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Washington Obscura: Beer in Spring is a Wonderful Thing

8 Jun

After the success of last fall’s Slake Thyself! beer tasting here at the Artists Circle barn, we decided we’d better give it another go once weather turned warm enough that people would be willing to stand around in it and drink some beer. This time, however, we wanted to feature some artists who are creating new and exciting work.

While we featured local beer at the fall tasting, there’s such a wealth of flavors to be found in seasonal brews that we thought we’d stick with the local theme but feature new beers and new breweries.  Beers by Baying Hound, Flying Dog, Troegs, Starr Hill, Brewer’s Art, Dogfish Head, Heavy Seas and Fordham made an appearance (and disappearance!).

As we pondered what sort of art to feature, we decided that featuring two new-to-us photographers as well as new work by photographers we’ve worked with before would be a fantastic idea. Featured in the show were works by Holga heroine Erin Antognoli, photocollagist Matthew Parker, pinhole photographer Scott Speck and HDR guru Angela Pan. We even blew up one of Angela’s photos to 10′ x 8′ and had it cover an entire panel here in the barn gallery! All of the work was fantastic and we were so thankful to have all of the photographers themselves attend the event to shed some light on their methods and processes.

Washington Obscura turned out to be a huge success. A big thanks to Becky Ward for her wonderful photos of the event. We can’t wait for the next one!


Statisticians Know How to Have Fun

8 Jun

I can’t stress enough how great it is to work with a client who wants art to be a central focus of their space rather than just an afterthought. It’s even better when the space and client call for artwork that’s out of the ordinary. Mathematica Policy Research have proven to be just such a client. We were really impressed with the interior architecture and design of their new NoMa space (courtesy of SKB Architects) and couldn’t wait to deck the walls with some bright color.

The centerpiece of the space is a large stairwell that extends through the several floors of the company’s space. In the center is a massive vertical clear panel with a rainbow of brightly colored dots that runs from floor to ceiling.

Using this awesome design piece as the pivot point, we were able to work with the bright colors and visual effect of the repeating pattern to put in some fantastic pieces of art on the stair landings at each floor. One floor features a grouping of platters by Boris Bally. Using brightly colored recycled road signs, Boris’ platters reflect the playfulness of the colored dots on the stairwell panel while also bringing some dimensionality to the space.

Boris Bally’s “D.P.W. Platters”

Continuing with the theme of echoing the patterns on the stairwell panel is Michael Sirvet’s “12,000”. The title of the piece refers to the number of variously-sized holes meticulously drilled through this 4′ x 8′  aluminum slab.  A piece like this might appear quite subtle on a white-painted wall, but due to the intense red-orange wall paint and lighting, the blazing white aluminum really leaps out at you and offers incredible interplay with the light and color.

Michael Sirvet’s “12,000”

Repeating shapes and color are perfectly embodied in Damian Aquiles’ “Infinito Tiempo, Infinito Color,
Infinito Memoria, Infinito Destino”. Hand-chiseled from oil drums, rusted-out cars and other sources of found painted metal in his native Cuba, this array of walking figures was arranged in a choreographed pattern by the artist before being sent to us here in the States for installation. While the installation of a complex piece like this is far from easy, we think the striking appearance of the work makes it all worth it.

Damian Aquiles’ “Infinito Tiempo, Infinito Color,
Infinito Memoria, Infinito Destino”

Artwork as interesting as this demands an explanation. We often will create and install information plaques alongside artwork in client spaces, but this time we wanted to include a bit more information than a standard plaque but also wanted to avoid a lot of cluttered text that makes for an uncomfortable reading experience in a public space. The solution was to use a high-tech but elegant QR code on the plaque that links directly (via your smartphone’s bar code scanner) to more detailed text about the artist’s work and approach.

Above and Beyond Art Services at the Gates Foundation

8 Jun

While we always like to highlight projects where the focus has been adding fantastic new art to a space, we thought it was important to shed some focus on the more service-oriented projects that make up a large percentage of what we do here at Artists Circle. We pride ourselves in being able to tackle the most complex of art collection management projects so when the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation came to us seeking our expertise, we were more than happy to help.

