier, but the effect was still distracting. I guess that's what made me think - maybe I'm supposed to be in there? All these empty rooms, what purpose do they have without someone inside them? Who's using the elevators, sitting in the chairs, 'enjoying' the corporate art? Someone designed these rooms for a reason - for utility but also aesthetically. If no one uses it, and no one sees it....(if a tree falls in the forest...)? It was like the rooms were all waiting for people, frozen in time until they could be used again for their rightful purpose. So, in that way, yes, they are cold, and even sad.

Adrian also commented on the grainy quality of the photos when you looked closely. I respectfully disagree that it was the result of poor technique. I think the up-close harshness was supposed to conflict with the cold, sleek rooms you saw when you stepped back, in much the same way that my reflection in the glass conflicted with the emptiness of each scene. To me they didn't seem like photos taken while people were off for the weekend, they seemed like rooms that had been abandoned abruptly, and the graininess gave the tables and chairs that "cracked" quality of unmoved things aging slowly.

Overall, I enjoyed Pavlovic's work far more than I expected to. I'm glad I made it out there for the last day, though now I'm even more sad to see the gallery go.


At 1:20 PM, January 30, 2006, Blogger Chai said...

great post!

At 5:03 PM, January 30, 2006, Blogger Lenny said...

I agree... we need more voices from all levels of the public - let's take the art world back!


At 6:01 AM, January 31, 2006, Blogger adrian said...

hey cool!

you're lucky to live close to the 14th street corridor. did you you see the ian whitmore paintings & drawings, also?

as for the coldness, i agree. it snaps and the desloateness only adds to the work. i was disapointed because though i'd seen her artist lecture this was the first time i'd seen her works and i just expected that the clean/cold would transfer to the exactness of low grain film and printing.

it's odd about the reflection and glass covered works in that gallery. fusebox looks beautiful from the outside with it's chelsea gallery facade, all windows and steel. but then if that takes away from the experience with the viewer squinting to see the works it's unfortunate. i visted at night so i have no idea how bad that glare was.

man, this post belies how excited i am about fusebox and pavlovic.

sidenote, does anyone else really love the random ass word verification generations? mine was 'fobbjpng'

At 5:27 AM, February 01, 2006, Blogger Roonie said...

What kind of camera do you use? I've always wanted to ask you.

At 9:03 PM, February 01, 2006, Blogger Heather said...

i'd like to make a semi-related comment - this blog looks TERRIBLE on IE. i loaded it at work today (yikes) and 1) the font is all times romany (whereas I chose a lovely font when i redid the site a few weeks ago) and 2) that second photo up there looked awful - you couldn't see a reflection AT ALL, which makes me look like kind of an idiot since that was the point of it. my point is, windows sucks, IE sucks.

adrian - that's cool you've heard her speak - i'd like to hear what she has to say about her work. i did, in fact, see ian whitmore's work while i was there, and i didn't write about it for one, silly reason: i'm not entirely sure i got it. there was certainly something that intriged me, or i wouldn't have stood there looking at his pieces for as long as i did, but the "little lies" theme wasn't coming together for me. suprisingly, i got the chance to speak with ian yesterday and ask him about it. of course, now i want to go back and put his words to his work, but, cest la vie, as they say.

roonie - don't laugh, you know i can't afford a high-falutin' sexy slr. i dug deep into my severely debted pockets and bought a canon powershot G6 last year, so that's what i take my 'nice' photos with - but for most of the documentary photos on this blog, i just use my trusty olympus point-and-shoot.


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