'G40: The Summit' brings art to empty Crystal City space

"G40: The Summit" brings the work of more than 500 artists to a Crystal City office building.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 12, 2010

Some 2,000 art works by more than 500 artists are on view in a partially empty office building in Crystal City.

And no, it isn't Artomatic. Next question.

How is it different from that regular, open-to-all art show? For one thing, "G40: The Summit" is curated. That means that, with the exception of a handful of installation artists, one man -- Shane Pomajambo of the Art Whino Gallery -- has handpicked each artist for the 75,000-square-foot exhibition. It takes up four floors and part of the lobby level. (The rest of the first floor is used for a stage and bar.)

For another thing, the works generally express one artistic vision, as opposed to myriad. Sometimes known as "lowbrow" -- but now identified by the more inclusive moniker "new brow" -- the style has its roots in comic books, punk rock and street culture, including graffiti. The fact that it's curated doesn't mean that all of it is great. And you may not share Pomajambo's singular tastes. But one thing is clear: Unlike Artomatic, there's a refreshing absence of the dreck that has always gotten in the way of the good stuff.

Here's where to find some of it.

You don't have to look for an overriding aesthetic here. You can smell it.

The odor of aerosol spray paint hits you the minute you step off the elevator. Not that you won't

find graffiti artists throughout the rest of the show, but the New York contingent wields a mean can, exemplified here by this Leonardo-esque wall drawing from the street artist known as Gaia.

The global reach of America's cultural tentacles can be felt in French stencil pioneer Jef AĆ©rosol's celebrity portraits. Rocker Johnny Ramone is one such subject. At the same time, it's nice to see an installation like Adrian "Viajero" Roman's. The Brooklyn-born Latino artist has created a wall-size environment, above, inspired by memories of the shabby comforts of his grandmother's house in Puerto Rico, which he often visited as a child.

The Left Coast floor is, perhaps fittingly, a bit flaky, but in a good way. Here, look for art that draws its inspiration from such disparate sources as Walt Disney, advertising, tattoos, the skate scene, sex and south-of-the-border kitsch. Shaunna Peterson's "Princess Corsets" is a tasty example of such a pop-cultural stew.

Does the District even have a look? You might easily miss it, on a floor that's crowded with installation art, sculpture, ceramics, graffiti and painting (both traditional and cartoonish). Look a little closer, and there's one local artist who stands apart from his peers in the way that he both does and doesn't represent his home town. These days, almost nobody draws like Ben Tolman, whose intricate pen drawings -- at once classical and subversive -- are a stand-out here. Nobody, that is, except half the artists in the West Wing of the National Gallery of Art.

G40: The Summit Through March 27 at 223 23rd St., Arlington (Metro: Crystal City). From the Metro, follow the trail of "G40" signs stuck to the floor of Crystal City's underground tunnels. Performance schedules and information about public programs can be found at http://www.artwhino.com/g40. All works are for sale, with prices ranging from $20 to the mid four figures. Hours: Open Fridays 5 p.m. to midnight; Saturdays noon to midnight; Sundays noon to 6 p.m.; Wednesday-Thursday 5 to 10 p.m. Admission: Free

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