Published Thursday, August 2nd, 2012 in The Washington Post print edition and online at www.washingtonpost.com
By: Mark Jenkins, freelance writer
'Off the Wall'
Logan Circle's Contemporary Wing cohabits with an interior design studio. The new gallery's second show, installed amid domestic furnishings, features contemporary prints, drawings and photographs worthy of (and mostly not too disruptive to) an upscale home. "Off the Wall: Emin, Goldin, Hirst, Smith, Walker, Warhol" includes taboo-teasing Young British Artists Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin, as well as the once-controversial Andy Warhol. But the Warhol is a handsome, utterly innocuous American eagle, and Hirst's butterfly could hardly be daintier. Even Emin's explicit but loosely rendered female nude is mild stuff for an artist who once exhibited her blood-stained underpants. The edgiest pieces here are four Nan Goldin photographs, such as "Toon, So, and Yogo on Stage, Bangkok," that flaunt neon colors and drag-queen attitude. These images would probably unnerve the average decorator, which is not such a bad thing.
The motif of Transformer's ninth annual "Exercises for Emerging Artists" program — in which young artists develop a show in consultation with a mentor — is, well, excrement. That substance is not on display in "E9: Design — Mass Fad Discharge," but it's clearly evoked by the many small sculptures made of toilet paper, as well as a lineup of (non-functioning) toilets. There are gold-wrapped chocolates inside those fake loos, whose interiors are also gilded. Among the show's many slogans: "If it ain't pretty, then paint it gold so at least it can sparkle and shine."
Viewers may find the display either tasteless or clever, or perhaps something of both. The three local artists are all graphic designers, so their work has the virtue of being direct and easily read. Christie Liberatore, Shawn Moriarty and Noelle Weber riff on fast-food logos and quick-response codes, and they repurpose everyday items to illustrate their analogy between cogitation and digestion. In one of Weber's three digital animations, letters as well as objects move through a stomach-like shape. What comes out the other end may not have great value. But the trio's QR-emblazoned toilet paper is selling for $50 a roll.
On view through Aug. 10 at Kaplan Gallery, VisArts at Rockville, 155 Gibbs St., Rockville; 301-315-8200; www.visartsatrockville.org.
On view through Aug. 11 at Project 4 Gallery, 1353 U St. NW, 3rd floor; 202-232-4340; www.project4gallery.com.
Off the Wall: Emin, Goldin, Hirst, Smith, Walker, Warhol
On view through Saturday at Contemporary Wing, 1412 14th St. NW; 202-730-5037; www.contemporarywing.com.
E9: Design — Mass Fad Discharge
On view through Aug. 18 at Transformer, 1404 P St. NW; 202-483-1102; www.transformerdc.org.