Canal Square and Beyond
Nestled in a brick courtyard at M and 31st Streets, walking into Canal Square on the evening of a “First Friday” feels like stumbling into the best social club you never knew existed. The four galleries clustered in the space are teeming with admirers, friends, patrons and chance roamers, peering about the galleries or lounging in the benches just outside, smiling and chatting. And what’s more—they’re chatting about art! The galleries are also local institutions—Parish Gallery, Moca DC and Alla Rogers Gallery have all recently celebrated their twenty-year anniversaries. Just north of Canal Square, The Old Print Gallery and the Ralls Collection have also made their mark on the city’s artistic community (the Ralls Collection even used to reside in Canal Square). Among the most longstanding and respected galleries in the city, this cluster of art venues embodies what’s best about Georgetown: history, community, style and beauty, with an eye for the contemporary.
Internationally recognized African painter, Bethel Aniaku, will be at Parish Gallery through April 17, in an exhibit titled “Instinct of Desire.” The cultural explored in these paintings include a blend of historical, literal, and artistic elements, which aim to reunite the viewer with their own culture and origins. Aniaku, by comparison, honors the trade of his own carpenter ancestors by using wood as the base for his paintings. His compositions play with color, light, space and mixed media, relying on instinct more than any direct intention, as if the painting was not being made but found as an artifact that has always existed.
Opening April 20, Parish Gallery will open its next exhibit, showcasing the artworks of husband and wife Christine and Richmond Jones, in a show titled “Two Views/One Vision.” Starting out as an illustrator and designer, Christine’s oil paint and pastel works represent the textures and colors, people and places in which she finds inspiration. Richmond, who also began his career as a graphic designer, found a new creative direction as a “transparent watercolor painter.” Since then, both artists have been exhibited in numerous juried exhibitions around the country and received many awards for their individual and collective work.
The Ralls Collection
The Ralls Collection is in the midst of a powerful group exhibition of gallery artists, which runs through June 15. It is difficult to encapsulate the significance of The Ralls Collection to Washington’s artistic community, much in the same way it is hard to grasp the broad archive of substantial artwork that has passed through the gallery since its opening over 20 years ago. The work present in the gallery’s current exhibit showcases a remarkable collection of beautiful contemporary artwork with a clear vision and impeccable taste. Many of the artists Ralls chose for the exhibition have been with the gallery since it’s beginning, and some are welcome additions. David Richardson, a personal favorite of this author whose show at Ralls last year garnered tremendous national attention (including a feature in the New York Times), uses planes of bold colors and textures, recalling landscape both foreign and familiar, contained yet effusive.
Moca DC stands up for the little guy, in more ways than one. A nonprofit, part of the gallery’s mission is to be “Open to all artists all the time,” offering opportunities to artists at every stage of their careers. Moca gives more exhibits to emerging, first-time and beginning artists than almost any in the city. The gallery is also devoted to the tradition of figurative art, including three annual exhibits dedicated to the nude human form (this July, keep an eye out for the exhibit, “A Celebration of the Figure”). This April, the gallery will mark its twenty-year anniversary by expanding its scope to include three juried exhibits of figurative works a year, the first of which will focus on the interpretation of the figure within contemporary art practice. Moca’s 20th Anniversary Show, which will hold an opening reception on April 6, is also on display.
The Old Print Gallery
“Blossom DC,” the latest exhibit at The Old Print Gallery, is inspired by the 100 year anniversary of the gift of the cherry blossoms from Japan to Washington. The exhibit celebrates the beauty and youthful energy of spring’s blossoms, featuring a large number of prints by local D.C. artists coupled with a selection of works by contemporary New York City artists and several early 20th century printmakers. Established in 1971, The Old Print Gallery has long been known for its wide selection of antique prints and maps, and has expanded recently into the world of contemporary printmaking. The gallery also hosts printmaking workshops and demonstrations, establishing itself as a source of inspiration and information for print artists, enthusiasts and new admirers alike.
Alla Rogers Gallery
The Alla Rogers Gallery, founded in 1990, focuses on the accessible contemporary art from Eastern Europe and the countries of the former Soviet Union. The Gallery has curated hundreds of exhibitions and led artist exchanges between American and Eastern European artists. Currently on display is the artwork of Alla Rogers herself, who recently exhibited 42 of her own paintings in Kiev at the National Fine Art Museum of Ukraine. Her works on canvas plays out like the geography of memories, folding and falling into one another. These are not works you want to miss.