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D.C. Art Venue Has Cool Vibe

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
"King Me: Studies in the Uncivilized World" at the Fridge DC art gallery features a range of Washington-area artists from a recent college graduate to mid-career professionals.

"Warhol Through the Eyes of the Children of the Perry Center," which just closed on March 1, featured the art of children who developed their own versions of the art of Andy Warhol.

Working under the guidance of the D.C. artist Decoy, kids at the Perry Center, a community services center just off North Capitol Street on M Street Northwest, viewed Warhol works at various Smithsonian outlets and then were encouraged to come up with their own takes. In one case, that meant transforming the famous collages of Chinese leader Mao Zedong to that of President George Washington. Others recolored Warhol's famous soup can.

"This [was] such an important show for us. This is everything we want the Fridge to be. Between helping disadvantaged youth, exhibiting the art, getting the local artists involved," Fisher said.

The current show, "King Me: Studies in the Uncivilized World," is far different and features a range of Washington-area artists that span the spectrum from a recent college graduate to mid-career professionals.

The man behind the show, Adam Dwight, described the 12 artists and their 33 works as an attempt to "fuse political responses, formalist concerns and visionary imagery to explore the definition of authority in America" in his curator notes.

Some of the art is recognizably political, such as Laura Elkins' oil-on-canvas portrait of herself as Lady Bird Johnson and Jackie Kennedy kissing. Others are more abstract but still within the theme of the show, such as Stanley Squirewell's assemblage, "Pawn Almighty," an extra large chess piece with the barrel of a gun sticking out of its base.

One of the artists, Adrian Parsons, has made political news of his own, having participated in a hunger strike last year to protest the District's lack of Congressional representation. Parsons' contribution to the show, "Three-Quarters View," is an animated video that takes the viewer inside an empty Wendy's fast-food restaurant.

In an interview, Dwight said the elements of "King Me" came together gradually, from "intimate conversations with people" that resulted in the "polarized features of the show" revealing themselves.

"They are artists' artists. These are people who are thinking deeply about their work and how it connected to others in the space. That is a productive atmosphere," he said.

It's also a more traditional gallery offering and a contrast to the Fridge's more typical outsider flair.

"I've never shown work as old as this work, or as expensive as this work," Goldstein said, adding, "but politically, message-wise, visually, aesthetically, you know, mechanically, it's top-notch."

The oldest work, "Palm on 97th Street" by Lisa Parker Hyatt, dates to 1977. The most expensive work, an installation of thread, canvas and metal called "Celebration of the Cross" by Seleshi Feseha, runs $20,000.

In contrast, the Perry Center kids' Warhol works ran from $10 to $100. The proceeds from those sales supported the Perry Center.

"King Me," which opened Saturday, runs through March 29.

'Lifelong Dream'

Dwight, the curator, sees the Fridge as also providing burgeoning artists a needed refuge in an expensive city.

"The possibility of building an arts district is [for] naught. So we have to actively pursue culture here," he said. "The housing market has spurred a cultural renaissance, but it's also led to an exodus of artists who have been priced out."

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