The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

In the galleries: An inspiring annual student showcase of art and media

Also: Landscape interpretations, a focus on threats to the blue crab, delicate renderings of artifacts and visual artists and musicians render nature into sound.

"The Hoof Trimmer," a selection of works by Kate Woods included in the exhibit "NEXT Festival 2023." (William Atkins)
6 min

Some of the 73 graduating students participating in George Washington University’s Corcoran School of the Arts and Design’s “NEXT Festival 2023” seem to have been inspired by the vast rooms of their building, the former Corcoran Gallery of Art. Others have taken advantage of intimate nooks in the structure, which is partly obstructed by renovations. The festival’s program, which includes performances by music and dance majors, is as varied as the spaces it fills.

In the main atrium, graphic design student Vickiana Dulcio goes big, and anarchic, with a huge banner whose text is largely obscured by black spatters. Nearby but fitted snugly within an antique vault is interaction design student Christian Garcia’s generative video of pulsing geometric forms. Also filling a tiny chamber is social practice student Vanessa Chen’s installation of banners with Chinese text, visible only under ultraviolet light, about the “white terror” imposed on her native Taiwan beginning in 1949 by the recently arrived Chinese Nationalists.

More conventionally displayed is the work of the new media photojournalism students, including Kate Woods’s suite of pictures of a Virginia man who trims dairy cows’ hoofs and Pete Afriyie’s more conceptual treatment of the food desert that is D.C.’s Ward 8. The adjacent gallery has an exhibition about Ulysses S. Grant, a project of museum studies students who drew on GWU’s Grant archives.

Among the contributors who have brought the outside inside are social practice student Tina Villadolid and studio arts student Soffia Obando Carcamo. Villadolid scattered banana leaves on a flight of the building’s grand stairs as part of an installation on Filipino history and culture. A visibly humid vitrine holds Carcamo’s mounds of clay biocomposite, which are watered daily and continue to grow. The unconventional, ever-mutating material provides a intriguingly funky example of what might come next.

NEXT Festival 2023 Through May 20 at the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design at George Washington University, 500 17th St. NW.

Dakhnovskaia-Lawton & Kim

Both Irina Dakhnovskaia-Lawton and Clara Young Kim make photographs that conceal as much as they reveal, yet they have different ways of hiding things. Paired in Multiple Exposures Gallery’s “Internal Landscape,” the two local artists offer sweeping views of forests, mountains and open sea. Where Dakhnovskaia-Lawton’s images are usually cloaked in fog, Kim’s are crisp but inhabited by creatures that nearly recede into their surroundings.

Dakhnovskaia-Lawton is showing four large photos, two of which have suites of smaller pictures grouped around or below them. Most are deeply misty, but not indecipherable. A boat, a kayaker and a pair of ghostly bicyclists can be discerned in various of the Latvia-born photographer’s shots, which are in hazy colors. Punctuating the fog in another vista is a lone tree that echoes the bare trunk in the cloudiest of Kim’s pictures.

Kim’s images, mostly color but sometimes black-and-white, are less vaporous and more specific. The Seoul-born photographer identifies the locations of her pictures, which freeze chilly moments in Utah, Iceland and the northernmost of Japan’s main islands. All her photos include animals, save for one that shows only tracks, but often the birds or mammals are just tiny presences in vast scenes. As the eye seeks the creature, it’s drawn deeper into the composition. Much of the same is true of Dakhnovskaia-Lawton’s approach. Each photographer expresses much, but not all at once.

Irina Dakhnovskaia-Lawton and Clara Young Kim: Internal Landscape Through May 21 at Multiple Exposures Gallery, Torpedo Factory, 105 N. Union St., Alexandria.

Curren & Klagsbrun

As a species, the horseshoe crab is more than 425 million years old. Local artist Elizabeth Curren wants to grant the arthropods more time by calling attention to their threatened status. Her Studio Gallery show, “Blue Bloods: North American Horseshoe Crabs,” uses paper models of the creatures and their environments, as well as paintings of some of the birds that feed on the crabs’ eggs.

As might be expected, humans are the principal menace to horseshoes. In an installation, Curren attaches paper crabs to bottles filled with blue liquid to illustrate the use of the animals’ distinctive blue blood in medical testing. Harvesting their plasma endangers the crabs but continues despite an effective man-made alternative. If the show’s message is foremost, the artist’s use of pencil, watercolor and handmade paper is as artful as it ardent. Curren’s principal weapon is beauty.

Also at Studio, Micheline Klagsbrun’s “Anchors of the Heart” includes some of the boatlike found-wood sculptures that have featured in her recent shows. But most of the space is devoted to delicate ink and colored-pencil drawings of such artifacts as a diary, broken porcelain, a wooden chest and a shofar (a ram’s horn used for Jewish religious purposes). Rendered in a bleary style that connotes distance and loss, the artworks evoke the Holocaust-era flight of the artist’s father from Lisbon — whose harbor is also pictured — to Glasgow. It’s a story that Klagsbrun can’t stop portraying, and that gains depth and nuance with each telling.

Elizabeth Curren: Blue Bloods: North American Horseshoe Crabs and Micheline Klagsbrun: Anchors of the Heart Through May 20 at Studio Gallery, 2108 R St. NW.

A Shared Sense of Time

The title of the D.C. Arts Center’s six-person show is “A Shared Sense of Time,” but the artworks plot individual chronologies. While mostly keyed to music and video, they include Sara Dittrich’s interactive contraption, which begins to drip water when a visitor touches a pulse sensor.

That’s one of two tactile pieces in the array, which also includes Joana Stillwell’s “Room Tone,” an actual window and frame that gently hum and throb due to an attached transducer. Dittrich’s and Stillwell’s contributions highlight the organic and the everyday in a way that’s characteristic of all the works, which were selected by musician-turned-artist Jeffry Cudlin and apprentice curators Benedetta Castrioto and Faith (Eleisha Faith McCorkle).

In their videos, Ledah Finck superimposes images of houses and their environs, while Davis Salisbury collages interior and exterior details of his home and neighborhood. Both pieces are scored to the artist’s own ambient music, made with guitars and, in Finck’s case, multi-tracked voice. The sounds of Imka’s and Amy Reid’s videos are similar in mode and mood, but were generated by a synthesizer that converts plant biodata into tones. By rendering nature into sound, Imka and Reid join the other four artists in investigating the hidden character of the commonplace things that surround us.

A Shared Sense of Time Through May 21 at D.C. Arts Center, 2438 18th St. NW.