The Features

ULTRA & Elkins: DC Faces at The Fridge

h.r. by ULTRA / aerosol and acrylic, 30 x 22 inches. 2012

It’s portraiture at its most local: to celebrate the opening of their new retail and gallery space, the folks over at The Fridge have put together two important DC-centric shows, filling their space front and back with provocative new works.

Quiet Walks in Dangerous Places

In the main gallery, the exhibit quiet walks in dangerous places showcases work by street artist Asad “ULTRA” Walker. ULTRA began his career as part of a DC-native go-go graffiti movement; and today his work in spray paint has changed the artistic sensibility of the district.

quiet walks in dangerous places is ULTRA’s first solo show. It focuses on portraiture of everyday people he has met in DC – people different from the ones you and I meet, unless you happen to be a graffiti artist out at 4am.

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The Features

We Fight We Die: How The Disenfranchised #Occupy

Jeff Kirkman III, Alexander Burton, Michael Rodriguez and Stanley Andrew Jackson III; Junesong Arts’ We Fight We Die. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

Self-defined as representing the masses, it’s no surprise that a majority of Americans approve of the now-global “Occupy” movement—they understand it as the manifestation of desperation, a fight where compromise failed. Feeling powerless in the face of corporate greed and political corruption, hundreds of thousands are venting their anger in the most public, most drastic way possible: by taking to the streets.

But what about those who are neither among the wealthy one percent, nor among the “other ninety-nine”? That is, those truly at the bottom, for whom money-hungry CEOs and rotten Congressmen are perhaps the least of worries; for whom starvation, extreme cold, or gang violence are a much more real threat than losing healthcare or facing foreclosure. Where can they rally? How can they express themselves?

After watching Junesong Arts’ new stage production We Fight We Die, the answer may be that they, too, must occupy the streets…but with aerosol cans instead of pitchforks. Continue reading

The Daily Feed

Love (of Art) Conquers All (Weather)

It wouldn’t be street art if it didn’t stand up to the elements, and even today’s (ongoing) icy rain couldn’t shut down Albus Cavus’ Monster Mash Halloween paint party at Garfield Park. The nonprofit art organization, which offers workshops and after school programs and curates a series of what they call “open walls” for graffiti artists, welcomed local artists, performers, skaters and the public at large to an all-day community “expression” jam: skateboarders rode the hand-made ramps of the skate park, members of Urban Artistry got a dance cipher going and, of course, everyone from little kids to pro taggers repainted the open wall spaces tucked beneath Southeast Freeway.

Fueled by frequent stops to the community fire pit (and candy bowl), and swapping spray paints and ideas with fellow painters, the graff artists produced some seriously stunning—and seriously different—stuff, themed for Halloween.  Continue reading

The Features

DC Graff: The Case for Open Walls (Part II)

Continued from Part I…

Just a few blocks from the Capitol South metro stop, alongside children tackling the jungle gyms and dogs chasing after Frisbees, Hill staffers play pick-up games of football and soccer on the greens of Garfield Park. Until a few years ago you might have caught a pick-up basketball game, too, at the cement-paved court nestled under the Southeast Freeway. But not so true anymore, ever since a group of young skateboarders discovered the court and claimed it as a skate park, installing improvised rails and ramps, decorating their domain with sneaker chandeliers and aerosol tags. “We had never had graffiti before” says Bill Phillips, President of Friends of Garfield Park, a community group that maintains the historic Capitol Hill locale. “We’d call the city and they’d paint it over and that did nothing but create a canvas for brand new graffiti.”

A canvas perfect for the work of Albus Cavus

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The Features, We Love Arts

DC Graff: The Case for Open Walls (Part I)

Murals DC Piece at Fuller and 15th NW

The debate is fresh but the line seems to already have been drawn.

On one side, facing an uptick in tagging that has cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in removal fees this year alone, DC officials agree that illegal graffiti is criminal before artistic: “I appreciate art,” said Nancee Lyons of the Department of Public Works (DPW) at a panel discussion on the issue earlier this summer, “But if Picasso made a painting on the side of my house—it may be beautiful but if I didn’t ask him to do it it’s still vandalism.”

While the event—titled “The Art of Vandalism: A Closer Look at DC Graffiti”—featured an eclectic panel of experts on the art form, including a former graffiti artist, DC new brow art collector Philippa Hughes, a graffiti documentarian from Georgetown University, and Cory Stowers, Art Director at Words Beats Life (a hip-hop nonprofit), the debate still served as the official kick-off for the MuralsDC Project—the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities’ answer to tagging.

Launched in 2007 in partnership with DPW, the program aims to “replace illegal graffiti with artistic works” and “promotes respect for public and private property as well as community awareness for the young people [involved].” According to the website, sites are chosen “in collaboration with the Department of Public Works’ assessment of areas with high incidents of illegal graffiti. Each mural reflects the character, culture and history of the neighborhoods in the District.”

But the character, culture and history according to whom? Continue reading

We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Edgewood Mural Jam

Photos by Max Cook

As luck would have it I didn’t end up going to the beach this weekend after all, so I decided to scooter over to Edgewood with my camera to check out Saturday’s Mural Jam and I’m sure glad I did.  What is easily the summer’s biggest public art event in DC, the collaborative mural stretches hundreds of feet and showcases some amazingly talented artists.  Sponsored by the public art non-profit Albus Cavus, the DC Commission on Arts and Humanities, and the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program, the mural has brought people of the community together while giving the participating kids a great exercise in team building and a fun way to spend the summer.  From the DCCAH August newsletter:

This summer, through the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program, a team of energized youth have been working once a week to create a 300-foot long mural in DC’s Edgewood neighborhood. Under the direction of Albus Cavus, a DC nonprofit organization, these youth have learned how to finance a public art project, talk to the media, and create art that both reflects the neighborhood and develops strong, healthy communities.

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