Though they have an office here in D.C. (recently renovated with interior design by Diana Horvat with Envision Design), the Gates Foundation is headquartered in the Seattle area. Our contact throughout the project is based out of the Seattle office, so nearly all of the coordination for the project was done remotely. First, we de-installed all of the artwork from the D.C. office, packed it in crates and had it shipped back to Seattle.

Next, we worked with the Foundation’s preferred frame shop in Seattle and had all of the new artwork (photographs of the Foundation’s charity work in action) framed and shipped to to us. After unpacking all of the photographs, we transported it to the job site and installed it, under the supervision of our Gates Foundation contact who flew out to D.C. for the installation. In addition to company-owned pieces installed in the public spaces, we also installed personal art in employee offices.

The Foundation also purchased some African textiles from a gallery in Chicago. These unique pieces were then delivered to Artist Circle then installed at the job site. For each of the pieces installed, we also created and installed information plaques so that employees and visitors might learn more about what the photographs document.

Working with a client remotely has the potential to make a complex project of this scale even more complicated, but we were happy to work with such an organized client whose communication helped us keep on top of all of the logistics involved in de-installing, moving, shipping, unpacking and reinstalling such a large quantity of art. It was also a great feeling doing a service-based job for an organization that has dedicated so much time and energy to helping people worldwide.

A Big “Thanks!” to Our Clients for Our Best Year Ever!

13 Dec

We here at Artists Circle are nothing without our clients, partners and friends in the business community.   We would like to thank the following firms who have contributed to our success in this past year and wish all continued prosperity in the year ahead:

American Academy of Actuaries
American Chemistry Council
Association of American Medical Colleges
Blankingship & Keith
Booz Allen Hamilton
Boston Properties
BPG Management Company
Bristol-Myers Squibb
Buvermo Investments, Inc.
Corporate Office Properties Trust (COPT)
CoStar Group
Council on Foreign Relations
Cushman & Wakefield
CWCapital Investments
Davis Wright Tremaine LLP
Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP
Envision Design
Exxon Mobil
Foley Hoag LLP
General Dynamics IT
Goldman Sachs
Hines Interests
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Hunton & Williams LLP
Insured Retirement Institute
Kaiser Permanente
Keller and Heckman LLP
Kutak Rock LLP
Lincoln Property Company
Loeb & Loeb LLP
Mathematica Policy Research
Meany & Oliver
Morgan Gick McBeath
National Bank of Abu Dhabi
New Enterprise Associates
Perkins Coie
PNC Bank
Powers Pyles Sutter & Verville PC
Property Capital
Reznick Group, P.C.
Smith, Currie & Hancock LLP
Squire, Sanders & Dempsey
Studley, Inc.
The Carlyle Group
The JBG Companies
Unilever United States, Inc.
United Unions
Walker & Dunlop
Washington Radiology Associates
Washington Real Estate Investment Trust (WRIT)
Watt, Tieder, Hoffar & Fitzgerald

Building an Art Collection at Hunton & Williams

13 Dec

Moving into a new space is an exciting time for our clients, and we’re always happy to take on some of that excitement for ourselves when a new space calls for new art. When Hunton & Williams decided that updating their art collection was in order as part of their move to a beautiful new Studios Architecture-designed space, they tasked Artists Circle with coming up with a plan for the update.

Polly Apfelbaum's lively "Color Field Notes" light up the space

We decided that a mixture of original pieces by local and national artists, such  James Zwadlo and Francie Hester, as well as an assortment of colorful prints by artists such as Janet Fish, Christo, Robert Cottingham and Gene Davis, would bring some lively and dynamic variety to the clean space. Dimensional pieces, such as John Garrett’s Casino wall hanging and Emily Piccirillo’s 49th Parallel construction, provide contrast with both the walls on which they’re installed and the two-dimensional prints and paintings in the collection.

Emily Piccirillo's "49th Parallel"

Hunton & Williams had a collection of art that they had built over the years. Artists Circle oversaw the management of this collection, working with an involved art committee to determine which pieces would work well alongside the firm’s new acquisitions and which pieces needed to be phased out. Pieces to be re-used were removed from their old frames and mountings and updated to more contemporary and archival displays so as to fit better along the new additions to the collection.

We believe that Hunton & Williams’ new art collection will be the envy of art lovers and collectors who get the opportunity to see the space, containing both household names in Op and Pop art as well as pieces by exciting new up-and-comers in the local and national art scene. The collection contains such vibrant and spirited pieces that even those unfamiliar with the collection’s origins will be able to enjoy them.

