Friday, October 22, 2004

Art-O-Matic 2004

DC continues to impress me. Art-O-Matic 2004 seems to be this big, funky, art-type thing that will run for about a month near Union Station. Seems like it's put together 'by artists, for artists'. From their press release:

Artomatic, Washington's favorite art, music, theater, poetry, dance, and film extravaganza will open November 12th! Keep an eye on for more details!

More than 1,000 area artists, writers, and performers will transform an exciting space at 800 3rd St. NE into an open showcase for thousands of works, hundreds of performances, and dozens of educational presentations and discussions. Nearby Union Station provides easy Metro and there's plenty of parking.

"Artomatic is the pseudonym for artistic success," said Lou Stovall, one of the city's most admired senior artists. "I know of no other facility that gives artists, performers, collectors, browsers, and enthusiasts the forum, excitement, accessibility, and opportunity to get involved with the arts. I love the action of all that energy."

In 1999, a group of artists were inspired to create a grassroots art show at the old Manhattan Laundry building, which inspired the name: Art-O-Matic. The year 2000 brought a bigger, better Artomatic and an even larger show debuted on Halloween in 2002.

I almost surprised myself when I heard myself telling someone that I thought the DC art scene was better than New York City's. That might seem ridiculous to the hipsters, but to the artistically inept (moi) DC provides a very easy way to get into art. Art, here, is accessible. You don't have to dress cool, you don't have to act cool - you just show up. Lots of DC museums are free. We've got a mad international scene. Walkable streets. The list goes on.

ABDO Development is putting up the space, which they will renovate after the show.

I'm psyched. This should be cool!

UPDATE: Got a review from Blake Gopnik of the Washington Post here. Brutal. Dude sounds like a real elitist. I'll still check it out for myself. Even if all the art was bad I'm sure I wouldn't know, and I'm sure I'd still be amazed that a bunch of folks decided to put together an awesome community festival event that further distinguishes DC from its brethren as a city of art. And how can he discount thousands of art pieces, hundreds of artists - basically the entire event just because he doesn't like the art? That'd be like discounting an election because you didn't like the result, or discounting the NFL Super Bowl because you thought the game was played in an 'ugly' fashion.

The main contention of the unconvincing Gopnik is that real art is going unnoticed because art that Gopnik doesn't appreciate is drawing resources that it should not be:

Artomatic costs more than $100,000 to put on, drawing funds from the artists themselves as well as from the public and private sectors; it absorbs major gifts in kind and vast amounts of volunteer time; it gets plenty of media coverage and pulls in tens of thousands of visitors. And all the money and resources and attention that go Artomatic's way are, by definition, not going to serious art that needs a boost, and deserves a higher public profile. Artomatic isn't only good for nothing. It's bad for art that matters.

I missed the part on the Artomatic entrance flyer that said real artists with real, serious art need not apply.

An 'editorial review' of Artomatic was provided by Korin Miller, also of the WaPo, and it seems to be a little more-openminded. We've dropped it here in case it disappears, and because Gopnik's review was so elitist and brutal:

The Artomatic festival originated in 1999 when a group of artists created a self-contained show with the intent of exhibiting local art. Five years later, Artomatic has grown into a staple of the metropolitan arts community, with an anticipated attendance of more than 50,000 visitors.

According to the official Artomatic Web site, the show is designed to provide "a forum for all of our area's artists to convene, perform and exhibit, strengthening the visibility, cohesion and marketplace of Washington's arts community."

This year's exhibition features works from more than 1,000 local artists, whose talents range from sculpture and visual art to poetry and music.

What can attendees expect to hear? A wide assortment of musical genres, stresses Artomatic Music Chairman Kimani Anku. "We've got great shows planned for every form of music." Punk, all-women's, and folk-theme nights are just a few of the musical activities scheduled.

The driving forces behind the scenes of Artomatic are those who benefit from it. The festival is planned and staffed entirely by volunteers, many of whom also display their work at the show.

"Most of the volunteers are people who participated or were changed by Artomatic," says Anku. "People just love it -- you have to come out for the experience."

Anku notes that the show is continually expanding. "It's going to be known as the biggest art festival on the East Coast in a few years," he says. "Each year it's getting more popular and the crowd gets bigger."

Catch Artomatic while you can. The show only occurs every two years.

-- Korin Miller

UPDATE: OK, I've watched and read some more of Gopnik's work, and the dude seems to be generally more level-headed than his Artomatic review would suggest. He's brutal, and he's brutally unfair about his Artomatic review, but the dude is still interesting to listen to, especially for those like me who are not at all artfully inclined.

And I thought he really stuck it to the Artomatic folks until I read his review of J. Seward Johnson, Jr.'s work at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Check out the opening paragraph:

Don't you hate the way it feels when you've had a couple of rotten-egg-and-sardine milkshakes, and then you get stuck going backward on a roller coaster for an hour or two, and the only music you've got for your Walkman is an accordion version of "Carmen"?

You know that feeling?


Then go see "Beyond the Frame: Impressionism Revisited: The Sculptures of J. Seward Johnson, Jr.," which opens Saturday at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. The exhibition provides the most mind-numbing, head-spinning, belly-flipping experience you're likely to come across.

But let's not mince words: This show is really, really bad.

If I ever need someone to do a character assassination for me, this is the guy to do it. This Post ArtWatch link has some broken links internally, but leads to other goodies of Gopnik doing reviews at the Hirshorn, one with Grant Hill, etc. The dude really seems to know his art, and now I'm excited to go check out more of DC's free exhibitions.

In the Grant Hill video, Gopnik admits that he's infamous for his brutal reviews. I guess that's one way to make a name for yourself. Maybe fairness would be one, too.

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