Artists Fascinate in artNow: DC, New Kohl Gallery Exhibit

By Sarah Roy
Staff Writer

On Feb. 8, the Kohl Gallery welcomed the public to the artNOW: DC exhibition, the second part of a three-series program which selects rising artists from surrounding urban areas to represent their city in a shared artistic space. Curated by Assistant Professor of Art Heather Harvey and DC-based photographer Natalie Cheung, the hybrid collection of work encompasses a variety of media in startling new fashions. Featuring the creative talents of Michael Iacovone, Chandi Kelley, Katherine Tzu-Lann Mann, Jonathan Monaghan, and Kendall Norton, a peculiar equilibrium of ambiguity, intensity, and authority resonate between the pieces in the room, holding unique conversation both independently and cohesively. This is the artistic blood of our nation’s capital, and it runs strong.

“The things I do next always just unfold,” Iacovone said. “I have more interests than I can execute.” And it shows: Iacovone has studied art education, photography, studio art, and his own intrinsic taste for exploration, drawn to maps and places and records of movement. Iacovone experiments with the experience of travel, relocating his physical self and responding with mental reflection in a concrete form. A particular piece recounts his journey driving over every prominent road that crossed the Mason Dixon line, a string-and-nail installation. The film of his progress provides the visuals of roads, branches, inflection, but the paths of his travelogue are straight and close-knit, incredibly related, all of the same source and spinning. Iacovone draws the story out of the wall – he draws the journey out of the map – and we see his will and footprint, a little resounding echo to the question it left there. “What’s left, what’s shown, is not really the art but an artifact,” states Iacovone. “It’s entirely process. That’s the most interesting part for me.”

Kelley shares a similar fascination with her physical environment but tackles different issues, primarily that of the unsettling disconnect between natural and artificial spaces. Kelley graduated from Corcoran College of Art and Design and has since been a member of DC Arts Center artist collective, Sparkplug, as well as founder of the artist subscription service Project Dispatch. Her work seems to teeter between a careful dialogue of an attempt to remember a stirring long-repressed versus a temperance to behave; the duality between the main events in her miniature narratives suggests a disoriented worship of an entity we’ve never met, that could be more or less than an essence, or could be a growth inside ourselves. On the act of art itself, Kelley concludes that “it’s hard, but you love doing it so it makes sense.”

The motif of organic imagery that surfaces in Kelley’s work takes a turn for the abstract in the sprawling, dripping installations of Tzu-Lann Mann. Mann graduated from Brown University and currently teaches at Maryland Institute College of Art, where she earned her master’s degree. Her site-specific “Surry 2” overtakes the space, dripping into the corners of the walls as if it were spreading and claiming territory. An intent amount of detail activates a blur of movement in her work, shifting lifelike between oily puddles of sumi ink shadows and more definable images, such as beds, tassels, and colonies of gray and bleached flowers. The writhing concoction is relatable to a brain exploding, splattering images of concrete memory amid visceral pools of emotional reaction, unable to be contained to a square. The pair play off one another in a whirl of natural fiction, threatening to crawl off the paper and scuttle across the floor.
Carrying over the theme of patterns and surreal detail, Monaghan’s fascinating animation solidifies the abstract into a strange narrative of organized chaos. Earning his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the New York Institute of Technology and his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Maryland, Monaghan utilizes complex computer animation in short films with Pixar-like 3-D modeling. He has also dabbled in 3-D printing and exhibits a skillful comprehension of technology, which he wants to continue to use while “democratizing it and making it accessible.” “Dauphin 007” seems to claim that while we thought we were the masters, our clinical inventions will eventually invade our spirituality and turn it into scripted props.

Last but not least, Norton’s quiet strings of light-eating sculptures bridge corners of the gallery in delicate, shimmery strands, activating stories in shadows. The amorphous forms are always contracting and expanding, darting towards and away from the boundaries of one another. Norton relies on the ingredients of the environment to bring her installations to life. The touch of her acetate chains is delicate, but the mysterious bacterial faces created beneath them are the true focal points, sweating and whispering against the sigh of their parent shape, trapped on another plane. Norton shares that “thinking about how we know what we know and when we know what we know” helps formulate her craft. She is a published poet, co-founded the “24 Hour Drawing Project,” and is partial to simple materials.

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