Re-framed Sam Gilliam diptych from H&W's existing collection

Prints on paper by Arman

James Zwadlo's "Pedestrians 159"

James Rosenquist's "Yellow Landing"

How It’s Made: Emily Piccirillo Paints the Sky

13 Dec

When we picture artists creating their work, we often think of a mustachioed Frenchman with his easel and paint palette along the side of a Paris avenue or an art school grad flinging paint at a canvas in her Brooklyn loft. In truth, there are as many approaches to creating art as there are artists. Even within the realm of painting, the number of techniques used is staggering. Local artist Emily Piccirillo’s paintings of the sky (oftentimes framed with the branches of winter trees) make use of an idiosyncratic technique in their creation that we think will fascinate as much as her entrancing work does.

“As I prepare for each new piece, I need to decide on the basic features of the imagery I want to create because they correspond with the choice of materials as I get rolling – the external dimensions of the grid, the size of the openings, the type and width of the round steel rod, the handling of the corners of the frame and the length of the legs, the weight of the canvas and size(s) of the panels, and the color and thickness of the cord.

I approach the pieces as double-sided paintings and handle the materials at every step with both surfaces in mind – the sky imagery painted in oil on the front in relation to panels of vivid fields of color in acrylic on the reverse.  Since these works stand off the wall, the ambient tone reflects back and incorporates the installation wall as the third surface.

Gaps between the panels and the grid capture light, freeing color from form.  The panels cast shadows, converging figure with ground and enhancing the sense of optical illusion.  Multiple gradations occur at once and change with the surrounding light.  The pieces take on transitive properties and hover between painting and sculpture.

I initially began this body of work using readymade construction sheets of medium gauge steel wire remesh (meant to reinforce concrete).  Now, I have both stainless steel and carbon steel armatures fabricated to specification.  I polyurethane the carbon steel to make sure the rust is sealed.

Next I cut canvas to either identical or varying sizes for the openings and tie them into the corners using needle and waxed nylon cord, selecting white or black, thin or thick, for each piece.  For larger openings I determine the spacing at either even or uneven intervals of additional pieces of cord along the edges.

I may rotate the knots behind the panels to conceal the ends.  With this variation with white cord against white walls, the panels seem to float.

Alternately, I might have the ends of black cord extend beyond the confines, breaking boundaries between real and represented.  Sometimes I merge these extending ends of the cords with tree branches in the painting.  The cord emphasizes formal and physical tension, literally tying together the fabricated and natural worlds.

Both sides of the panels are gessoed many times, using an electric hand sander in between coats to smooth the surfaces.

Next I paint the panels as a single continuous image, attending to each square as its own image as well.  The front involves multiple layers of oil paint, many being glazes to increase the play of light and color.  The reverse is much quicker to complete since the color field effect is simpler.

Most recently I have been using leather punches to create patterns of round holes or a matt knife for long slits in the canvas surface, introducing another challenge to pictorial convention and further activating the reflected color as elements in the images.

I keep multiple pieces going at once, usually four or five, allowing them to gestate and cue me about best next steps.  I keep a couple notebooks of ideas that are still in very early formative stages.  An art professor said to me once, ‘Always approach each with rigor and wonder,’ and that still helps to remember since every exchange is unique.  Each piece has its own pacing and attitude as it manifests.  They can’t be rushed; patience is key.  By giving them lots of time, I can study them in different kinds of light and times of day, revealing areas of potential I had yet to realize.  Some pieces happen quickly and cooperate easily; others take over a year or two and it feels like an epic battle. There are even times they seem to change all on their own, like they’re possessed by some strange force and I don’t even recognize them when I go back to work on them.  I spend a lot of time sitting and staring at each one.  Finally I varnish the front once the oil paint has dried about a year.

