Reviews

Seventh Annual East of the River Exhibition Showcases Local Excellence in the Visual Arts

BY PHIL HUTINET

Uma Cancao para Pelo by Rik Freeman.  Image courtesy Honfleur Gallery.

Uma Canção para Pelo by Rik Freeman. Image courtesy Honfleur Gallery.

 

Editor’s Note: This article is published concurrently in Capital Community News’ East of the River August 2014 issue. Find it on page 40.

Since opening in 2007, Honfleur Gallery has introduced Washington audiences to a variety of local, national and international artists.   One of the gallery’s signature exhibitions, the annual East of the River Exhibition fulfills ARCH Development Corporation’s (the gallery’s umbrella nonprofit organization) mission to transform Anacostia into an arts and culture destination.

Unlike many group exhibitions that center around a particular topic or theme, the annual Honfleur Gallery East of the River Exhibition offers viewers a chance to sample the wealth of cultural offerings from the eastern banks of the Anacostia River. As a result, each artist’s work becomes a solo exhibition of sorts.

Taken as a whole, the exhibition provides an excellent overview of East of the River’s distinctive and autochthonous culture with each artist expressing an individual facet from discussions on identity, race and incarceration to observations on the area’s natural beauty.

This year, Honfleur Gallery selected nine artists, many of whom have shown in previous annual East of the River group exhibitions or in a solo exhibition either at Honfleur Gallery or at Vivid Solutions Gallery, one of two art galleries run by ARCH Development Corporation. This year’s artists include Gabriela Bulisova, Yvon Fleurival, Rik Freeman, Lawrence Green, Malik M. Lloyd, Bruce McNeil, Luis Peralta, Amber Robles-Gordon, and James Terrell.

Gabriela Bulisova, a world renowned documentary photographer who won the prestigious Sondheim award in 2013, documents the plight of returned citizens. With work originally shown at the July 2012 Vivid Solutions Gallery exhibition Inside Outside, Bulisova’s images capture the plight of men and women who struggle to assimilate into society. Her work includes a brief documentary with resident interviews and an overview of the relationship between incarceration and corporate profit.

New to Honfleur Gallery, Yvon Fleurival, a native of Haiti and now a resident of Southeast, paints vibrant scenes of his native land.   After a brief hiatus, the Seventh Annual East of the River Exhibition marks the reentry of the Fleurival’s work in a public forum.

Rik Freeman, a Northeast resident and returning EotR exhibiting artist, depicts large-scale scenes of quotidian life centering on the African Diaspora. This year, Freeman’s sinuous figurative work focuses on Brazil with two pieces from his Bahia series. Freeman has received numerous awards including the Bader Artist Grant.

Laurence Green, another photographer and documentary filmmaker, focuses his attention on the Natural Care movement among African American women in DC communities. A counter-point to Chris Rock’s Good Hair, Green’s excerpted Kinks, Locs and Love, first shown in its entirety at the Anacostia Film Festival during LUMEN8 2013, explores ways in which African American women have taken ownership of their hair and, in so doing, have redefined what beauty means.

Illustrator Malik M. Lloyd of Southeast has two pieces from his HOME series in the exhibition. With an interest in African-American religious and historical experiences, the artist subtlety weaves symbols of power and identity in his pieces while retaining a whimsical quality.

One of Anacostia’s best-known photographers, Bruce McNeil has spent years capturing East of River’s natural beauty from the area’s hilly topography, forests and parkland as well as the enigmatic river that separates his neighborhood from the rest of the city. In this year’s group exhibition, McNeil’s work focuses on the Anacostia River’s watershed in suburban Maryland.

Also an Anacostia resident, Luis Peralta Del Valle, known for his street-art and distinctive painting style, received the 2013 East of the River Distinguished Artist Award, given to an artist working in any genre who lives East of the River and has had a significant influence in DC’s artistic movement.   For this exhibition, Peralta tried his hand at painting on recycled wood. His inspiration for this project came from having painted a giant panda sculpture during the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities 2004 citywide Pandamania public art project.

Amber Robles-Gordon With Every Fiber of my Being debuted in March of 2012 at Honfleur Gallery. A Southeast resident, Robles-Gordon has once again adorned the walls of the gallery with fabric installations using personal objects and second hand materials such as clothing. Like many artists working in this medium, Robes-Gordon reconstructs notions of gender, sexuality and personal identity through painstaking, repetitive work. Robles-Gordon’s new pieces show a progression from her 2012 exhibition suggesting a maturity in her technique as the patterns have become more deliberate and refined.

Northeast based James Terrell’s two main interests include painting and music. His brightly colored pop meets street-art inspired figurative compositions resonate vibrancy and joy. His subjects appear to have succumbed to the positive effects of music.

The annual East of the River Exhibition provides visitors a chance to experience the excellence which exists in East of the River’s artistic communities while allowing local residents to take pride in their neighbors’ extraordinary accomplishments.  The seventh edition of this signature exhibition will certainly not disappoint!

The Seventh Annual East of the River Exhibition is on view at Honfleur Gallery located at 1241 Good Hope Road SE through August 29.

Gallery hours are as follows:

  • Tuesday-Friday noon-5pm
  • Saturday 11am-5pm

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Editor’s Note: while a longer version of Kinks, Locs and Love was shown at LUMEN8 in 2013, the full and final version of the documentary has not been released or completed.

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Phil Hutinet
Authored by: Phil Hutinet

Phil Hutinet, a third generation Capitol Hill resident, is the publisher of East City Art which he began in 2010 to document and promote the growing contemporary art movement in the eastern communities of Washington, DC. In 2012-2013, his consultancy work east of the river yielded the Anacostia Playhouse, Craig Kraft Studios, the Anacostia Arts Center and the 2012-2013 LUMEN8ANACOSTIA festivals. He currently produces EMULSION, East City Art's annual regional juried show. In 2015, he coordinated the Gateway Open Studio Tour and continues to consult on numerous regional art projects. Hutinet has been interviewed by or has made appearances on the BBC, Capital Community News, Washingtonian, Washington City Paper, The Washington Post, WOL Radio, WJLA ABC News Channel 7/Channel 8, WTOP and other local and national media.