Opening Reception: Friday, August 4 from 6pm to 8:30pm
Touchstone Gallery, located less than a mile away from The White House and Capitol Hill, presents its second national juried exhibition on the state of the political and social climate. Last year at the height of the presidential election season we focused on Art as Politics. This year our exhibit, Art of Engagement, reflects artists reacting to the new national reality. Race, women’s rights, environmental issues, immigration, refugee crises, possession of power and social media influence are only a few of the topics that inspire the artwork. Artists standing up and speaking out create a critical discussion through the lens of visual scrutiny. They hope this exhibit, using the universal language of art, will engage us all in a conversation about today’s important issues and concerns.
Jack Rasmussen, Director and Curator of American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center, was invited to jury this exhibition. He selected 70 plus artworks out of the 750 submitted from across the country.
Rasmussen’s inspiration for the title, Art of Engagement, came from Peter Selz, an established curator/art historian, who wrote an essay for an exhibition of the same name that opened at the American University Museum in 2006. Selz, who grew up in Munich, Germany during the 1930’s wrote about his visit in 1934 to a Horror Chambers of Art exhibit, a precursor of the 1937 Degenerate Art exhibition. It was an attack against the avant-garde, and an effort to incite the public against modern art and authority. Its aim, in Hitler’s words, was to “rid the German Reich of influences which, in his mind, are fatal and ruinous to its existence.” Paintings by Max Beckmann and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky were all vilified for political reasons, while the artists themselves were persecuted by the regime and had to flee the country.
“Against this historical backdrop, it may seem like things aren’t so bad here today,” Rasmussen said. “But let us hope that exhibitions like this one at the Touchstone Gallery keep us aware of our freedoms, and wary of creeping government censorship and constrictions on our speech and all forms of expression. As Joni Mitchell sang in “The Big Yellow Taxi:”
“Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Til it’s gone.”
Participating artists: Bob Allen, Jenny E. Balisle, E. Balme, Willette Battle, Jennifer Becker, Rachael A. Bohlander, Madison Bolls, Mason Bondi, Silas Boyd, Chad Brady, Annie Broderick, Christine Cardellino, Sabine Carlson, Roberto Salgado De Carvalho, Megan Atwood Cherry, Bret Christopher, Cheryl Clayton, Irene Clouthier, K. M. Copham, Ali Corser, Chris Corson, Delna Dastur, Manal Deeb, Tenley DuBois, Anna Fine Foer, Michael Fischerkeller, Lindsay Garcia, Parisa Ghaderi, Ebrahim Soltani, Roberta Glick, Sonja Heldt Harris, Susan Hazard, Courtney Heather, Erlene Hendrix, Yumiko Hirokawa, Erin Hoffman, Lynn B. Hogan, Rik Holden, Michael Patrick Holt, Robert S. Hunter, Esther Iverem, Warren Alan Jackson, Jay Jacobs, Barbara Januszkiewicz, Amanda Johnson, Timothy Johnson, Sally Kauffman, Jeffrey Kent, Diane Kresh, Amani Lewis (CLR’D), Andrea Limauro, Sandra Malamed, Penny Mateer, Marla McLean, Judith Peck, James Penfield, Alessandra Ricci, Gabrielle Robinson, Jim Roldan, Stephanie Z. Ruyle / Spontaneous Threads, Beverly Ryan, M. R. Shebesta, Ann Stoddard, Grant Strudwick, Sally Schluter Tardella, Patricia Anderson Turner, Andre Veloux, Vidya Vijayasekharan, Jenny Wu, John J. Young.
Jack Rasmussen is Director and Curator of the American University Museum, a 30,000 square foot exhibition space in the new Katzen Arts Center, dedicated to putting Washington-based art in a global context. Dr. Rasmussen began his career in 1974 in the Education Department of the National Gallery of Art. In 1975 he became Assistant Director of the Washington Project for the Arts in Washington, DC. He left this position to open the Jack Rasmussen Gallery in downtown Washington in 1978. He helped conceive, launch and direct the Rockville Arts Place, served for ten years as the Executive Director of Maryland Art Place in Baltimore, and three years as Executive Director of di Rosa, a contemporary art museum and natural habitat in Napa, California. He moved back to Washington in 2004 to open the Katzen Arts Center at American University. A native of Seattle, Rasmussen earned his bachelor’s degree in art from Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA before earning masters’ degrees in painting (1975), arts management (1983), and anthropology (1991), and a PhD in anthropological linguistics (1994) from American University. Rasmussen currently serves on the Maryland State Arts Council.
Touchstone Gallery is located at 901 New York Ave. NW. For more information, visit www.touchstonegallery.com.