I never sign the front of a piece.  I don’t understand why I would interrupt the image with my name.  I put it on the back with the date.  The titles happen in lots of ways – occasionally they pop into my mind at odd moments; sometimes I watch words as I’m reading something, looking for a clue.  At other times friends will give me their associations and they stick. Once in a while I change the title of a piece, like it finally matured into its true name.  I keep a collection of words and phrases that I like as I find them.  Some of the titles I can’t explain – they just fit; others have long stories that keep evolving. ”

Thanks to Emily for providing the wonderful pictures and text to document her creative process and for allowing us a rare glimpse of the goings-on in the artist’s studio. Read about Emily’s work featured in the Washington Sculptors Group’s 2011 “Sculpture Now” exhibit at the Artery Plaza Gallery in Bethesda in this article in the Gazette.

Brade Howe’s “Lever the Sun” at COPT’s National Business Park

18 Oct

The combination of the natural and architectural elements of California-based artist Brad Howe’s sculpture made a perfect fit for Corporate Office Properties Trust’s (COPT) new National Business Park in Annapolis Junction, Maryland, as the modern architecture of the surrounding buildings and the technological nature of their tenants demanded modernity yet the serene setting of the sculpture garden amidst the buildings also required the piece to evoke nature.  Brad Howe has built a reputation on his lively sculpture, using stainless steel to create sinuous, organic but abstract forms. While much of his work focuses on soft curves and bright colors, other pieces instead use his talent with stainless steel to emphasize architectural forms. The engineering put into making these pieces becomes a central theme, drawing the eye to the way in which the sculptural elements make use of balance and cantilevering.

"Lever the Sun" Under Construction

"Lever the Sun" under construction at Brad Howe's studio

Working closely with both the client and the artist, Artists Circle coordinated the design and commission of a new sculpture, Lever the Sun. Brad constructed a 1/12th scale model of the 21-foot sculpture in the same stainless steel the full-scale piece would be made from. Using the scale model as a guide, the Artists Circle crew built a full-scale model of the piece using foamcore board, a lightweight but strong material. We built the elements here in the barn over the course of several days, then transported the elements to the site where the sculpture would be installed. We then assembled the sculpture on-site so that the client could get a better feel for the scale of the piece and decide how it would be oriented.

After the client chose a surface finish pattern from a variety of samples the artist sent to us, he began construction of the sculpture elements at his studio in California. Artists Circle then coordinated the transport of the sculpture across the country to the installation site in Annapolis Junction. The artist and his assistant flew out to the site and arrived shortly after the sculpture and a crane used in the installation. By the end of the day, all of the sculpture elements were placed and welded together.

This project was ambitious and we were very  pleased to be fortunate enough to have both an incredible sculptor and a client who was so committed to making the artwork at their property be a central element of its design. Lever the Sun makes a commanding presence in the center of the NBP sculpture garden and we couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.

Brad Howe at Sculpture Opening

Brad Howe speaks about "Lever the Sun" at the COPT NBP Clark Commons Sculpture Garden Opening

The Sculpture Garden at the National Business Park

18 Oct

Corporate Office Properties Trust (COPT), a real estate development trust that focuses on government and defense tenants, is a company that is truly dedicated to integrating fantastic art into their development projects. At their brand-new National Business Park in Annapolis Junction, Maryland, COPT has decided to go the extra mile and make the courtyard nestled between three modern office buildings into a dedicated sculpture garden. With modern lighting and seating scattered throughout the green space and under the trees and pathways that carry you past the sculpture on your way from building to building, the area provides a great location for employees of the buildings’ tenants to relax and enjoy some sculpture.

Ally II

"Ally II" by Bruce Beasley in cast bronze

Entering the sculpture garden at Clark Commons from the National Business Parkway, immediately on your left is Ally II by California sculptor Bruce Beasley. Beasely’s abstract forms in cast bronze resemble three-dimensional cubist forms carved from stone, with the irregular patina contributing to the strong earthy feel of his work. Ally II had been in COPT’s collection prior to Artists Circle’s involvement in the project, but we worked with local artist and metalworker David Hess to build an installation system for the sculpture. After coordinating the transport of the sculpture from Hess’ studio in Baltimore County to the sculpture garden, the AO crew installed the sculpture on a concrete pedestal, a tricky install as the landscaping had already been completed, disallowing the use of heavy equipment to move and lift the bronze sculpture. We think the piece is situated perfectly to draw the visitor into the garden from the road, and its modern form and earthy aesthetics introduce the viewer to the garden’s high-tech but organic style.

