A Sense of Place

May 03, 2012

Third biennial Arts in Foggy Bottom sculpture show features new works created specifically for the neighborhood.

Laura Roulet, curator of “Sculpting Outside the Lines,” the third biennial Arts in Foggy Bottom outdoor sculpture exhibit, knows D.C. and Foggy Bottom well. That’s why she wanted to make sure that the exhibit didn’t include any of what she described as “plop art.”

“‘Plop art’ are pieces you just plop down outdoors, without any relation to the actual space,” she explained. “They’re pieces that could work anywhere, in any city. For this exhibit, I wanted a different approach, so I included many artists who created site-specific works.”

Arts in Foggy Bottom, which opened on April 21 and will run through Oct. 20, was first held in 2008. A project of the Foggy Bottom Association, the show aims to introduce sculpture into the community in an accessible way. All 13 pieces in the exhibit are located within the Foggy Bottom Historic District, in the yards of homes and businesses between 24th and 26th streets and H and K streets, NW.

The majority of the 13 works on display were created specifically for “Sculpting Outside the Lines” and incorporate such materials as metals, cast concrete and found objects as well as images cast in light upon buildings and a piece made of live, growing plants.

A large piece called “#286,” created by Joseph and John Dumbacher, who are frequent exhibitors in the District, features stark black metal lines. “It has the feeling of a gateway or a portal,” Ms. Roulet said, explaining that she placed it as the first piece on the exhibit walking tour for that reason.

“Sitting in that yard, to me it echoes the cityscape and the lines of uneven rooftops. That’s an example of how putting art in a new context makes you look at it more closely and engage with it in a new way,” she said.

“Cone Tower #3,” by University of Maryland M.F.A. student Pat McGowan, uses traffic cones discarded by Baltimore Gas and Electric. In his artist’s statement, Mr. McGowan explained that the piece repurposes the cones to create something completely opposite of the objects’ originally intended purpose.

“My studio process consists of fabricating highly crafted objects that investigate issues of permanence, physical boundaries and authority within our contemporary urban society,” he said.

Ms. Roulet said she also wanted to include some figurative sculpture—art representing human or animal figures—that was distinct from the equestrian figures and likeness of famous leaders seen in many locations around D.C. That’s why she selected “Cast Angels,” a series of flat snow-angel-like pieces created by Dan Steinhilber. Mr. Steinhilber created the angels in New York City, where he invited people to make imprints that became the basis for the casts, she said. The artist often works with everyday materials like concrete—“things you could find at Home Depot,” Ms. Roulet said.

Another figurative installation is Yukiko Nakashima’s “Play Residue,” which is meant to draw associations with childhood memories and features figures entwined around fences and natural features within a resident’s yard. The piece is Ms. Nakashima’s first to be exhibited in D.C. and was created specifically for the show.

“Growing Culture,” created by Lina Vargas de la Hoz, is an unconventional piece that is actually a live garden. Housed in a suitcase-shaped container, the piece will be moved several times throughout the show’s tenure to different residents’ yards. Inside the container, various plants of different types, colors and sizes grow together.

“The container is a symbol of human mobility,” Ms. Vargas explained in her artist’s statement. “The plants are native and foreign, edible and ornamental, and stimulate cultural exchange and encourage awareness for natural food and mobility issues.”

The Foggy Bottom residents housing the piece will be responsible for the daily care and maintenance of the plants, while Ms. Vargas will help facilitate neighborhood collaboration around the piece, including sharing recipes that incorporate the edible parts of the garden.

A new media exhibit by Peter Lee and Blake Turner, titled “Craigslist Unrequited,” will be projected on a wall at 2415 Eye Street every Friday and Saturday evening from dusk until 10 p.m. The exhibit uses words and phrases drawn from the subject lines of the D.C. Craigslist “Missed Connections” section, projected in real time. An accompanying soundtrack of classic love songs will be played from a speaker mounted above the installation.

Ms. Roulet said “Sculpting Outside the Lines” is meant to be accessible to everyone, especially those without any art background. She suggested that first-time visitors in particular use the exhibit’s cell phone tour, which features a series of one-minute descriptions of each piece in the artists’ own words. In addition, artist-guided tours of the exhibit will be held the third Saturday of each month at 11 a.m., starting at New Hampshire and Eye streets, NW.

For more information and tour maps, visit www.foggybottomassociation.com