It's 4 o'clock on Sunday afternoon, and the opening reception for art-hot Logan Circle's latest exhibition space is in full swing. Hipster chatter fills the venue, which overlooks the P Street bustle from its second-floor perch near Whole Foods -- just steps from Transformer gallery and a stone's throw from Fusebox, G Fine Art, Hemphill and Adamson galleries.
But wait, says proprietor Breck Brunson. There's more than just the six-artist group show, dubbed "Play Hunting." You gotta see the bathroom. There's art there, too.
Brunson, a lanky, laid-back 30-year-old, shows off a bathtub filled with water and coins to make a "wishing well." In playful self-reference, Breck shampoo bottles are artfully arranged on a shelf. Brunson is apologetic, though, about the sink. It's covered in black tape and a hand-lettered sign: SORRY CLOGGED.
"I know this looks like art," he says. "But it's actually not. The sink really is clogged."
Ah, such is domestic life. You see, Brunson's exhibition space is called Your Last Neighbor and it's also the rental apartment Brunson shares with girlfriend Nilay Lawson, 25. They've managed to shove their furniture and other possessions into the bedroom and kitchen in order to devote the living and dining rooms to "Play Hunting."
On the floor near the living room window, Brunson, a 2002 graduate of the Corcoran College of Art and Design, displays his own work: "What Little Difference," a wood and Homasote sculpture that forms the word "prey" in block letters casting a flat, shadow-like form that spells "pray."
In the dining room is Marci Branagan's "Urban Naturalist Project," an installation that includes branches, nests, dead insects and a baby shoe pinned to the wall. Other works on display include paintings by Rocky Wang; a multimedia installation by the singularly named Tang; drawings by Zach Storm; and Solomon Sanchez's framed vinyl record with a blank white label and sleeve. (Brunson and Lawson collaborated on the auxiliary art in the bathroom.) Several of the artists were Brunson's classmates at the Corcoran.
From the first time he saw the apartment, Brunson knew its proximity to prominent galleries would make its evolution inevitable: "When I walked in, I was like, 'Well, there has to be art here.' " He picked the name Your Last Neighbor to reflect the building's status as the block's lone holdout amid a flurry of shiny, new development.
"If you have one clean room, you can show art," Brunson says. "I want to open people up to the idea that 'Oh, I don't have to wait for an opportunity.' I can just show it."
Independent curator Andrea Pollan, who also exhibits art in her nearby 14th Street venue, Curator's Office, dropped in. Seeing "What Little Difference" for the first time, she decided to include it among other work of Brunson's she plans to show in December at Scope, an emerging-artist showcase held in conjunction with Art Basel Miami Beach, a major art fair.
"I love off-the-radar projects," Pollan says. "That's where the excitement lies."
She finds apartment shows, more common in New York and cities in Europe, to be a good way for artists to gain exposure and learn the ins and outs of exhibiting.
"I don't think of this as second-tier stuff just because it's not in a white box," says Casey Smith, who teaches writing at the Corcoran and clearly takes pride that several of the "Play Hunting" artists are his former students. "It's great how they're hustling and getting it done. And making great work, too."
Dan Norsworthy, a 22-year-old musician who just moved here from Florida last month, was drawn to a Tang piece dominating a living room wall, recognizing the artist's work from another exhibition. Being new to the local art scene, Norsworthy confides, "I feel kind of lost.
"But that . . . " he adds, struggling to identify Tang's geometric assemblage of yellow string and prints against a background of burnt-orange paint, " . . . I don't know what kind of work that is, but I like it."
Play Hunting at Your Last Neighbor, 1408 P St. NW, No. 2, through Nov. 4. Open by appointment. Free. Call 302-229-6514 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.