"It's gonna get pretty meta in here," Transformer DC's Victoria Reis laughed during installation of Exploring Social Practice, opening ~tonight~ at Katzen Arts Center Rotunda. Its full title? Exploring Social Practice: How Transformer's E12 Artists Interpreted Social Intervention Mentorship from Design Studio for Intervention, most easily summed up as an art show + programming that showcases and continues the work of four other art shows – each of which featured a lineup of programming around topics of social change and engagement, and all of which took place at Transformer over the course of the last few months.
We're always glad to peek in the gallery's storefront window at 1404 P Street, and doing so during the E12 lineup was especially cool. Amy Hughes Braden turned the space into a pink, warm-vibed living room for Mrs Alex Braden, messages with both feminist and personal meanings painted loopily across the walls. Joseph Orzal's Liberation Station brought in astroturf, a hammock, and freedom-related programming from both Orzal and other artists/DC art people-at-large. Kunj's vis.i.bil.i.ty featured see-through furniture, a billion balloons, and a focus on rituals, visibility, and safe spaces. Margo Elsayd's Mobile Community Stoop Project hit nearly all quadrants before pulling the parking brake in front of the gallery, and when we stopped by it was a hi-energy scene that included lawn chairs, a boombox, and FREE POPSICLES – as well as an opportunity to just hang out and chat all things neighborhood.
The show at Katzen, then, marks both the end of Transformer's T W E L F T H (!!!) annual Exercises for Emerging Artists Program and what, according to Reis, is just the beginning of some of those artists' work in the realm of social practice: affecting change and promoting discussion through and around their work. All the artists involved worked with team of mentors (including Kenneth Bailey, founder of Boston-based Design Studio for Social Intervention) to prepare for and shape their initial ten day runs at the gallery. It's Transformer's commitment to providing resources/knowledge/experience for career growth – locally – that we think is so amazing: exhibit A, if you will, against what used to be a more pervasive idea that in order to reach your creative apex, you had to go to a city that provided or otherwise had...a more nationally recognized infrastructure? We think that might be the best way to describe it. When we brought it up, Reis was awesomely and quickly dismissive of that mindset – mentioning first that other galleries have programs in place for that same sort of support and guidance (Hamiltonian's Fellowship program, for example) – and that DC is as great – if not better – a place to be based as any other city. Art can take you anywhere; residencies are available all over the world; it's about creating connections and forming relationships and getting out there and doing your thing. #hustlefromhome. That's a gigantic paraphrase but the sentiment is hers, and we couldn't dig it any harder.
AND SO TONIGHT – Exploring Social Practice opens at Katzen at 6PM, in which the emerging artists-focused Transformer Gallery showcases and continues the work of four DC artists, each part of E12, during which they committed to pushing themselves and their work, utilizing all the resources and knowledge made available to them to create that work and to encourage conversations around it. And in partnership with American University, the show (and its accompanying programming/events) will live at Katzen through October 22, during which time current art students will experience it – actively or passively – walking to and from classes. We agree: it's pretty meta in there.
Galleries at top and middle courtesy Transformer | view Transformer's Fall schedule here, and the schedule of E12 events at Katzen (including 10/13's "What Is Social Practice" conversation and 10/15's "Obento Boxing") here.