Reviews

East City Artnotes: Art of Engagement at Touchstone Gallery

Art of Engagement gallery view.
Photo for East City Art by Eric Hope.

The Art of Engagement is Touchstone Gallery’s second foray into the world of politics and presents a more angst-ridden take on today’s political climate than last August’s Art as Politics show (see that review here).  Underscoring how elections have consequences, juror Jack Rasmussen has selected over 70 artists that give voice to the grave concerns of the political left.  While the election results are squarely addressed, the fallout of that decision ripples across the artistic landscape, with artists questioning the treatment of gender and racial disparities as well as the abrupt shift in foreign and domestic US policies.  Jay Jacobs’ Untitled 7 encapsulates this unease in a symbolically-rich painting that suggests you can gloss-up a border wall, but you cannot hide the melting away of the “American Dream”.

Untitled 7
Jay Jacobs
Acrylic Paint on Wood Panel
36 x 48 x 2.5 in
Photo for East City Art by Eric Hope.

While pundits across the political spectrum are still trying to decipher the “meaning” behind this election, artists have been working hard to visualize the turbulent zeitgeist during the winter and spring of 2017.  Seas of pink hats provide a fruitful image for artists, and several of the most engaging works use those shades of pink to distill their messages, including Sally Kauffman’s Nasty Women and Yumiko Hirokawa’s The Women’s March I.  Conversely, Susan Hazard’s pudendum-inspired assemblage entitled Struggle needs no rainbow hues to underscore the notion that women continue to fight for the very control of their bodies.

The Women’s March I
Yumiko Hirokawa
Acrylic, Leaf, Paper on Canvas
38 x 50 in
Photo for East City Art by Eric Hope.

While the overall mood is somber some works suggest that, as in other turbulent times, our country will weather this political storm. The protesters in Courtney Heather’s Ensemble may very well be challenging this election, but colored-block signs held high against an indistinct backdrop underscore our country’s commitment to passionate dialogue in the streets.  Judith Peck and Andre Veloux use vastly differing materials–oils and Lego blocks respectively–in their strong visages of women (in Veloux’s case the “notorious” R.B.G. better know as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg), indicating women will play a key role in seeing us through this period of turmoil.  Lynn Hogan’s Seeds with its butterflies alighting off an encaustic wall suggests that even in moments of darkness there are glimmers of hope.  While the current political landscape feels unstable, these artists remind us that we have been here before as a nation and willingly, through fits and starts, our path forward to progress will continue.

Art of Engagement runs through August 24, 2017 at Touchstone Gallery.  For more information, visit their website here.

Banner Image: Ensemble (detail) by Courtney Heather; Acrylic on Canvas; 38 x 54 in

Eric Hope
Authored by: Eric Hope

Eric Hope is a curator and writer based in Brookland. He moved to Washington DC in 1997 and a twist of fate found him a volunteer marketing job at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. In 2009, after ten years of marketing work at large museums in DC he moved into the realm of curating, staging a variety of solo, duo and small-group shows for the Evolve Urban Arts Project. He currently freelances as a curator and writes about local artists and the DC arts scene for a variety of online publications. Originally from Missouri, Hope holds degrees in International Relations and Public Service Administration from DePaul University in Chicago.