Art outside Zenith Gallery, at 1429 Iris Street, DC announces the gallery loud and clear. Colorful sculptures, a metal swath of benches and huge wooden totems mark the entrance to Zenith Gallery, whose new juried show, RESIST, in association with Busboys and Poets and Lake Research, is on until September 30, Wednesdays through Saturdays, 12 p.m. – 6 p.m. and by appointment.
You might have missed the opening, with about 350 people crowded into the art-filled space, but there is still time to see the exhibition showing artists’ treatments of movements, rallies, protests, heroes and heroines of the last few months and before, with other gallery work taking up some of the art-filled space.
Open the door. Straight ahead is Pill Dress, Jenae Michelle’s mixed-media with prescriptions forming a lace bustier, and the Rx inserts (lacking pickup dates) forming the skirt. Do we need this? Jenae Michelle asks. For those who would like to sleep through the next 3-1/2 years, our collective answer is that it is one solution.
Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg’s We the People, a sculpture of wire, cloth and safety pins uses those pins, one of the signs of the protest during the 2016 election to inscribe the words, We the People, on the back of a kneeling woman’s hijab.Chilling, in her prayerful position, she prays for herself, for us, and for our nation.
The Negro Speaks, Curtis Woody’s mixed-media quilt painting, documents black contributions to American culture and ideas. This new mapping of cultural achievement uses a medium once used to map routes north and to Canada to escape enslavement,exemplifying the show’s title, RESIST.
Presenting another form of resistance to political misdeeds, Leda Black’s prints on canvas of Justice Ginsburg, DISSENT, looking like the superpower pop idol that she is and Harriet Tubman, FEARLESS, an equally courageous fighter for women’s and civil rights, stand in for the signage of this show. Rachael Bohlander’s Nasty Woman(Liberty No. 1), acrylic and newspaper on canvas, continues this genre; visual depictions of courageous dissent, with her painted Lady Liberty figure literally combined with rippedand fraying newspaper accounts; her strong colors and words overcoming the rips and frays.
In another tribute to print media, Bulsby Duncan’s Breaking News, mixed-media on canvas, highlights the role of newspapers to publicize dissent and disorganization with his collaged print and painted messages. Read the words, and pay attention.
Sally Kaufmann’s Day 2, an enigmatic oil painting depicting the pussy-hatted hordes of the Women’s March, summarizes the actions between last January and today, with a strongly painted and colored mass of humanity attesting to the huge attendance at the march.
If But All the Seas Rise Up, Nancy Nesvet’s painting of polar bears stuck on a detached glacier (and hung the night before the glacier the size of Delaware broke off from Antarctica), speaks to the environmental issues we all face. In this show, we don’t have to explain. The art says it all.
There is humor, if biting, in this show. Shoes, on the mantel are all dangerous stilettoes, titled Breaking Chains, Feel the Burn (holding Tabasco sauce), Get Out of the Kitchen (heel supported by a mixer blade), No Spin Zone, and other ironic feminist footwear, of mixed media and found objects by Billy Forrest.These shoes were not made for walking, but for standing our ground, and protesting. For proper attire to resist, Jenae Michelle’s handbags, of vintage fabric, wool and flowered, are emblazoned with the words, Empathy Matters.Those words reverberate in One Love, One Heart, silver leaf, acrylic and paper on canvas by Katherine Kendall, a veiled woman foregrounding a blue heart, inscribed with the words, WE THE PEOPLE. Katherine Owens also uses the image of the Statue of Liberty, in all her green glory, in Lady Liberty Crying, her acrylic on canvas, providing a close-up view of a tear shed for the travel ban. In advocating against another proposal by the present administration, Liberty Unbound (Liberty No. 2), a mixed media on acrylic by Rachael Bohlandertraps a deconstructed Statue of Liberty including found materials and previous parts of work by the artist, between two plexiglass walls.
Mihira Karra’s montage, free-hand sketched on canvas with bits of fabric adhered to board, portrait, Obama, The President and the Man, proudly includes images from African-American history in his hair; Spiderman (coming to the rescue?) resting on the side of his tie; facemade up of bits of US history andforehead and chin containing references to popular culture. A proud depiction, it makes me hum the song, “I am the President and I am the Man”, written about another president we were proud to have led our country.
Upstairs a wood, metal and plaster painted installation by Lea Craigie-Marshall has President Trump spewing hate, for the NEA, ACA and more, in Putin’s Most Precious.
Leda Black’s mixed-media interactive installation, PRESENCE: Assembling the Shards,transforms ritual and belief systems to address female political power by referring to Jewish tradition of the Shattering of the Vessels. In this work, the polluted shardsrepresent deformed vessels shielding the good power that lies within. The viewer is invited to take a pebble from a bucket and place it on the ladder, both as one places pebbles on a grave, and optimistically, marking a cumulative trail of ascending, strong, unyielding rocks.
There is more. Lots more. In the most expansive show yet addressing the political situation we face, Zenith Gallery shows the courage to RESIST, its many forms documented and commented uponin the most universal language, visual art. You will laugh and scream, cry and rejoice. GO- JUST GO SEE IT.
Judges for the show are Zenith Gallery’s owner and curator Margery Goldberg, Carol Rhodes Dyson, founder of the Social Impact Arts Collective, and Celinda Lake, a prominent pollster and political strategist and winner of the Opportunity Agenda Creative Change Award. For additional info: contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 202 783 2963. Additional work in RESIST, at Busboys and Poets locations, will be covered in future Zenith Gallery blogs. Stay tuned.