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A Show That Basks in Indie Attitude

Punk Artists Are on Display In 'Never Mind The Corcoran'

By Jonathan Padget
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 24, 2005; Page C05

There's not a lot of subtlety in naming your art exhibition "Never Mind the Corcoran." But what better choice for DeadCity, the punk art and music collective behind the show. You get your homage to the Sex Pistols' 1977 landmark album "Never Mind the Bollocks," and you establish that you're here to, well, flout the establishment.

"I really don't have a personal bone to pick with them," said DeadCity's Mikey Thibodeau, 21, at an opening reception Friday at the Warehouse Gallery near the Convention Center. He suggested the exhibition name when the collective started meeting in January with a mission to revitalize the local punk scene by expanding beyond music to other creative arts.

Friday's opening reception draws a crowd for the DeadCity collective's exhibition of punk art, "Never Mind the Corcoran." (Jahi Chikwendiu -- The Washington Post)

The DeadCity identity -- already a jab at civic culture -- dates back several years to a coalition of Washington punk bands, but "Never Mind the Corcoran" is the group's first activity in its expanded role. DeadCity opened the exhibition to anyone who wanted to participate, and 24 artists' work will be shown through Sunday. The collective hopes to present a two-day music festival next month, launch a punk community magazine and find a permanent venue for exhibitions, performances and workshops.

Friday's reception was a new experience for artist Hannah Skopek, 19, who had never exhibited her work before.

"It's daunting to apply to show in a gallery," she said. "But if you get a group of friends together, you can show your art. It's encouraging. I didn't feel a sense of an artist community here on a low-key, do-it-yourself level that I wanted to participate in. [The collective] is very empowering. It goes with what punk is about."

Jessica Hall, 20, another DeadCity member, said, "This is a good place to explore art for the first time. A lot of us felt what we did wasn't good enough. Creating this kind of space erased that."

The mostly teen and twenty-something turnout seemed to be more of a late-night Black Cat bunch than a Corcoran-on-a-Saturday afternoon crowd.

"The city is harsh for someone who's a little bit different," said Allen Higgs, 24. "The most important thing [about DeadCity] is the community aspect. We're all family in a sense. These are ways where family can be creative."

Calling the exhibition "Never Mind the Corcoran," he adds, is a way to say, "Hey, we have just as good art as you do. You don't have to go to a fancy art school or have corporate backing."

The artists' efforts were mostly well received.

"I'm a little overwhelmed," said Andy Zalan, 32, after taking in the eclectic mix of works that showed everything from religious imagery to photographs of freestyle bicyclists to drawings inspired by street protests. "I just found out about this like half an hour ago, so I'm here to get my culture on. But there's so many different kinds of stuff to see. It's full of anarchists and [expletive] in there, and I think the art reflects that."

Patrick Cranston, 28, went in thinking he'd see "lots of black, lots of skulls," but found that the exhibit "branched out a lot more than I expected from a punk show." His companion, Ellen Chenoweth, 25, was also impressed: "I thought it was great. . . . I was surprised there were like frames and stuff."

Even the Corcoran Gallery of Art, a Washington fixture for more than a century, was happy to hear that a group of eager artists had a successful exhibition launch.

"Good for them," said Corcoran spokeswoman Margaret Bergen, who had not heard of DeadCity or "Never Mind the Corcoran" before a call from The Post. "We embrace creativity, even when they invoke our name. It reminds us to stay on our toes and keep doing cool things."

Trawick Prize Deadline

Artists in the District, Maryland and Virginia have until April 8 to enter the third annual Trawick Prize competition. Up to 15 artists will be invited to exhibit their work in September at Creative Partners Gallery in Bethesda, and $14,000 will be awarded in four prize categories.

The jurors are Olga Viso, deputy director of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; independent curator Andrea Pollan; and Thom Collins, executive director of the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore. For more information, call the Bethesda Urban Partnership at 301-215-6660 or visit www.bethesda.org.

Never Mind the Corcoran at the Warehouse Gallery, 1019 Seventh St. NW, through Sunday. Open daily 3 to 9 p.m. Free. Visit arts.dead-city.org.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company