The limited run UMBRELLA exhibit on 14th Street is a little difficult to swallow. The exhibits, ranging from zen monochromatic work of Reggie Black to the vibrant “Storm and Stress” curated by Fabiola R. Delgado, are reverent examples of artistic directions encumbered only with personal messages made visual. The curation by the locally renowned No Kings Collective is reflective of a honed vision where different artists, different messages, and different manifestations of protest and commentary can coexist seamlessly. Any Washingtonian of any seniority will appreciate the work.
Of particular note, is Mark Kelner’s and Zachary Paul Levine’s “Solaris” exhibit on the first floor. Kelner’s work is reflective of a Russian immigrant upbringing, one in which the strains of Russian heritage, Russian art, American iconography, and color processes all bleed into riveting hybrid compositions. Kelner’s “Levi’s by Lissitzky” and “Budweiser/Brancusi” were two of my favorite pieces from the show.
In addition to Kelner’s work, Hannah Sarfraz’s hyper-realistic color pencil art is unlike anything I’ve seen in a while. The simplicity of Sarfraz’s technique is only matched by the end product; works of art that make you question how someone is able to pull off color gradients usually reserved for paint.
Perhaps the most powerful exhibit, and one that ironically made the whole experience a bit…odd, was a powerful half-room exhibit in PAKKE’s gallery on the second floor. The exhibit focused on shining a light on D.C.’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), critiquing its management by the city government and emphasizing its importance to D.C.’s social fabric. The use of hanging receipts from the ceiling, all with “TRANSACTION DENIED” at the bottom, resonated instantly with anyone who has known poverty. On Saturday at 2pm they are hosting an artist talk, which may be well worth a visit.
I began by saying the UMBRELLA exhibit was a little difficult, and I stand by that. The exhibit itself is wonderful, and the artists who have made this maze of rooms into their own little words need to be celebrated and commended for their work. But it’s tough to really take it all in when you know the entire block upon which UMBRELLA is happening will soon be high-rise apartments, more retail space, and staler real-estate ideas. At a time when D.C. is the most gentrified city in America and protests to protect the Metro PCS store on 7th Street and Florida Ave. NW is still fresh, it’s tough to walk into what was formerly Martha’s Table and truly appreciate the art.
Photos by Claire Edkins and Ruben Gzirian, Words by Ruben Gzirian