Will Robinson

"The Patience of Penelope" by Will Robinson in carved basalt

At the opposite end of the sculpture garden and directly in front of the site that will become the central building of the Clark Commons complex is a grouping of three sculptures in stone by Washington State artist Will Robinson, Eyes of the Storm, Patience of Penelope and Wave Runner, which also doubles as seating. Swirls and swooping curves often contrast smooth, highly-polished surfaces with rough, unfinished textures show us how Will transforms the untamed, rough and wild rock into something softer and more elegant. Artists Circle coordinated the sale of the pieces, and Will transported them himself from the Pacific Northwest to install them at the sculpture garden. We think these pieces emphasize the elements of nature in the sculpture garden and the contrast of those elements with the contemporary architecture that envelops them.

The centerpiece of the garden is Brad Howe’s Lever the Sun, a 21-foot sculpture in stainless steel that COPT commissioned through Artists Circle for the project. Read more about the commission, construction and installation of this monumental sculpture in our blog post here.

Clark Commons NBP Sculpture Garden

Stone sculpture by Will Robinson with "Lever the Sun" by Brad Howe in background

COPT has created a beautiful space that includes a fantastic sculpture collection. It was a great opportunity to work with a great group of artists, installers and professionals and we couldn’t be more proud of all of the work we put into helping COPT create their wonderful sculpture garden.

Fall Beer Tasting Success

18 Oct

Beer is wonderful. We here at Artists Circle are well aware of that simple truth, and more importantly we’re aware that most other people are aware of it, as well. What better choice, then, for an Artists Circle gallery event than a beer tasting? As the weather turns chilly, beers start to get heartier and more flavorful, which makes for a winning combination in our barn’s gallery space. Here at Artists Circle, we often try to come up with art solutions that dig a little deeper than the status quo for our clients, so we thought we’d apply the same philosophy for our fall beer tasting.

Slake Thyself beer tasting

Jim pours beer while Jack speaks its praises at the 2011 Artists Circle Fall Beer Tasting

Since we do so much work with local artists, we decided that we’d scrap the idea of focusing on imported beers or well-known American craft brews and instead put local (or local-ish) treasures in the spotlight. The tasting featured beers by:

Stoudt’s Brewing (Adamstown, PA)
Flying Dog Ales (Frederick, MD)
Old Dominion (Dover, DE)
Baying Hound Aleworks (Rockville, MD)
Dogfish Head (Milton, DE)
Heavy Seas (Halethorpe, MD)
Port City Brewing (Alexandria, VA)

Two local Octoberfest style beers by Flying Dog and Old Dominion

Two local Octoberfest style beers by Flying Dog and Old Dominion

The beer was a big hit, especially Baying Hound’s Long Snout Stout and Heavy Seas’ Loose Cannon IPA. Artists, clients and friends alike had a wonderful time imbibing the beers we selected and viewing the art on display here at the gallery, and we had a fantastic time talking with our guests about art and beer. We thought the event was a great success and look forward to the next iteration of the Artists Circle Beer Tasting.

Celebrate Labor at VisArts

13 Sep

Recent political turmoil over the place of labor unions in contemporary America has far-reaching ripples that have even begun to rattle the art world. The Washington Post, among other publications, reported back in April on the controversial removal of a mural by Judy Taylor depicting Maine’s labor history from that state’s Department of Labor by order of Governor LePage. While the mural itself remains in Maine, faithful, nearly life-size reproductions of the mural’s eleven panels are now on display at VisArts in Rockville as a part of the center’s exhibit, “Celebrate Labor: Where Art and Politics Meet.

"Maine Labor History Mural" by Judy Taylor

"Maine Labor History Mural" by Judy Taylor

Alongside Judy Taylor’s panels are reproductions of Michael Spafford’s “Twelve Labors of Hercules,” another mural commissioned by a state government (Washington in this case) that was later removed due to controversy over the mural’s content.

"Twelve Labors of Hercules" by Michael Spafford

"Twelve Labors of Hercules" by Michael Spafford

Jack Devine, Principal of Artists Circle and board member at VisArts, worked with VisArts curator Nancy Nesvet to provide framing for the show. We’re proud to have been able to contribute to a show that brings decommissioned public artworks back to the public and to a new audience.

Read more about the show in this article featured in The Washington Post. The exhibition is on view until September 20th at VisArts in Rockville.