The Art of ‘Chasing Down the Pour’

Student exhibit in Gallery 102 explores how artists interpret pouring.

"Chasing Down the Pour" features "Incompressible," a frozen and melted watercolor with india ink, painted by graduate student Samantha Sethi.
August 22, 2014
After moving to Washington, D.C., in the 1950s, American painter Morris Louis caught the attention of the art world for developing his own style: He would pour paint down massive canvases, letting the colors fall in a natural cascade free of the constraints of a brush.
His technique fascinated second-year art history graduate student Miriam Grotte-Jacobs, who researched the contemporary painter for her “Reading Matter: History and Theory of Material Change” class. She was thinking about the way Mr. Louis manipulated paint when she got the idea for Gallery 102’s latest exhibit, “Chasing Down the Pour.”
“The concept is about pouring as an artistic gesture and focusing on making art rather than art in its final form,” she explained.
“Chasing Down the Pour” opens Monday at the George Washington University’s student-run Gallery 102. The show’s 13 pieces offer a glimpse into the work processes of three GW students, two alumni and eight local artists. 
Ms. Grotte-Jacobs had some experience working in a contemporary gallery in New York City, but “Chasing Down the Pour” is her first shot at curating. She proposed her idea to Gallery 102 back in April and once it was selected for the 2014-15 year, she began putting out calls to artists and asking them to interpret the act of pouring. Some people might view her prompt as a restriction, she worried. But she quickly received a stream of submissions.
One entry she got was “Winter Spectacle,” strokes of acrylic on canvas that Emily Mihalik, M.A. ’14, painted during a Fulbright scholarship to Kazakhstan. Ms. Mihalik describes her work as layers of paint that communicate with one another to create a final image—an aesthetic deeply influenced by her hearing impairment. 
“I often talk about my work in relation to my hearing impairment—as a bridge to overcome barriers of sound. But in Kazakhstan, I realized it was also a bridge to overcome language barriers,” Ms. Mihalik said.
Saya Behnam, a Washington-based abstract artist, came across Ms. Grotte-Jacobs’ call for submissions while browsing the D.C. Commission for the Arts website. Ms. Behnam was intrigued and felt that “Chasing Down the Pour” captured the way she lets color drip and create organic shapes in her pieces.
"Flow with Accident," by Saya Behnam.
“I like for people to feel the energy and movement,” she said. “When you capture a dripping color, you freeze a moment in your frame.”
In addition to the paintings of Ms. Mihalik and Ms. Behnam, “Chasing Down the Pour” also features a sculpture by Lincoln Mudd, who teaches at Montgomery College, and a video by Emilia Pennanen, a student at the Maryland Institute College of Art. The exhibit showcases a diverse range of mediums and reveals Ms. Grotte-Jacobs’ love for contemporary art. 
“Contemporary art has traditionally reflected the moment that everyone is experiencing, and the changes going on in the world. In a similar way, it’s interesting to see contemporary art being made here in response to this little prompt,” she said.
A closing reception for “Chasing Down the Pour” will be held on Sept. 4 from 5 to 6 p.m., and will give visitors a chance to meet some of the artists in person. Ms. Mihalik said that she looks forward to the GW community engaging with her art and taking away their own meaning from it.
“There is no one ‘correct’ way of interpreting the work, and that's the beauty of it,” she said.
“Chasing Down the Pour” will be on display from Aug. 25-Sept. 5.