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Mumbo Sauce Show Highlights District Subculture

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Mumbo Sauce — co-curated by the Contemporary Wing and Roger Gastman, who put together the Pump Me Up show — incorporates some of Pump Me Up’s high-profile artifacts, such as the Globe Poster archive.

Mumbo Sauce. It’s not just a condiment anymore. It’s an art show.

The tangy, home-grown plummy barbecue sauce that adorns so much fast food in the District is the inspiration for a pop-up exhibit by Contemporary Wing art gallery.

The show at 906 H Street NE acts as a bookend to the Corcoran Gallery’s recent Pump Me Up exhibition, which celebrated the 1980s Washington, D.C., subculture that spawned a mid-Atlantic gumbo of graffiti, go-go, punk and hardcore music.

Mumbo Sauce — co-curated by the Contemporary Wing and Roger Gastman, who put together the Pump Me Up show — incorporates some of Pump Me Up’s high-profile artifacts, such as the Globe Poster archive. But it also showcases many contemporary artists, such as Tim Conlon, Mark Jenkins, Cynthia Connolly and many others who continue to ply their craft in Washington three decades removed from Pump Me Up’s glory days.

The exhibit connects the legacy of artists who made their names in the 1980s and earlier, such as Cool “Disco” Dan and Mingering Mike, to their artistic descendants. The result shows a continuum of street art and subcultural expression for a city and region frequently disparaged as little more than the political set’s company town.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum, for instance, recently acquired Mingering Mike’s collection of fantasy music career material, in which he imagined himself to be a famous pop singer working in Washington in the 1960s and ’70s alongside singers like James Brown. Mingering Mike, who has always kept his identity secret, designed posters, album covers, lyrics and all manner of material to fit the fantasy.

“Comprehensively, the uncanny detail of Mingering Mike’s synthetic career powerfully evokes black America in the 1960s and 1970s,” the museum states on its website. The Smithsonian is currently at work preparing the collection for long-term display and archiving.

Some of the contemporary artists in Mumbo Sauce have also caught the eye of the Smithsonian’s curators. Conlon, for example, was one of two graffiti artists featured at the National Portrait Gallery’s 2008 exhibit, RECOGNIZE! Hip Hop and Contemporary Portraiture.”

Window to the World

Jenkins’ sculpture of a street man with a shopping cart on his back is prominently featured in the Mumbo Sauce pop-up space’s window, giving passers-by a glimpse of what’s inside. For many, it’s the only part of the exhibit they will see.

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