The Avant Garden at Culture House Presents Mark Kelner Pleasure’s Promise

By Editorial Team on December 1, 2020

Sat, 24 October 2020 - Sun, 20 December 2020

Courtesy of Mark Kelner Studio.

Culture House announces the opening of its outdoor space, The Avant Garden, boasting a resurfaced outdoor patio and outdoor murals that will rotate with the work of local artists. The space will play host to a number of uses including outdoor ceremonies, small scale private events, as well as pop-ups and outdoor dining.

After a successful run in 2019 of Solaris: Shelter For The Next Cold War, Mark Kelner returns to Culture House with Pleasure’s Promise, an inaugural 120 foot mural celebrating the opening of Culture House’s Avant Garden, curated by Jarvis DuBois. Using the aesthetics of advertising and the language of commercial marketing to critique the fraught and ubiquitous history of Newport cigarettes, Kelner showcases how Newport is represented in media and how, arguably, they are specifically targeted towards an urban, African-American audience.

For decades, slogans such as “Alive with Pleasure!” and “Gratifying!” have been the cornerstones of many Newport print ad campaigns. Overwhelmingly, these words complement imagery featuring staples of the “American Dream.” What’s being sold as “Pleasure,” in fact, kills you. What’s an aggressively promoted trope to Black communities, in fact, signifies how words matter and can symbolize conflicting and hurtful agendas.

Kelner paradoxically explores the tension of other concerns beyond race and inequalities of public health. His work also directly comments on the ongoing gentrification of Washington, DC, examining the socio-economic fissures within the city and how new neighborhoods are being engineered toward cultural homogeneity. With plywood and house paint, Kelner uses satire to illustrate the hollowness of false promises, which he hopes inspires viewers to think differently about their world, and how they respond to the saturation of messaging all around them.

For additional information, interview requests, and private tours, contact Samantha Giordano Kim at

The Gallery at Culture House is currently to by ticketed reservations only for Diana Weymar’s Tiny Pricks Project running through December 20, 2020.

ABOUT MARK KELNER: Mark Kelner is a visual artist and filmmaker based in Washington, DC and Brooklyn. A graduate of George Mason University, where he studied with the esteemed novelist Vasily Aksyonov, his work has appeared in Artenol, The Atlantic, The Washington Post and The Times among other media outlets. His practice centers on the distortion of ubiquitous mass – cigarette labels, oil and gas station logos, fast food signs, and retail culture, among other touchstones. This is his second exhibition with Culture House.

ABOUT JARVIS DUBOIS: Jarvis DuBois is a noted independent curator and museum professional based in Washington, DC. He is a graduate of UCLA and has curated and consulted on many fine art exhibitions including: Tsedaye Makonnen’s “Senait & Nahom: The Peacemaker and The Comforter” at Carroll Square Gallery, (2019); “Lest We Forget” at Galerie Myrtis, (2016); among other projects, notably with the performance artist Sheldon Scott, (2013 – 2014). He has written for The International Review of African American Art, published at Hampton University and is currently enrolled in the Art History Masters Program at City College in New York.

ABOUT CULTURE HOUSE: Culture House is a 501(c)(3) non-profit destination and events space committed to arts and culture. Located in SW Washington DC., the landmarked formerly Baptist Church boasts indoor and outdoor space for private events.